Until recently, collaboration on construction projects meant huddling over a blueprint, marking structural changes, design elements and measurements with paper and pencil. This decidedly low-tech solution left much to be desired when it came to teamwork and precision. It depended on disparate teams to review changes in a 2D environment and often any miscalculations wouldn’t be discovered until what was on paper was realized in the building phase.
Where BIM Began
The advent of Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology has upended the collaboration process, allowing everyone involved in the project, across disciplines, to view or make changes in real-time that are instantly viewable by everyone involved. This methodology gives all parties a holistic view of any project, ensuring its many systems all fit together, from structure and design elements to HVAC to plumbing to stairways to fire alarm systems and everything in between. Any uncoordinated or clashing designs or elements can then be discovered and fixed using an advanced virtual model.
Any uncoordinated or clashing designs can then be discovered and fixed using an advanced virtual model.
BIM’s advanced 3D digital modeling technology offers vastly improved collaboration and accuracy, enabling designs and systems to be instantly simulated on a near-perfect model of a structure. This cuts down on costly rebuilds, system clashes or minor math errors resulting in time being spent figuring out what went wrong, fixing the problem, and re-directing workers from their progress to make the necessary changes. BIM modeling gives all partners an opportunity to see how all design elements will behave together before construction begins, and at every stage of the project.
A key component of BIM is the data aspect. Building projects, especially large ones, inherently involve massive amounts of data to ensure all building systems, interior and exterior, work seamlessly together. This consistent flow of data from inception to completion across project teams ensures everyone is working from the same set of standardized parameters and configurations. This greatly improves efficiency in the collaboration process. Workers across disciplines can each make their own contributions to a project, which are then added to the 3D model. From there, changes can quickly be made to ensure everything works harmoniously together.
From there, changes can quickly be made to ensure everything works harmoniously together.
BIM is much more than an updated version of CAD modeling. Far from just presenting a structure in progress as a 3D digital model, it incorporates a project’s multiple layers of systems into a data-rich unified collaborative workflow. It also standardizes the planning and design phase to further ensure every involved partner is on the same page throughout the project. It centralizes all data so any change made to the model is automatically coordinated between layers of a structure in progress.
BIM in Practice
In spite of its name, BIM isn’t just used for creating structures. According to Engineering.com, BIM can be used for just about any construction project imaginable, including highway and road engineering, landscaping and land surveying, offshore and marine architecture, rail, and metro transportation engineering, tunneling and subway architecture, urban master planning and more.
BIM technology lets builders check their designs at a granular level. Everything from ceiling height to roof shape to structural beam location can be tweaked and then tested using the BIM model. If the design of one aspect clashes with any other, it will be readily apparent with the BIM software. Every door, window and floorboard gets its own set of data, which is accessible throughout a structure’s lifecycle. Maintenance data, safety ratings and more are available to building managers long after the project is complete, greatly reducing ongoing operation and management costs.
If the design of one aspect clashes with any other, it will be apparent with the BIM software.
While BIM modeling is not a brand new concept, technological advancements and a post-Great Recession rebound for the construction industry has led to more construction professionals taking an interest. Working with ever-tighter deadlines with an ever-shrinking skilled labor pool, the efficiencies brought to the table by BIM technology is an attractive prospect for developers looking to synergize projects that involve scores of workers with disparate skill sets, all of whom are essential for the successful completion of a job.