by Christian Erickson
March 30, 2010

Watch the phases of your project develop in 3D using this computer-modeled simulation process.

What is BIM? Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a computer-model simulation of the construction process. In the building information model, all the elements and parts of a building are presented in a three-dimensional, graphical "as-built" format. Simulation includes not only the physical appearance, material and components of the building, but also its construction timeline. In other words, you can see the building as it is constructed on your computer screen, phase by phase.

Computer simulation is nothing new. It is applied for product development, manufacturing and test flights. It is cheaper to simulate construction than to build the real thing. Plus, you can try alternative designs without risking safety or financial consequences.

The Construction Process

Traditionally, the construction process is very fragmented, with each discipline, from engineering to site management, optimizing its own work and relying on paper documents produced by the previous parties within the process. Each discipline may be using 3D technology, but only in isolation. Collaboration is mostly based on 2D drawings and text documents. BIM's promise is to integrate this process.
BIM enables seamless collaboration allowing each discipline to add to and enrich the information within the model. Information is not lost and remains accessible for all the parties involved. The model holds information such as approvals, modifications, schedules, materials, loads, etc. For the record, every piece of information is also stamped by time and author.

BIM Provides Efficiency

Which would you rather view when discussing the details of your construction: an accurate yet illustrative 3D model or a cryptic 2D drawing? BIM makes it easy to identify and correct possible mistakes or problems in the planned construction-before anything has been fabricated or installed at the site. The cost of modification in the design and planning phase is only a fraction compared to the modification cost when the actual building has already been produced.

The key elements of BIM are architectural, structural and MEPF (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection) design, as well as Scheduling and Costing, all integrated into a single modelling environment. In essence, BIM can save you thousands of working hours and costs through improving efficiency, avoiding mistakes and reducing waste.

BIM Benefits

An accurate and intelligent structural building information model knows exactly what materials you have in a building and where they're located. An unbelievable amount of equipment and systems are connected to a modern building: piping, AC, electricity, surveillance, fire extinguishers, solar panels, batteries and control systems. Most of these systems need regular maintenance and all will need replacement or repair at some point. BIM can serve as the central database supporting not only the design and construction of the building but also its maintenance.

Using BIM software instead of fragmented paper documents allows more precise, efficient and environmentally-friendly communications and control for all companies involved in building and using a building. Need more incentive? A structurally modeled building is not only easier to build, but also easy to modify and redesign, creating a win-win for all parties involved.

Construction Business Owner, October 2010