Building Information Modeling or Model? What is the Eastman Virtual Model? The birth of BIM and its early developments

The term “Building Information Modeling” is most surely the most widely used expression to express the acronym: “BIM”

BIM and Building Information “Modeling”

The acronym, BIM, has undergone an intense process of evolution and maturation, changing its meaning over time.
For example, the letter “M” of BIM, has been associated with different characteristical meanings. In fact, the “M” would stand for either, “Model”, “Modeling” or “Management”.

Each of these words was used when talking about virtual building models, building processes, organization, management, process control, models, and information.

Today, the term “Modeling” is the most widely used since it represents the whole building process.
Building Information Modeling, therefore, refers to a set of interconnected processes and tools, based on the availability of a digital building products models that can be integrated and interconnected.

BIM & Building Information “Model”

With the term Model, referred to as a “prototype”, you can understand the innovative scope and new design approach of BIM; the concept of a prototype is formally introduced in the construction industry world, the use of which implies, as an inevitable consequence, the realization of different working relations and methods for whoever is involved in the building and construction industry.
A prototype is therefore represented by means of digital simulations of the real components that are able to relate to each other (they actually have a physical behaviour) and to incorporate extra information in addition to simple geometric data. This allows the design team to check and share the choices made instantaneously.

For the construction world this is a new way of operating and collaborating. This is a working mode that has always been the collaborative methodology in any productive sector; In fact, every production sector (think of the automobile industry or electronics industry or fashion industry, etc.) is checking its design choices using progressively more sophisticated product prototypes.
For the construction industry, however, to date, every achievement is unique and is, so to speak, a prototype of itself. With BIM processes and technology, the possibility of being able to consult a virtual building model was born. The construction world was now a step closer to all other productive sectors.

The virtual model according to Eastman

A first virtual model description of the building was proposed in a 1974 publication by Charles M. Eastman (today recognized among the world’s top competent authorities) on a research carried out at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA Title “An outline of the building description system”.

An outline of the building descrition system

Extracted from ‘An outline of the building description system’ 1974

This is how the reasearch on BIM starts, illustrating a “descriptive system of the building” obtained through the aggregation of 3D graphic elements that can contain geometric information but also materials, etc.

In a part of the ’74 publication, we read:
“Much of the design, construction, and building costs come from using drawings as a way to report building records”. As an alternative, this document outlines the design of a computer system useful for storing and manipulating project information in a detail that allows design, construction, and operational analysis. A building is considered as the spatial composition of a set of parts. The system, known as the Descriptive System of the Building (BDS), is characterized by being:

  1. ameans for an easy graphical input of arbitrarily complex elements;
  2. an interactive graphical language that enables the user to modify and configure element layouts;
  3. paper-based graphical capabilities that can produce prospect views or high-quality Area views;
  4. a function for sorting and schematization, which allows sorting of database attributes. For example, a data ordering method by type of material, supplier, or by composing a custom data set for analysis.

This was the how the new scenario for the construction world was opened!

The development of software tools, that started to grow in time, has brought the possibility of having prototypes of buildings under the form of virtual models, increasingly adapted to the actual requirements of construction industry production.

Today, the turning point of that vision is clear.

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