It is often said that BIM is a 3D model made in some fancy software or that it is just a database. However, there is much more to this technology, in fact it revolutionized and broke new ground for design.
BIM is a process to create and manage information about a building throughout its whole lifecycle. One of the key results of this process is the building information model where every essential aspect of design and construction is digitally described for each building element. This model is created from the information collected by all the participants of the design and construction process. The information is regularly added and updated, thus forming a single up-to-date database containing all the relevant data about the building.
A digital model of the building optimizes the work of all design and construction team members, improving the quality of the design.
BIM is a completely new way to work as a single team, using an efficient design system and superior information management, where the added value is created by the synergy of people, processes and technologies.
The term 'building model' (in the sense of BIM as used today) was first used in papers in the mid-1980s: in a 1985 paper by Simon Ruffle, and later in a paper by Robert Aish - the developer of RUCAPS software - referring to the software's use at London's Heathrow Airport. The term 'Building Information Model' first appeared in a paper by G.A. van Nederveen and F. P. Tolman. However, the terms 'Building Information Model' and 'Building Information Modeling' (including the acronym "BIM") did not become popularly used until some 10 years later.
In 2003, Jerry Laiserin helped popularize and standardize the term as a common name for the digital representation of the building process. Facilitating exchange and interoperability of information in digital format had previously been offered under differing terminology: by Graphisoft as "Virtual Building", Bentley Systems as "Integrated Project Models", and by Autodesk or Vectorworks as "Building Information Modeling".
One of the key ideas that propelled the development of BIM is the ability to change the model elements instantly. Take, for example, a common case in design: a door that has to be made wider. Using standard BIM technologies, we can change the door on the floor plan, and it will automatically change on the front views, sections, specifications, as the change occurs not in a single view, but an element in a model as a whole, as well as the element’s data.
BIM has revolutionized the design approach and process over the recent years. The process now is more complex but 100% digitalized. This excludes routine, improves project documentation accuracy, reduces design time and helps to avoid clashes in construction, to run precise cost estimations, to save resources and to meet project deadlines.
BIM concerns all aspects of the building lifecycle and all team members: every project participant inputs information into the model to make it as comprehensive as possible, for further analysis. Therefore, BIM modelling requires understanding the building functioning in real world, and knowing the essential parameters for design and construction, to create the most accurate virtual representation of the building.
The products specifications and the relevant technical data are integrated with dimensions and functionality data, to create the most geometrically efficient product representation for the project design team.
BIM is continually evolving, and the building information model is augmented by generative design capabilities to analyze various project parameters and create several project alternatives for the customer. Generative design is a new design method leading to out-of-the box solutions and adequate compromise between constraints in the draft and the desired purpose and shape.
Building information models span the whole concept-to-operations time-span. Use of BIM goes beyond the planning and design phase of the project, extending throughout the building life cycle. It integrates the information about all facility elements in a single model and makes it available to every team member, allowing, for example, efficient integration of various design components. BIM reduces the risk of errors and inaccuracies, and the related correction costs. BIM data can be used to illustrate the whole building lifecycle – from planning and design to demolishing and reuse of materials. Spaces, systems, products and sequences can be shown on a relative scale with the entire facility or group of facilities. BIM also prevents errors on various design and construction stages by enabling conflict detection.
The BIM concept envisages virtual construction of a facility prior to its actual physical construction, in order to reduce uncertainty, improve safety, work out problems, and simulate and analyze potential impacts. At every stage, experts can input critical information into the model before beginning construction, with opportunities to pre-fabricate or pre-assemble some systems off-site. Costs can be minimized and products can be delivered on a just-in-time basis rather than being stockpiled on-site.
The amount and the general properties of the building materials can be easily estimated as early as at the design stage. The work scope can also be easily estimated.
Infrastructure systems, assemblies and sequences can be shown visually on a relative scale with the entire facility or group of facilities. BIM also prevents errors by enabling conflict or 'clash detection' whereby the computer model visually highlights the areas where parts of the building may wrongly intersect. Dynamic information about the building, such as sensor measurements and control signals from the building systems, can also be incorporated within BIM software to support analysis of building operation and maintenance.
One of the challenges to the proper maintenance and management of existing facilities is understanding how BIM can be utilized to support a holistic understanding and implementation of building management practices and cost of ownership principles that support the full product lifecycle of a building. An American National Standard entitled APPA 1000 (Total Cost of Ownership for Facilities Asset Management) incorporates BIM to factor in a variety of critical requirements and costs over the life-cycle of the building, including but not limited to: replacement of energy, utility, and safety systems; continual maintenance of the building exterior and interior and replacement of materials; updates to design and functionality; and recapitalization costs.
At the moment, students can’t choose BIM as their major at universities. BIM is currently offered as additional training, but we are definitely moving towards incorporating BIM into university programs. Today every university that offers degrees in construction or related fields gives opportunities to learn about BIM and try to run a project at their 3D prototyping and 3D printing labs to their prospective students. Saint Petersburg State Polytechnical University offers a course in BIM modeling.
Despite the fact the BIM is just being introduced to the university programs, Russia has strong engineering tradition and great educational platforms, accomplished professors and experts working in this field.
The future of construction industry is definitely digital, and BIM is the design technology of the future. BIM design strategy is aimed at reducing costs, improving the quality of design and construction, reducing materials supply time and reducing waste.
BIM also contains the most of the data required for analysis. The building properties in BIN can be used to create the input file automatically, to estimate the building’s performance and save the effort during the construction project. Moreover, the process is automated, which reduces the errors and assures integrity at the design phase.