Do you love movies depicting cities and communities of the future? Some of what you see on the silver screen may be coming to the real world sooner than you think, courtesy of building information modeling (BIM). Modern buildings, structures and infrastructures in cities around the world already bear the influence of this fascinating technology. This intelligent 3D model-based process is accelerating the pace of change in architecture, engineering and construction by providing the tools and insights professionals need to plan, design, construct and even revolutionize buildings and infrastructure.
What Is BIM?
Building information modeling is a best-practice process and 3D modeling design platform sold by a variety of innovative software companies. Often mandated by engineering and architecture firms and clients, BIM involves collaboration between many stakeholders and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals within one 3D model. It is used both in construction as well as maintenance and management.
Ralph Bond, PR manager for Autodesk, describes it with an information-centric view: “BIM is an intelligent model-based process that helps make design, engineering, project and operational information accurate, accessible and actionable for buildings and infrastructure.”
What Are Its Applications?
Beyond just building architecture, BIM is used for many different types of projects:
- Civil and structural engineering
- Energy and utilities
- Highways and roads
- Landscapes and land surveying
- Offshore and marine facilities
- Rail and metro transportation engineering
- Tunneling and subway architecture
- Urban master-planning
- Smart city design
Anything that is built in the real world can begin its life digitally through BIM.
Understanding the Model
The 3D model is built using one type of shared software, and around BIM “objects,” which are the informational and data components that comprise the master model. Each stakeholder collaborating on a project contributes a distinct aspect. Architects and engineers use specifications; project managers and contractors use vendor information and pricing; and other stakeholders use a wide array of specific information for their purposes. All of this information is shared through a commonly accessible online space known as a common data environment (CDE) containing the collective information model.
BIM models can be used for evaluation and analysis of proposals, to explore design options and create realistic visualizations that enable more informed decision-making. Once a decision is made, the models automate the generation of the design documentation used for construction. If details are changed, the documentation changes accordingly, automatically capturing the domino effect of changes required by one change within the model and saving hours of work.
Benefits of BIM Applications
BIM dramatically enhances project coordination and collaboration between stakeholders. It promotes highly efficient workflows, delivers compelling 3D visualizations, and results in improved project outcomes. It even reduces supply chain inefficiencies, clashes between stakeholders and rework due to errors. It reduces wastes in materials and time, and enables everyone involved to become more efficient and productive. All of these benefits are made possible through stronger accountability to defined processes and objectives.
Why BIM Matters in Academia and Beyond
Staggering global population growth has led to demand for faster, more efficient architecture, engineering and construction solutions. By 2050, the world’s population will be 10 billion people. These individuals will require spaces to live, work and enjoy downtime. BIM not only enables faster, more efficient building, but it also captures intelligence on planning and resourcing of projects, so that every successive project on a company, city, country or international level can benefit. In other words, the more we use BIM, the higher we elevate the professions and lives that depend on it.
BIM is the present and future of architecture, engineering and construction. The technologies and processes it employs will continue to evolve, and professionals will be expected to have an up-to-the-minute foundation of knowledge in BIM. To that end, higher learning institutions like Arkansas State University work closely with leading employers to educate future leaders in BIM through Master of Engineering degree programs.
Learn more about A-State’s online Bachelor of Science in Construction Management program.