Monday, May 13, 2013

What is BIM?

Guest article from Danny McGough BSc (Hons)  ACIAT – Assistant Lecturer at Coventry University

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a design methodology, which enables all of the design details, decisions and characteristics to be held within a collaborative digital model and information package. Having all of the information centralised in one core model will inevitably lead to improved design and document efficiency. It is this added value that takes BIM beyond that of a simple 3D visual model.

I’m going to open with a few statistics but don’t be too frightened, 4 stats and I’m done!

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough
The knowledge of BIM within the construction industry is on the rise, the recent NBS National BIM Report 2013 states that only ‘6% of the industry were neither aware nor using BIM’ in 2012, compare this to previous years of 21% and 43% in 2011 and 2010 respectively it is clear that the awareness of BIM amongst construction professionals is rising. Looking at these particular statistics it does paint a promising future for BIM.  However following on from this, in the same NBS BIM Report 2013, the statistic that ‘74% of the industry is not clear enough on what BIM is yet’. Does this mean that we are not completely past the ‘What’ stage just yet for all construction professionals? It is with this in mind that has led me to write this week’s article, ‘What is BIM?’

In the context of Architecture, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a design methodology, which enables all of the design details, decisions and characteristics to be held within a collaborative digital model and information package.  For the wider range of parties involved the concentration may be more on the 'Information' sharing aspects of BIM.  A predominate aspect of BIM which continually needs to be expressed and driven home is that the 'Information' side of BIM is just as important as any design model. Working within a BIM environment, adopting BIM information sharing protocols, collating the data in an interoperable format, and utilising documents such as BuildingSMART's 'Project Execution Plan' into a project, aims to improve how information is shared amongst all varying parties involved in an efficient interoperable manner, regardless of whether you’re the Architect or the Contractor.

A core feature of working within a BIM environment is the drive towards encouraging multi-disciplinary collaboration from the very outset of a project. The benefits of all disciplines working together within one core BIM environment are multiple. A major issue that is experienced within non BIM design processes is the matter of conflicting design issues. The ethos of having a core central BIM model is to facilitate a smoother transition through these issues by identifying conflicts as early as possible in the project stages, thus reducing the negative effects on schedule and costs. From an early stage projects can be visualised allowing the Client and Designer alike to gain an appreciation of how the design is going to materialise. This allows for important design decisions and alterations to be made at an early stage where the cost repercussions are minimal or sometimes even zero. The efficiency of the effects of changes within documentation or design is greatly improved as any changes made which are linked to the main BIM package will be carried through and updated to all corresponding linked documents and models automatically.

Below you can see a graphical example of an 'Independent Separated Design Environment'. This simple graphical representation expresses the chaos when all parties are working independently of the others:

Designed by Danny McGough
Having the design process completed within a BIM environment using 3D BIM models with a core 3D BIM model at the centre of the project leads to multiple benefits post model creation. The models can be analysed allowing for a multitude of model interrogations to take place including; energy analysis, structural analysis, accurate schedules and quantity take-offs to name a few. It is argued that by using BIM processes for building projects it will improve the energy efficiency, improve the scheduling, and facilitate a reduction of waste and possibly paramount to this, a reduction in costs.

The diagram to the right  is another graphical representation , of a  'BIM Collaborative Design Environment' showing how a BIM core model and digital information package can assist the project team to deliver a fluid fully collaborative project.

BIM for Architectural Design and Modelling
As many are aware BIM models can be used to allow the designer to present and communicate 3D designs in a clear, easily accessible way for all to see. BIM models and information analysis packages provides a platform for multiple discipline teams to analyse, interrogate and navigate the project further, beyond the limitations of 2D design. Once the information is data dropped to the core model further clash detection analysis can take place, reducing issues and conflicts. As discussed earlier having all of the information centralised in one core model will inevitably lead to improved design and document efficiency. It is these added values that take BIM beyond that of a simple 3D visual model.

BIM for Structural Modelling and Analysis
BIM software can assist the Structural Designer in their analysis of the structural performance of a structure. Employing one core structural model means that there is no need for multiple models to be created for each different structural analysis that is needed. Time is saved through not having to continually transcribe information from one design package to another. All the related information to the project can then be easily shared and accessed by multiple project disciplines.

BIM for MEP Modelling, Detailing and Energy Analysis
Creating MEP details in a BIM model allows Building Service Engineers' and Architectural Designers alike to be able to visually appreciate how the services within a design relate to the building as a whole, ensuring that clashes and issues are identified early on. Using MEP and energy analysis software many analytical programmes can be run to test the overall efficiency of the design. This should result in a circle of design – analysis – redesign, with an aim at establishing the most energy efficient design at as early stage as possible.

BIM for Programming and Scheduling (4D BIM)
BIM 3D models can be utilised to assist Contractors in the programming and scheduling of BIM projects. This is achieved by adding programming and time data to a BIM project, once the data is married to the building project then the 4D programming schedule can be established. The 4D programme can then be used to assist Contractors and Designers to improve and refine the schedule of the project.

BIM for Quantity Schedules and Costing Information (5D BIM)
Quantity Surveyors and Designers are able to produce accurate quantity schedules and cost information for building projects. Standardised data can also be integrated into BIM models ensuring that all the building components meet the required Building Regulations. You are probably picking up on the theme here.... all of this information can then be stored and accessed within the BIM core model by all those involved in the project.

BIM for Facilities and Asset Management (6D BIM)
The management processes and time that it takes for a Facilities Management Team to continually assess and maintain their asset stock can be considerable.  For instance if you think of a University Estates Team, with tens of buildings to manage trying to find a detailed specification of a fixture or fitting in a building that was built 40 years previously, you can imagine this being a tough task. Having all of the information available within one core model could be invaluable, at the click of a button the details, manufacturer, performance criteria and cost could be accessed almost instantaneously.

In summary, through carrying out all of this pre-construction design analysis and interrogation the result will be a reduction in conflicts and changes made during the construction phase which usually will have a detrimental effect on a project in terms of wastage, quality, time and costs. At the same time the stringent energy analysis that can take place in the early stages of a BIM project aims to improve the performance of a project in regards to low impact design. And finally post project completion, the BIM model can continue to be utilised by the FM team to assist in the management of their assets in an environmentally conscious manner.

For more BIM and Architectural Design articles you can visit Danny’s personal blog; Architecture, Technology & BIM -

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