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BIM - Building Information Modelling: A Quick Overview

Industry Developments
Building Information Modelling

BIM - Building Information Modelling: A Quick Overview

When you work in the construction industry, you cannot ignore the latest technological developments taking place in this sector. BIM is the latest talk of the town. What is it all about?


Building Information Modelling or BIM is a technological process that involves the creation and management of physical representations of buildings.


BIM is essentially a virtual prototype of a building. It allows the designer or builder to simulate and assess the performance of any particular aspect of the building even before it is constructed. This virtual prototype can become a reference tool which improves the quality of the construction. BIM's applications extend beyond the construction stage. After the building is constructed, it can help reduce the operating costs.


What is BIM?

BIM is not a simple 3D animation technology. BIMs are sharable files embedded with project information. You can share these files among all stakeholders, including the designers, contractors, builders, and owners throughout the construction process.


Besides creating a visual prototype of the building, BIM manages all data about the project during all stages of the construction and the entire working life of the building. Having all the relevant information in one place saves costs during the construction stage.


Besides 3D modelling, the BIM software can handle information management. Before the arrival of sophisticated 3D modelling tools, designers had to rely on two-dimensional (2D) drawings; then came the era of 3D modelling. BIM modelling goes beyond 3D. It takes into account the fourth dimension (time) and fifth dimension (cost) as well. This allows BIM to cover more than just geometrical aspects of the building.


Using BIM

I became more familiar with the technical side of BIM once I started using it. The technical core facilitates more effective collaboration between separate disciplines.


Government requirements

The UK Government has a mandate that the public sector centrally procured construction projects will be delivered using BIM by 2016. Along the lines of BIM strategy plans, the cabinet office has been trying to come up with a long term programme that would embed BIM across the UK public construction projects that have been centrally procured. The UK government has developed a three phase action plan ‘for the long term ambition to be a global leader in the exploitation of this technology and supplier of BIM services and software’. The phases are:


a. Commit to the existing BIS BIM programme and create critical mass

b. Aim for growth

c. Help create the future by continually developing our capabilities





Legal implications

There are some uncertainties about BIM. When BIM becomes a legal contract, it is bound to raise some legal questions.


For several years, builders and developers used contract documents printed on paper. Paper documents eventually gave way to PDF documents which could be shared between computers. PDF was a simple yet robust format. Still, there was scope for mistakes. The designer might make changes to the original plan and specifications. If the designer forgets to send the revised files to the contractor, it can lead to major misunderstandings.


The contractor who is not aware of the changes in the design specifications may go ahead and build the project according to the original plan. Who will pay for these mistakes? This problem may get worse if BIMs are used as contract documentation. BIM is much more complex than a 2D PDF document. In addition, there is the possibility that the software that the contractor uses may open the document differently. This might even lead to financial or safety consequences.


BIM Timeframe

You should consult software and independent experts to get a better assessment of the time frame required to implement your own BIM process. It requires mastering BIM tools and the whole process may take up to six months. However, this can vary depending upon the efficiency of the staff and the complexity of the project. By documenting best practices during this implementation process, you will be able to meet your firm's quality standards and goals.


Because of the model's interoperability; everything from drawings, building specifications, product specifications, regulations, cost, and procurement details to submittal processes and asset tagging should work together.

BIM is much more sophisticated than CAD 3D modelling. In fact, it is a big source of geometrical, visual and dimensional information. A well-managed BIM process will decrease the losses associated with handing the project from the designers to the constructors to the building owner or operator because it allows each person to add, revise, or refer back to all the information they use during the building process.


Information is the body and the soul of BIM. The software merely provides the interface. If we remove the embedded information, BIMs are essentially 3D pictures.


But remember, like all ‘live’ documents and records, the information is only ‘relevant’ if it is kept up to date.