BIM: What is It and Why You Should Be Excited

BIM was launched way back in the 1980s, and about 40 years after it has been introduced, it’s making a big comeback into the AEC industry. The current version of BIM is more refined than its predecessors, and construction professionals are convinced that it’s one of the vehicles that will help propel the construction Industry into the 21st century.

What Is BIM

But, what of all the excitement surrounding BIM, what is it? Defining what BIM encompasses is where it gets tricky because different industries have their own definition of what it is.

The NBS or National Building Specification defines BIM as:

A rich information model, consisting of potentially multiple data sources, elements of which can be shared across all stakeholders and be maintained across the life of a building from inception to recycling

Autodesk defines it as:

An intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.”

Still, NIBS or The National Institute of Building Sciences defines it as:

“A BIM is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. As such it serves as a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its lifecycle from inception onward”

So, with all these definitions of BIM, which one is correct?  The answer is BIM is all of the above. Perhaps one might define BIM as a process that when used with computer software, the final output will be a 3D, 4D (Schedule), 5D ( Amount ), 6D (Lifecycle of a Project) that can be shared with team members involved in the project.

BIM Simplified

With all the terminology that is used to describe BIM, it’s easy to get confused to understand what it really is. Simply put, BIM is like a very advanced building simulator. It’s made of different elements like materials, schedules, price, project lifecycle that are independent but react to one another. The 3D output of a building made by a program running BIM allows the user to ‘see’ the structure in all angles – up, down, inside to outside even before any sort of construction has been started.

This 3D model can be viewed via a computer screen or thru VR ( Virtual Reality) via a screen.

BIM Generation:

Just like an iPhone that has undergone a few generations starting from the iPhone 4, BIM has also gone thru a few evolutions to become what we know it to be right now. Let’s very quickly go thru these four generations:

1st Level: BIM

At this stage, BIM was just a 3d Object, and there was no information that was attached to it.

2nd Generation: BM + I

This is where 3D objects have data attached to them in a “pin-cushion” arrangement. These data objects that were attached to the 3D objects were not automatically related to each other.

3rd Generation: BIM

This is the current generation of BIM as we know it today. At this point, 3D objects have information that is attached to them and are related to all other information and data.

4th Generation: BI(m)

This phase is still not being implemented but in this stage, information about the 3D model without the 3d model will be able to be passed down to the team members which includes the owners, site builders, and other people involved.

BIM is still evolving, and it is exciting to think where the next phases of BIM will lead to

Uses of BIM

So at this point, more or less you already have an inkling on what BIM is. But what are the benefits of using BIM? Here are three ways that it’s already starting to make a difference.

Detecting Problems Before They Happen

The BIM can detect problems in the design phase thru a process called clash detection. If we get technical about this, it is done on a BIM Level 2. People who are part of the project team regularly upload their contribution to a Common Data Environment. After all the data have been uploaded, the software running BIM, as well as BIM integration tools put together these pieces pretty much like a jigsaw puzzle. If there is a problem, then it should be imminent right away.

Using this process, the design team, for example, can see if there is a problem with electrical wirings not fitting properly in a beam or if the prefabricated parts that were manufactured separately will fit together seamlessly.

With all of these things happening in the design phase, mistakes can be spotted even before they are made saving the construction company valuable time, and not to mention money in fixing mistakes. This level of efficiency is a win-win situation between the client and the general contractor because the projects get finished on time and within budget.

Higher Efficiency and Building Quality

The BIM process has been proven to be very effective in utilizing that countries like Finland, Singapore, and the UK have made BIM a requirement for all public construction projects.

BIM gives the design team the ability to see design flaws before they happen, and because of this precious time is not wasted manually checking the design for mistakes. This gives the team more time to spend on solving other pressing design problems.

Significantly Reduce Cost

The BIM process can be administered using a team that’s smaller compared to a team that doesn’t run BIM. This can save the construction firm money in the administration that can be spent somewhere else.

BIM in Construction Today

BIM has so much to offer the AEC industry, and it is surprising while it is not yet a mainstay across the construction industry. Here are a couple of reasons why it might still take some time before the industry can incorporate it as part of their process.

  1. Changing Processes Takes Time : Sure the construction industry has already started to use software like project management software RFI, or scheduling software, but at BIM is a process. And while it has already been a mainstay for public construction in some countries, changing a company’s procedures is not overnight. So it might take some time before BIM takes root
  2. BIM is Challenging to Learn : Very simply put BIM modeling software can be challenging to learn.  And while professionals are already starting to learn this, it might take a while for them to master it completely.

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