Fifteen years ago, blueprints were still mostly created by hand using a drawing board, overlay, pens and even razor blades to remove the pen marks! Today, new technology has transformed how you build. You’re talking more and more about “BIM” in relation to your current and future projects, but what exactly does it mean? Here are the essentials you should know to take advantage of these benefits for your projects.
BIM in 3 Concepts
A type of software or technology, a 3D model, a collaborative process? While every project has its own specific qualities, construction stakeholders everywhere agree on the basic premises of BIM: it is the concepts, scope and levels of collaboration within a project.
To fully understand this topic, it is important to start by defining it: what does the acronym BIM stand for?
It is defined by three interconnected concepts: Building Information Model is the representation of a given building element and its information. Each element has its own geometric, descriptive and placement properties in the blueprint; Building Information Modeling refers to how this information is modeled and Building Information Management is the collaborative management of this information between the users.
In more concrete terms, each building element of your project includes information, has a standard format, and is shared with your collaborators: the combination of these three elements allows you to work the BIM way!
It can be applied to any type of project, from buildings and linear construction fields (roads and railways) to energy projects. For buildings, technical testing takes place regularly: the digital model provides opportunities for designing and testing building prototypes. For example, for large construction projects, testing is performed on the digital model. Tests on material and structural strength can be carried out, as well as tests on energy efficiency and performance (insulation, reverberation, etc.).
BIM also involves multiple dimensions, each one providing specific data on your building element.
BIM in 7 Dimensions
The physical and functional information on your work are brought together in a digital model. Data (size, time, cost, and environmental) is added to the basic measurements (length, width and height). The digital model can include up to 7 dimensions: from 2D to 7D, each one providing specific data on the building element. In addition to providing a linear representation of the object in the blueprint (2D), it also includes volume (3D); time, in order to assess the duration of the project (4D); human, financial, and material resources from a cost management perspective (5D); environmental data (6D); and legacy data (7D).
Therefore, you can precisely analyze your work by cross-referencing various data. The data used and its exchange with your stakeholders determines BIM levels of use.
BIM Levels of Use
BIM provides various levels of collaboration that correspond to levels of BIM maturity, ranging from an isolated BIM (Level 0 and Level 1) to an integrated BIM (Level 3), with each level representing a step toward global BIM.
Level 0 and Level 1: Isolated BIM
There is no significant change in stakeholder work methods from Level 0 to Level 1. What differs are the mediums used to share information. In Level 0, data is primarily shared through electronic documents (PDF). In Level 1, the sharing format is more advanced: 3D electronic files. Data is often shared via email using .dwg or .dxf. files. There is some collaboration between stakeholders working in 3D (units, entry points, overlay, etc.).
Level 2: Collaborative BIM
At this maturity level, the collaboration methods start to change. Stakeholders can create their own 3D digital model containing only their specific data. One of the stakeholders, often the BIM manager, combines the different models of each stakeholder and ensures there aren’t any conflicts.
Level 3: Integrated BIM
At this level, files are no longer exchanged; instead, there is a true continuous collaboration between the team members. They work on a single digital model simultaneously. Therefore, a collaborative process takes place in real time. This level of collaboration requires that all stakeholders adopt the same work method. Access and authorization must be managed and planned seamlessly.
BIM, a Use for Everyone
Now that you are familiar with BIM and understand how it could be useful for your projects, how do you get started?
If you are an architect or a BIM Manager and need to create a digital model, there is simple design software that exists (Autodesk Revit, Archicad). If you are a BIM user and would like to have access to the model without making changes to it, the easiest mobile applications to use are Finalcad, Resolving, Dalux, and Wizzcad.
Building a digital version of your work before building it in the real world can save you both time and money. The digital model of your project becomes just as important as the actual construction project itself. It allows you to consider valuable information right from the design phase (such as operational needs) and to better anticipate risks in order to make the appropriate decisions.
While BIM provides a competitive advantage in terms of productivity, quality, and cost management, the challenges now are related to increasing accessibility and getting all construction stakeholders to adopt BIM.