What Is Building Information Modeling (BIM)?
February 09, 2021
Building information modeling (BIM), at a basic level, is a 3D modeling process that incorporates all the data associated with each element within the model and is used by project team members to collaborate on the design, construction and post-build operations of the structure.
What can BIM do for you?
BIM lets you virtually design and build your project in 3D, long before anyone has stepped foot on the job site. It continues evolving after construction starts, becoming a work in progress by allowing you to experiment with design and material variations and see their impact before committing to them, and heading off the potential for change orders and rework. BIM’s digital multi-dimensional model presents more realistic views of the project that can make you feel like you are there, experiencing the building of the project from the inside.
Because of its unique capabilities, BIM is fast becoming a go-to for construction company toolboxes, though it gets defined as many things depending on whom you ask. Some might describe it as a 3D design model, or an information hub or a collaborative tool that improves workflows. You could probably make the case for any one of these. But individually they don’t really capture all that BIM is used for and capable of.
- Building information modeling has actually been used for many years for everything from substantial capital projects, skyscrapers and multi-use facilities, to subways, bridges and roadways. And with this wide array of project types in which BIM can play a role, there’s no limit to the kinds of industry professionals who can benefit from using it — everyone from architects and engineers to surveyors and urban designers.
- Each model consists of elements such as nails, glass, steel beams, cement, wiring, piping, switches, etc. And every single one is linked to layers of information that belong to it: quantity, cost, size, lifespan, replacement value, manufacturer and warranty information, for example. This linking is what makes it interactive and brings the model to life.
- Those details then become actionable. What kinds of actions? Up-to-the-minute proactive changes based on current, accurate information for one. The recording problems that may arise during the project for faster course correction, which could result in far fewer change orders for another. Plus timelier, more proactive maintenance post-build. It all essentially becomes a reference guide across the life cycle of the build and beyond.
- Details then become accessible in a single source of truth, known as a Common Data Environment (CDE), for all to refer to and use as needed. And it can be done in real time — through the cloud, your local server or an extranet — from before the actual building phase starts, to when it’s turned over to the owner and facilities management takes over.
- After the build, BIM is still relevant. The final model, also known as a digital twin, adds value to overall building operations by virtue of the data still housed within it that can help with preventive maintenance, ongoing testing and inspections, parts replacement, and unexpected repairs or servicing.
The many dimensions of BIM
It’s also worth noting that while building information modeling is often thought of using three-dimensional (3D) design models, it’s so much more than that. There are actually multiple dimensions to BIM.
- 4D BIM is the time dimension, measuring progress in terms of the scheduling data. This is helpful when analyzing the impact of what-if scenarios and actual changes on the project timeline.
- 5D BIM adds in the element of money. In the beginning stages of cost estimating, BIM allows you to input cost data specific to the individual components — from bolts to beams — so it can perform the quantity calculations that directly inform the takeoff. This fifth dimension also allows you to track cost progress throughout the build and, as in the time dimension, analyze scope changes, what-if scenarios and how incurred expenses impact the budget.
- 6D BIM includes life cycle data and is also referred to as the facilities management dimension. This is the dimension that includes information about those individual components that will be most relevant post-build, such as manufacturer, warranty, replacement value and operation manual. Its focus is not so much on the inputs that went into the building, but on the efficiency and operations outputs after completion.
These dimensions are what make BIM so critical to the success of large capital projects. With thousands of pieces of data associated with these builds, there’s little wiggle room for erroneous or missing information, or miscalculations. That’s what makes using BIM so advantageous; it not only provides an edge over the competition during the bid process but lays the groundwork for improved efficiencies throughout the build and beyond.
There may be no single “right” way to define building information modeling. The right way for you will depend on how you intend to use it. InEight Model might be the BIM solution that will add the most value to your projects. We would be happy to walk you through a demo of InEight Model to give you an idea of how it can help you realize new levels of project efficiency and certainty.