Building information modeling, or BIM, as it’s more commonly known, deals with so much more than just a model. Models have been around for ages. BIM is something very different, yet also the same, and it’s bringing together architects, engineers and owners for the life of a project.
A lot of misconceptions exist, but the realities of BIM aren’t that difficult to nail down. What’s difficult is trying to make BIM fit into a box where it doesn’t belong. Eliminate some preconceived ideas and the big picture will look a lot clearer.
BIM is a Process
You’ll find BIM software, but that’s not what it is. You could almost as easily use the same software to only create a model. Think of the software as a tool that enables you to use the BIM process, or not. Modeling is only one small portion of what the software allows you to create.
BIM is a process, says Engineering.com, not a thing. It deals with design, modeling, cost estimating, building materials and supplies, the building process, furnishings, systems and everything else that goes into a built object. It’s the model itself, plus every individual element that goes into it, plus every available bit of information about each element once the project is complete. In short, BIM is every detail that can be known about a built structure, and it’s stored in one place.
Why BIM is Better
In a way, this process doesn’t create anything new. All of the data has been available in the past. What BIM does better is keep the data in one place and make it both easy to access, and easy to relate to the built structure.
If the building owner needs information about the lifespan of an HVAC unit, BIM makes it accessible in relation to the model. He’ll also find the unit’s serial number, perhaps a history of previous maintenance, and the original supplier’s name. Whatever was deemed important enough to add, the owner will be able to access later and add to as time goes on.
Watch as Dewberry Architects share their take on BIM and what it means for engineering and architecture:
BIM Helps Multiple Teams Work Seamlessly
Typically, different stages of a building are handled by different teams. There are architects, engineers, buyers, builders, and so on. With BIM, everyone uses, or can use, the same data. Architects create a model. Later on, a designer working with a furniture supplier can use the same shared files. And all of the data for everything from steel beams to an industrial floor tile’s composition are part of the same whole.
Once the building is finished, the owner has a wealth of data for facilities management, says Synchro Software. Instead of collecting data from different sources and trying to blend it together for a complete picture, the complete picture is already there. It was created by every team as project progressed. In the simplest of terms, if the owner wants to know which tiles and grout were used in a lobby, what the installation process entailed and the tile’s estimated lifespan, everything is at his fingertips.
BIM isn’t just about modeling, even though a complete building information modeling process does include a model. BIM is everything that can be known about the whole project, from its inception to completion and on through years of maintenance in the future.
It helps make every process simpler and more efficient because coordination no longer takes phone calls and exchanging files. Some professionals aren’t completely on board, and believe that BIM is an unnecessary expense. But its proponents assert that BIM is the way of the future. It facilitates collaboration to a degree that’s never been possible before, and puts every detail down to a carpet’s fiber twist in the hands of the owner.
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