Building information modeling (BIM) is a process for digitally representing a facility’s functional and physical characteristics. It also provides a means of sharing information that can be used to make decisions throughout a facility’s lifecycle, from conception to demolition. BIM includes the use of software to generate and manage data and information on a facility, often in a proprietary format. Many organizations today already use some sort of BIM software to plan, design, and construct a variety of facilities from commercial to healthcare and education to industrial.
A facility’s design team uses BIM to create a virtual model of the facility, which in turn, is reviewed by the owner and handed off to contractors and subcontractors for construction once finalized. Even beyond construction, BIM models can be turned over to the facility’s operators, who will conduct its daily maintenance and operations (O&M). Each of these parties may add data to the BIM model that’s specific to their discipline, reducing the loss of information that often occurs when a new team takes ownership of a structure.
Despite the concept being around for some time, interest in BIM has just taken off in the last several years. In fact, the concept of building information modeling originated during the early 1970s, when it was initially known as the Building Description System (BDS). A paper on computer-aided drawing and design published in 1985 was the first time the term “building model” was formally used within the context of architectural design. The term “building information model” was first used in 1992, when a paper on automation in construction was published. However, this term didn’t enter common use in architecture until 2002, when more resources were published specifically on BIM.
Other software developers have used similar terms to describe their solutions for architectural drawing and design. For example, Graphisoft used the term “virtual building” when it first released Radar CH in 1984, which was renamed to ArchiCAD in 1986. Industry analysts consider ArchiCAD 3.0, released in 1987, to be the first true BIM implementation.
Traditional models for designing buildings largely rely on two-dimensional drawings. BIM uses the three spatial dimensions at a minimum, which consist of depth, height, and width. Modern BIM plans are also increasingly likely to include additional dimensions for time and cost. These properties allow construction specifications in BIM to cover spatial relationships as well as other characteristics such as lighting, geography, and details of building components.
BIM is composed of a combination of objects, which may be defined to varying degrees of detail. Software tools allow users to extract different views from BIM plans that are automatically consistent with each other since they’re based on a single definition for each object. BIM software also defines objects as parameters that are related to other objects, allowing the software to automatically change dependent objects when the user changes a related object. In turn, this provides a real and accurate visualization of construction and design data, as well as estimations and materials with the right applications and integrations.
BIM has been heavily used on the design front but its usage is becoming more valuable for a wide range of roles that expand beyond design. In construction, teams are increasingly pressured to complete projects with short schedules, limited manpower, and tight budgets. The various disciplines in the field must coordinate their activities carefully since they must often be performed one at a time. BIM helps to detect conflicts between activities before they bring a project to a complete halt.
As mentioned, BIM is also being increasingly utilized by facilities teams. With detailed visualizations of the inner workings and data of the buildings they are managing, they are empowered to make better decisions to save money in the long term.
Clearly, building information modeling’s impact now extends across a wide range of stakeholders in design, construction, and operations.
The importance of BIM lies largely in the fact that construction is one of the least digitized sectors, according to a study by McKinsey. This study also shows that large construction projects take about 20% longer to complete than originally scheduled. BIM can cut both schedules and construction costs by providing the visualization of components, allowing for changes to be made early in the design process.
Early adopters of BIM have been quick to recognize its benefits. Another study by Dodge Data & Analytics, 82% of BIM users say they achieved a positive return on their investments, primarily as a result of shorter completion times and reduced material costs.
Furthermore, the report shows that 69% of the contractors using BIM report an improvement in project safety due to the ability of BIM to identify potential hazards during the design phase.
With the right BIM strategy, there are endless opportunities and benefits, including:Improved Communication and Collaboration
Safety is usually forgotten in the implementation of BIM.
The benefit of using BIM in safety becomes obvious when we know that current industry practices rely heavily on the experience and judgment of the safety planners using 2D drawings. With the new advancements in 3D and 4D BIM tools and spatial computational methods, it’s finally time to move on from manual safety processes and trust new technologies. The implementation of safety in BIM is possible in these two phases:
There aren’t a lot of “set in stone” guidelines for recruiting, but there are qualities to be looked for in people who can best leverage the tool set to provide information to project teams.
When developing construction activities for major projects, it’s important to understand the role BIM plays in planning and logistics to ensure safety regulations are met, potential roadblocks are avoided and an overall smooth construction process is achieved.
Although there’s plenty of heavily detailed 4D and 5D BIM planning and logistics guides available on the internet, there are five essential ideas to remember when implementing BIM for project planning that are designed to help you save time and avoid complications.
BIM’s natural strengths run towards upfront planning and coordination, and that fits in perfectly with what modular construction is all about – you’re working through all of the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘little fixes’ on a computer screen or in a factory, thus cutting down significantly on time and costs once the workers are out at the construction site.
In their BIMForum presentation “Maximizing Off-Site Modular Construction using Lean Tools”, R.J. Reed and Matt Vanture of Whiting-Turner expounded on the concept, detailing the process of refurbishing and expanding the Grand Floridian Resort.
While there were plenty of growing pains in such a large-scale project, the overall process moved at a more rapid pace than could be expected with work done on-site.
It’s an exciting process to see because each of these components gets completely designed inside of BIM and they have to be set up in a way where you can basically just plug and play them. With traditional construction, you have to build or fabricate around what’s there, but with modular construction, as you stack these units, you essentially need the ability to bulk it up and move on to the next thing.
There’s such a considerable amount of work up front that the role BIM plays is crucial, handling this special coordination so you know where these connection points are and making sure the system can handle it.
The construction industry has yet to fully embrace BIM’s potential, even though the concept has been around since the 1970s. BIM software already uses the technology needed to make it an essential design tool, but construction companies still aren’t making effective use of it in most cases, especially in the field. The primary reason for the slow adoption of BIM is that the construction industry is generally risk-averse, so few companies are willing to explore possibilities of investing in a robust building information modeling platform with no guarantee of returns.
Nevertheless, the introduction of construction collaboration software is allowing companies to place all of their resources for improving productivity in one place, which is improving BIM’s adoption rate. But the construction industry still has a long road ahead to fully realize the benefits of BIM in the field and beyond.
If you’re interested in learning more about how building information modeling will revolutionize the field and O&M, read our latest blog.