What is BIM?
Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is an intelligent three-dimensional modeling process that gives architects, structural engineers, MEP contractors, and other consultants the ability to collaborate within a single platform. This single platform provides us with the ability to coordinate with multiple disciplines for better design insight. BIM is more than just a modeling software; it is an informational database of all the building’s components. All elements modeled in 3D allow us to create 2D plans, 3D views, sections, and realistic renderings that all update in real-time when changes are made.
Why Use BIM?
Modeling in 3D offers the client a realistic visualization of the design. The “I” in BIM is the information generated from the model. This is used for cost estimating, generating schedules and bill of materials, etc. Collaboration amongst multiple contractors is hugely beneficial regarding clash detection. Finding conflicts early in the design phase can pay dividends in the future during the construction phase. BIM is not only used for design but also facilities management. With more accurate as-built documentation, facility managers can more easily plan for future renovations. Elements in the model can host specific information about equipment requirements and maintenance schedules.
BIM is a Team Sport
There may be an “I” in BIM but make no mistake, BIM is a team sport. A huge breakthrough in design software is the ability for multiple designers to work on a model simultaneously. Work can be divided among a group across different geographical locations or within your own office. In addition to splitting up work within one model, models from different firms can also be linked. One firm can be responsible for structural engineering, another for architecture, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. In addition to dividing work, another benefit of linking models from various disciplines is detecting clashes and conflicts earlier in the design phase.
Autodesk’s Revit is the most widely used BIM software package, but there are many others, including ARCHICAD, VECTORWORKS, AECOSIM, ALLPLAN, TEKLA, and more. In addition to modeling software, there are BIM management and document management solutions. BIM360, Trimble, and Newforma are used for document management and file transfer, but BIM360 can also be used for cloud-based model hosting. Central models would be hosted in the cloud, and from there, local models are worked on at the user’s desktop and re-synced periodically through the day as changes are made.
The Future of BIM
The future of BIM is artificial intelligence, and the relationship between designer and software is going to change. No longer will the user input commands manually into the computer; instead, a set of design rules for the software to follow will generate the design on its own. Designers are already using coding to automate some of the more mundane tasks in Revit using Dynamo. This will further progress into a generative design where the software is given a set of design goals and parameters. The program explores all the design possibilities and produces several solutions based on those constraints.
—Jim Counts, St. Onge Company