Building information modeling, BIM, is the process of modeling a construction project or existing structure in a 3D software environment. However, BIM goes much further than this. The “information” is really the core component of BIM that improves project workflow.
BIMs do more than model the physical appearance of a building; they also encapsulate and manage all relevant data and information about building components, systems, and the project in its entirety. This includes things like costs, operational data, building system simulations, model and manufacturer details for building elements and equipment, and much more.
A 3D model provides an advantage over a set of 2D construction drawings in terms of visualization. In addition, being able to attach relevant data to each building component drives project efficiency. BIM makes building data easily accessible by all team members, creating an environment where design and construction decisions can be made quickly and cross-referenced with all relevant contributors.
Who Uses BIM?
BIM is useful for all team members involved in a construction project. Perhaps the most advantageous feature of the process is the ability to precisely coordinate between contractors, project managers, architects, engineers, and trades with a single, central tool. By creating a detailed, data-driven, interactive 3D representation of the structure, each contributor easily sees how their respective work fits into the project and affects the work of others (and vice versa).
Information about any and all building elements is readily accessible, allowing for much faster evaluation and updating of designs while keeping all parties informed in real time. BIMs make it easy to identify potential conflicts and inconsistencies between the work being performed by different teams, as the model can be viewed from any perspective without needing to create new drawings documentation. In addition, these may contain errors upon creating them, while the BIM and its data remain unchanged, ensuring consistency.
Project owners benefit greatly from BIMs as well, as they can visualize and understand the project easily, without needing the skills to interpret a vast array of construction documents in numerous disciplines. This allows the owner(s) to increase their involvement level and communicate their desires to the design and construction teams. That way, project objectives are met as efficiently as possible.
Advantages of BIM
With the ability to accurately model the structure with cost, performance, sustainability, and other important data attached, virtually all project tasks become more efficient. Since an interactive model allows many design iterations to be explored and tested quickly, the best possible design can be confirmed with confidence before any work begins. Changes during construction are also made easily, and verified with the use of a data-rich, interactive 3D model, as the changes can be quickly tested and verified.
A well-designed BIM provides a reliable indication of how well the chosen building components will function and be put together during construction. This reduces the burden and frequency of costly design errors, change orders, and conflicts between trades. Resolving these conflicts also becomes much more efficient, as the model can be updated in real-time to reflect the new design and corresponding data.
Many different design options can be tested within the model before making a final decision. This eliminates much of the uncertainty by ensuring the design is both effective and agrees with all contributing members’ work. Being equipped with a highly accurate design that that can be constructed with few issues or changes makes the cost estimation and scheduling processes much more efficient.
Errors and conflicts in documentation and re-works are the most costly and time-consuming roadblocks in a construction project. Successful BIM greatly mitigates their impact. As these are the most important aspects of planning a construction project, increasing their accuracy as much as possible is paramount to a project’s success. By using an approach in which the structure is modeled before creating documentation, many of the potential issues are routed out before any documentation is created. Subsequently, standard construction documentation can be created within the BIM software directly from views within the model, streamlining the process from design/modeling to documentation output without discrepancies between the two. If the model is well designed, the construction documentation will be highly reliable.
Successful BIM doesn’t only benefit the construction process, it has a lasting impact after construction is complete. BIM enhances the predictability of function and durability of the structure over the long term. Thus, the design can be optimized for long-term operability. As building systems and operation are included in the modeling process, a higher degree of operational efficiency can be achieved in the design. The inclusion of operational data and performing simulations in the model results in a design that ensures lasting function of the building and its systems. This benefits property managers, building occupants, and the owner over the long term.
The Future of BIM
As software programs and users both become more sophisticated, building models become more informative and visualization is enhanced. The fewer uncertainties there are in a project, the more accurately schedules, costs, and performance can be estimated. Simulation capacity of BIM programs continues to improve, which means that more design options can be evaluated with larger scopes. Programs of the future will be able to quickly simulate and test the performance of virtually all building systems and components across many iterations of the design to determine the optimal choice. BIM programs also continue to integrate their databases with manufacturer data and industry information, standards and regulations to further streamline the design process.
The growing automation capacity of software programs is what will drive the future of BIM. As computing power and BIM software improves, automated data integration, simulation, and validation of design ideas over thousands of iterations will greatly reduce (if not eliminate) uncertainties, errors, and omissions. This will create a future of BIM where the best possible design will be selected without adding to the project timeline, while reducing costs and inefficiencies at virtually every level of the project.
If you’d like to learn how BIM and MLP Consulting can help your project, call us at (602) 296-4090. Or, complete our contact form and someone on our team will call you as soon as possible.