What is BIM and How Does it Work?

There’s no question that construction projects are intangible from the outset. With only materials, workers, and plans at the ready, visualizing the project’s completed form challenges even the most experienced architects, builders, and designers. This difficulty with visualization remains as construction begins and plans evolve across an ever-growing team. To reduce the time, money, and effort spent on planning, modern architecture firms incorporate Building Information Modeling techniques, or BIM. But what is BIM?

BIM’s effects on construction efficiency are beyond promising. One study recorded a productivity increase of between 75 to 240% for both prefabricated and modeled areas. Yet these significant gains only occur when companies understand both BIM’s effects and its benefits over other methods.

What Is BIM?

BIM is not a mandated set of rules or a proprietary piece of software from any one company. Rather, BIM is a technology-based outgrowth of older architectural design systems.

Since the early 1980s, companies have used CAD to construct 2D and 3D models of their projects. BIM goes further by incorporating both 4D (time) and 5D (costs). All members of the team – from initial design down to construction –  maintain a more consistent vision by using these collaborative data sets.

BIM projects are comprised of a series of “objects.” While earlier CAD technology also centered around objects like doors, windows, and empty rooms, BIM goes further in showing the relationship between these non-structural aspects. The exact distance from a door to a window or the overhang of the eaves down to the millimetre are all recorded.

These BIM objects remain consistent for all users and views of a building project. Designers, architects, builders, and engineers access their files from the same database, relying on consistent representation of each object. By using a single database built via BIM methods, firms reap massive benefits compared to older systems of project management.

The Difference BIM Makes

Autodesk’s 2002 white paper introducing BIM and its principles came at the perfect time. While the term “BIM” had existed since the 1990s, new developments in technology, regulations, and building complexity made Autodesk’s resource a game-changer for architects worldwide.

Because of BIM’s object-based approach, any changes to the project data can happen in real-time, freeing the design team from making time-intensive follow-up revisions. A common database shared among all members ensures less time is spent on coordination.

With this reduction in time comes an increase in quality. Builders can quickly create models for the client based on the information shared concurrently among collaborators. Costs are lower not only because the teams are smaller and more effective, but also as a result of collected financial data. Information regarding the cost of materials and furniture, as well as metrics such as rental income or leasing figures, are all a part of the project’s database.

BIM practices have been adopted and standardized throughout the world, and new developments occur with a frequency expected in a fast-moving field. In the next decade, we’ll begin to see the adoption of 7D (sustainability) and 8D (lifecycle management) standards, which are currently in discussion in firms across the globe.

Companies must adopt BIM practices in order to stay ahead of the curve on these developments. Luckily, the advantages with regard to time, savings, and efficiency are lucrative enough to make BIM the natural decision for any technology-minded architectural firm.