In every industry, new technology catalyzes the big leaps forward. In motion pictures, industry-quaking innovations included synchronous sound, green screens, and CGI—a technology once so little understood that when used in the making of Tron, the Academy Awards called the computer-generated imagery a “cheat” and disqualified the 1982 film from a Visual Effects nomination.
At the same time, a similar sea change was happening in the AEC industry, with architects and engineers shifting from manual drawings to CAD software. Then in the early 2000s, Building Information Modeling (BIM) started building momentum. And like CGI, BIM withstood its fair share of skepticism, often based on fears of the unknown.
So what is Building Information Modeling? It’s a software technology and design process that allows architects, engineers, builders, and owners to collaborate—wherever they are in the world—through data-infused 3D models. For example, included in each model is a database that adjusts the list of required construction materials as architects and engineers alter the design. And the model can be used throughout the life cycle of a building or infrastructure project—from design and construction to maintenance and even through demolition.
Learn more with these seven stories that answer the question, “What is building information modeling?”
The three “Ps” of progress are processes, policies, and people, according to Bill Allen, partner and director of building information management services at Denver’s EvolveLAB. Allen sees the future of BIM in those Ps and wants practitioners to understand just how much more efficient the design process can be using the right processes. With technological developments such as machine learning and generative design, BIM will deliver possibilities yet to be realized.
Since the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia has vied to position itself as a worldwide hub of BIM technology and operations. Andrey Belyuchenko, director of the department of urban planning and architecture activities for the Ministry of Construction in Moscow, wants Russian firms to lead by example, showing companies how they can successfully transition to BIM technology.
Belyuchenko wants to create the template for Russia’s transition to a BIM standard, which hopefully would assuage fears around cost and implementation. To that end, he’s looking toward the United Kingdom, which delivered the first government BIM mandates and developed the terminology, quality-assurance measures, and modeling milestones essential to BIM’s success.
BIM software captures reality precisely so what stakeholders see is what they get. Data in a BIM model may include information from large-scale laser scans of the site down to the make, model, part number, and location of a specific air duct in the building.
Other benefits of BIM include efficient collaboration in the cloud, with updates that can be viewed in real time. With a 3D model, all parties can visualize the endgame. They can use variables like seasonal daylight to simulate energy performance, catch clashing elements in the structure, and resolve conflicts early. The success of a project is in the details—and making sure everyone is working from same model, whether from an office or on-site.
BIM excels at big-picture processes, but it also masters interior spaces—for example, in university facilities management. Michael Schley, founder and CEO of FM: Systems, shares four tips for facilities managers to use BIM technology during the entire life cycle of a building and as a tool to get buy-in from decision makers.
For example, Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, was prompted to increase its facilities budget from $750,000 to $12 million after BIM proved the need for additional room finishes, floors, roofing, and mechanical equipment. By using collected BIM structural, systems, and performance data, campuses and other organizations can properly address ongoing operations costs.
New York City’s iconic Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge were engineering marvels, leaving indelible imagery of men in hard hats floating hundreds of feet in the air. But behind these black-and-white photos lie tragedies: Five men died during the Empire State Building construction, and 27 died building the Brooklyn Bridge.
Fast-forward to 2012, when New York was the first city to develop a 3D Site Safety Plans Program. The program uses BIM to create and store construction-safety plans. Using virtual tour sites, detailed building plans, and compliance codes, its goal is to minimize construction accidents and deaths. In this dangerous industry, BIM can close the safety gap by generating building specs, schedules, and checklists revealing hazards that could imperil workers, delay work, and cost more money.
John Rodriguez is an evangelist. As BIM Manager, he has shifted the California-based Fuscoe Engineering into full BIM mode. Rodriguez envisions AEC’s future as BIM-driven; the only barrier is knowledge and training. BIM adoption at Fuscoe started with an apprentice model and then grew into a more top-down, formal training of technical staff—further ingraining BIM into the firm’s work culture. And the proof is in the pudding: When a project principal requested a clash-detection report on underground utilities, Rodriguez generated it in less than five minutes using BIM. Adding in the demonstrated savings in project time and costs has made BIM believers out of the entire office.
BIM is likely already part of your AEC workflow because project teams fundamentally think in terms of real-world objects like walls, doors, floors, and ceilings. These building components are natural jumping-off points for digital modeling: Adding BIM processes addresses these known objects with design and engineering thinking at its comprehensive best. With BIM, practical expertise translates to the multidimensional model seamlessly and will quickly become an invaluable asset for companies with an intense, shared work culture like construction.