How Important Is the ‘I’ in BIM?
Posted: Dec 27, 2018
Information is empowering. Information drives progress. Information ensures greater efficiency. And the ‘I’ in BIM (Building Information Modelling) is a tremendous repository of information, or project-relevant data, in the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industry, that is empowering, progressive and enables high levels of efficiency. It is the ‘I’ in BIM that improves decision-making and the performance of the structure throughout its lifecycle. The ‘I’ in BIM contributes significantly to the intelligent 3D model-based process that facilitates planning, design, construction and management of structures. In fact, the "I" in BIM is what changes 3D modelling into a much more useful tool that goes beyond a model to design and becomes a living and useful model, well past the design and build stage.
The information included in the BIM model refers to computational information, which is slightly different from digital information. Digital information is information fed into a system, which is static, almost a constant. Computational architectural information involves active processes. Though the AEC industry has been using digital information for some time, modern methods use computational information, where data is not just created, but managed, manoeuvred and used to develop ideas. Information use in construction design has progressed from the realm of computer-aided design (CAD) to BIM, cloud computing and generative design.
Though CAD drawings replaced traditional drafting techniques, they did not markedly alter the design process. They did not easily enable the sharing, modification, storage or creation of manufacturing files. Architects and engineers sought a way to combine architectural models and technical drawings, leading to the development of 3D modelling and later BIM.
The use of BIM technology allowed computational information to be represented in 3D, which could then be analysed and tested much as a physical model, well prior to actual construction. Designers, builders and owners could simulate building systems behaviour by accessing, sharing and using detailed and extensive information. Using BIM technology, databases, loaded with accessible information, are generated to analyse, test and modify designs as they develop. Architects and engineers can thus evaluate and alter areas, structures or air movements in the progressing design for the best possible result.
Part of the ‘I’ in BIM involves tools that understand how to represent the individual components of a building, such as doors, walls, windows or substrate, surface, curbing and their exact parameters and relationships. Software used in the BIM process creates data and provides reports concerning the data, as drawings. Several views of the project model can be produced showing the various disciplines involved, which can be easily accessed by mechanical and structural engineers.
Teams of stakeholders can use BIM to connect models, improve technical design, coordinate data, carrying out thermal simulations, generate high-resolution, photo-realistic renderings and produce documentation quickly, making the transfer of information from offices to sites faster.
An exciting extension to the scope of the ‘I’ in BIM is cloud computing, which is well on its way to transform workflows in construction. The design of significantly large projects, say many buildings or bridges in a single project, had previously presented challenges. The advantage of cloud-enabled BIM is unlimited computation and storage facilities, which can be made available on any device, from work stations to tablets to smartphones.
How so? Well, cloud computing is generally accepted to refer to the practice of using a series of remote servers, hosted on the Internet, or ‘cloud’, to store, manage and use data, instead of using a local server. This essentially means that cloud computing delivers computer services, including those of servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and information, so that users can innovate quickly and access flexible resources. Typically, only cloud services used are paid for, lowering operational costs while efficiently managing infrastructure. Thus, with cloud computing, any complicated process can be performed by project team members in any location, with easily accessible hardware and software. In effect, the information gathered from a designer in an office or a contractor’s fabrication factory can be extensive and not dependent on its origin.
This is why the cloud-enabled BIM process can generate precise, detailed models and drawings, due to the integration of models, analytical tools, large amounts of information and collaboration.
Importance of BIM
Cloud-enabled BIM, or connected BIM, uses the facilities of the cloud for BIM processes. Industry professionals can benefit in several ways, namely:
- Deep analysis can be accomplished to help make informed decisions and plan for future projects
- Real-time, multi-discipline collaboration can occur among teams across the globe
- Project data can be accessed anytime, anywhere, on any device
- Computational information can be generated quickly for effective simulation and visualisation
Knowing the details of used space, facility managers can reduce vacancy and, therefore, real estate expenses.
Building maintenance requires extensive product and asset information, which can be easily viewed in BIM models.
Efficient Energy Use
Facility managers can reduce ecological impact and operating costs through analysis of energy alternatives, facility improvements and retrofits through BIM technology.
Life expectancy and replacement costs included in BIM models can help owners better understand materials and systems benefits over time.
Using BIM technology, designers and consultants can work together on complex multi-disciplinary models. The space for design is expanded. Faster decisions on various alternative designs can be taken for any challenges that may crop up, due to the ability to assess and refine design solutions. The computational process also involves parametric changes.
An example of these kind of changes would be apparent within a digital model, say a set of windows on a façade. Architects can view options where the width, height, energy loads, changes in daylight, heating and cooling loads, systems sizes, air distribution and construction costs of the windows are shown. These can be tested and analysed. Parametric changes ensure that any change made to one window would be updated on all such windows. This computational method is known as generative design, allowing designers to define, explore and decide on alternatives. These BIM-enabled methods speed up the process of design while retaining accuracy.
Rendering is another facet of design that benefits from the access of detailed data, or information. The BIM environment facilitates the development of high-resolution renders as the design unfolds. These renders can even be augmented by virtual reality projection, or VR, which makes real-time walkthroughs possible. Designers can not only view a design but assess how it works.
Information in a BIM environment flows to and from the site, from the office to the fabrication factory to mobiles at the site. Information on models can be transferred to contractor schedules and strategies. Robotics and drones can provide information which can be coordinated with prefabricated components or as part of prefabricated modules before construction. Collaboration between teams and coordination between disciplines can contribute to accurately representing design intent, help a procurement strategy and guide construction.
Benefits of BIM
Some of the major benefits of BIM are:
1. Improved Collaboration
The cloud functionality of BIM technology ensures smooth sharing of information and improved collaboration. Project stakeholders can review and mark up designs. Access to the full project history means that file disappearances or corruption are no longer a problem.
2. Improved Visualisation
Every facet of a project can be represented in one complete design with the use of BIM, including detailed floor plans and 3D models. Projects can be viewed in real-world situations at different hours of the day and with an overall energy report, through BIM-enabled simulations. With virtual reality, the entire design can be viewed before construction.
3. Cost Effectiveness
Clashes are detected automatically through BIM, and each step of the BIM process is recorded, leading to cost effectiveness. Records with information on every step of the process reduces documentation, and there is less chance of redesign or duplication of designs.
4. Established Process
With BIM, design and construction phases are fully coordinated. Cloud computation makes each process available for all team members. Well-documented and easily viewed design steps mean less time is needed for review.
5. Increased Productivity
Since processes and details are planned concisely in a BIM environment, less time is spent on projects. Each object is hosted on a database, and every change made to one aspect will be introduced on other models. This information is automatically updated on the construction plan, meaning client approval times are faster and costs are saved.
6. Improved Energy Efficiency
Sustainability can be incorporated into the design process with BIM, as it allows users to conduct environmental analyses. Cloud computing and collaborative processes can help analyse building orientation, energy use, effects of daylight, energy efficiency, waste management, water management and a paper-free AEC environment.
7. Improved Coordination
The slightest change is updated for everyone in the project—from architects to construction managers—working on any project aspect. This information is especially useful for the coordination of all building services and coordination between disciplines.
A project’s entire lifecycle, from inception to construction to maintenance to future demolition, can be supported in the BIM environment. Having models and documents of each project phase, optimised material data and reports of labour used, BIM ensures full data protection. The ability of FM (facilities management) teams to use BIM data is seen as critical to overall building management, whether it be parts information, service frequency data and installation details or data.
Designs can be communicated technically or in an interactive format. Information is presented comprehensively, with costs and virtual models, while using BIM.
Cloud computing in BIM allows users to take projects, models and drawings with them. Detailed databases with significant data caches make information easily available anywhere and on any device.
Machine learning and advanced systems will have increased capabilities in the future. These information banks will further the understanding, anticipation and help monitor and analyse performances of ongoing projects. It will show the way to how future projects may perform. The Age of Information is advancing with great promise, and the ‘I’ in BIM is a key factor.