When constructing buildings, many things can go wrong. Accidents can occur on the site, damages can be done to the equipment, errors or incomplete planning, etc. The possibility of such errors is greatly magnified when constructing more complex buildings, either due to the gigantic size or the delicacy of the designs. We might wonder what Building Information Modeling has to do here, and the relationship will be revealed soon.
Failure to anticipate potential threats can result in major accidents, resulting in loss of lives, not to mention: loss of millions of dollars in such project execution. As technology progresses at an exponential rate and man’s desire for new unconceivable projects grow to meet the rising demand, the success of such projects must be based on more collaboration of parties involved. A holistic approach must be taken to ensure that costs are lowered and greater efficiency is achieved.
Building Information Modeling provides such a collaborative platform. It is the digitalization of the construction era. BIM uses digital technology to support the construction process from planning to execution, thereby increasing productivity in the construction industry.
The esoteric world of Building Information Modeling has led to so many misconceptions as to what BIM really is: what it can do and how it works. This wrong orientation has greatly inhibited the worldwide adoption of BIM. The purpose of this article is to clarify most of the misconceptions about what Building Information Modeling is and what can be achieved with it.
It might surprise you to know that the concept of BIM dates back to 1962 when Douglas Engelbart published his paper “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”. In it, he explained how using data can transform structural engineering building designs. Making it possible to project structures from just input data- very much similar to today’s parametric modeling.
BIM as a term came into existence in the 1990s. However, the recession during that period limited its exploration. After the recession, Building Information Modeling has slowly gained acceptance, but dedicated CAD users have been having a hard time making that transition.
Many structural engineering and architectural design experts have a different view on what Building Information Modeling means but they all fundamentally agree that BIM is a 3D design and modeling software with a twist.
Gensler, the architectural firm awarded the Shanghai Tower project sees BIM as the future. The Shanghai Tower is a twisted 121-story transparent glass building and is going to stand as the second tallest building in the world (and the tallest in China) when completed. This project had a convoluted design process coupled with a good number of limiting factors. In other to achieve success, eclectic parts involving different systems required quick, efficient and continuous analysis.
To achieve this, Gensler opted for Building Information Technology. In fact, Michael Concannon, regional digital design director at Gensler said that Gensler has made conscious effort to ensure that BIM is used in adopted in design process across all its offices. Gensler now uses Building Information Modeling for most of its projects even when the client has little idea of the underlying concept.
Joy Stark, senior industrial marketing manager at Autodesk sees BIM as an evolving technology that opens endless possibilities of transforming model-based designs and work processes to levels never experienced before.
This is how the industry prefers to define BIM:
Different firms have varying take on what BIM is all about. Some of them include;
Autodesk is a giant when it comes to design software. Their popular BIM platforms include Revit and AutoCAD Civil 3D.
When it comes to defining Building Information Modeling, the company favors the information-centric view of the platform. They believe BIM is about making optimal use of data.
Revit has features for architectural designs, MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing), structural engineering and construction. Many similar applications like Revit help involving parties collaborate and share interconnected data so as to stimulate and come out with feasible designs within a BIM model.
Based on inputted data, Revit produces objects which can be 2D drawings, 3D models, and schedules. Its flexibility is expressed when some of the data are modified or changed- it automatically updates the drawings. It also shows the relationship between objects, modifying other objects to reflect the change in a particular object of interest.
BIM is an intelligent model-based process that assists in design creation, engineering design. It helps to make an accurate project and operational information, which are accessible for structures.
The importance of data in BIM cannot be overemphasized. By sharing data at every level, the model keeps every one sync. This ensures that a holistic approach is taken in the project execution from conception to completion.
Some people view BIM as a modeling tool (as opposed to the data-centric view defining Building Information Modeling as primarily a tool that uses a 3D digital model of a building as means of managing and organizing building data.
It is noteworthy that both information and model plays a crucial role when it comes to BIM. It acts as the base block of the project, enabling the virtual construction of buildings that can then be brought to life.
Bentley Systems makes software such as AECOsim Building Designer and ProjectWise.
While they acknowledge the role of information and modeling, they place a stronger emphasis on the execution process. Bentley sees BIM as a means to foster a greater level of collaboration among project teams. They believe this collaboration is essential to both small and large projects. Such collaboration will allow an unrestricted flow of information that would, in turn, lead to higher accuracy across the entire supply chain.
The process ensures that the technology aspect of BIM properly executed- it is the engine that keeps the project teams in harmony.
Where does this leave us?
Now that we know what BIM is all about, it is time to explore what it’s not.
Because of the different views industry, experts have about BIM, several misconceptions have sprung up, some of which includes;
It is generally assumed that BIM is just for architects. This is very wrong. BIM can be applied to a wide range of construction projects from building skyscrapers to bridges and even underground renovations.
When taking a drive through the city, it is quite easy to see how BIM can be used to build skyscrapers, but the fact is that it can also be employed in building the road through with you are moving.
This wrong notion is widespread because it is believed that architects were the first adopters. However, this is also wrong. BIM has been adopted by structural engineers long before architects came to the picture and has been used to perform structural analysis on 3D buildings.
Now that we know that BIM is not just for architects, here is a list of fields in which BIM can be beneficial;
Broadly speaking, BIM can be viewed as 3D modeling and information management software. However, this is not all about it. By taking BIM as just a fancy CAD tool, you’d be making a mistake. Even though it might be similar, it’s important a distinction be made.
Building Information Modeling is not just a CAD product with additional features- a new way of delivering structural engineering projects as many people think. It’s not just a delivery tool. The difference is in the way it allows us to collaborate and interact, making use of a lot of tools to come up with great designs.
BIM fundamentally organizes the thousands of layers of metadata, through highly organized collaboration. The result: not just a beautiful 3D model but also a feasible and highly efficient one. It is important to note that creating a proper BIM model requires 3D CAD software.
BIM is a workflow- you can’t sell a workflow. It’s easier to market BIM as software. The BIM process only uses one coherent computer-generated model. This can only be achieved if every project member accesses the project with the same software.
To allow BIM function optimally, a single master-model must be created. This is done by combining all the information into building the master-model. As a consequence, the software used by team members to modify or consolidate information must be standardized.
We’ve come a long way into unearthing what BIM is all about. We’ve seen how they serve as a collaborative platform. We’ve also considered the common misconceptions and investigated how they can be beneficial.
I can safely say that you have a fairly good knowledge of what BIM is all about. Now, let’s go over the components of BIM to lock down our understanding of it.
Don’t fall into the trap thinking building is just a house (a building). Better still think of it as a verb- to build. To build anything ranging from houses to underground railroads. It encompasses building anything that relates to infrastructure, landscaping, architecture, civil engineering, and other large-scale projects.
The information processing power of BIM is what makes it smart. In building projects, there exists a large number of data we need to make sense of. From prices to material strength, to lifetimes and even performance rating. All this information defines what the structure is going to look like even before its foundations are built.
BIM helps to organize all this information, bringing it to a central place where it becomes easier to keep track of everything.
Gensler and the Shanghai Tower team used Building Information Modeling to build the tower from start to finish virtually before any construction commenced. This virtual model enabled them to perform structural analyses and even have an exact view of what the building would look like when completed.
BIM offers a virtual environment where you can test your project before actualization.
This model allows us to test our design integrity without having any physical structure. This small-scale representation allows us to see the effects of the decisions we make during construction. This model will further serve as a guide throughout the construction phase of the model.
This modeling isn’t just for design sake. It represents the life cycle showing the impact of the construction process and management process.
In short, this model can be thought of like a user’s guide, serving as a reference to the owner of the building after completion to get information about maintenance and other things.
This model also helps to sell the concept and the condensed information shows the building details.
BIM serves as both a 3D modeling and also a best-practice process software. BIM makes it possible to use the integrated information to create shared building projects. This approach models the structure and makes it possible to monitor progress throughout the timeframe of the project from inception to ultimately demolition.
Due to its information-oriented property, architects, engineers, and other professionals can work on a single project unrestricted by where they are in the world. The plethora of information is condensed to a format that is easy to work with. BIM allows us to test and analyze during the design phase. This will enable us to detect a potential problem and even find solutions to them, right before construction commences.
Summarily, BIM ensures easier design, greater organized collaboration among team members and easier maintenance across the entire structure.
BIM is just in its early days, and further improvement is sure to launch it to greater heights even in the nearest future.