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BIM for infrastructure

Building Information Modeling (BIM) for Infrastructure

BIM for infrastructure is an intelligent approach to infrastructure design projects that is driving compelling results in the construction industry. Find out more in this blog post

The common understanding of BIM (Building Information Modeling) often classifies it as merely a design and construction tool. However, what we think that this term has shifted over time much more than that.

Building Information Modeling is, in fact, becoming widely adopted also in the civil engineering and infrastructure sector and in this insight we’ll be exploring some of its applications more closely.

Today, infrastructure projects have become complex pieces of engineering. They require new technologies and tools to achieve maximum performance, so we recommend you rely on:

  • a powerful and intuitive BIM Viewer, that enables you to view and manage your infrastructure projects, even large ones, directly online;
  • a Refactoring & Merge system for IFC files, which allows you to easily aggregate your existing IFC files into a single model in IFC 4.3 format, and thus create projects that comply with the latest ISO standards in a few simple steps.

What is BIM in Civil Engineering

BIM for infrastructure is an intelligent approach based on the creation of 3D digital models, complete with all the information necessary to make infrastructure projects more efficient.

For years the industry has tried to embrace new digital technologies that could:

  • streamline design project procedures;
  • improve collaboration among stakeholders;
  • increase efficiency and productivity;
  • reduce intervention times and costs;
  • reduce design errors;
  • enhance the quality and reliability of the final result.

Building information modeling certainly offers the potential to achieve these objectives.

By adopting BIM, in fact, the project data of any structure can be shared digitally and in real time between all the actors involved in project planning, construction and maintenance.

This substantial innovation compared to the past, has meant that BIM is now recognized as an indispensable tool to undertake complex projects, including those related to so-called “horizontal assets” (such as bridges, highways, tunnels, railway lines, service networks, etc.).

What is BIM in Civil Engineering


What is the role of BIM in infrastructure projects?

Compared to tradition building design processes, the ​digital modeling of infrastructures​ is much more complex because it involves a series of challenges determined by:

  • large-scale complexity and activity scheduling of the project;
  • vast analysis of the area of intervention’s characteristics;
  • management of data relating to the territory;
  • assessment of interferences with existing structures and the surrounding environment;
  • collaboration between the many parties involved during the design phase;
  • the huge amount of data sharing at the different stages of a project’s lifecycle.

In this context, BIM is the only tool that can effectively overcome this complexity. In fact, it allows you to create an integrated digital model of the infrastructure, containing the geometric information and relevant data necessary to support design activities.

It also allows you to visualize what needs to be built within a simulated virtual environment, consequently helping industry professionals to gain a complete and shared understanding of the project. Overall, it is important to identify potential problems in advance and solve any type of error while granting maximum efficiency and productivity.

The benefits of BIM for Infrastructure projects


The benefits of BIM for Infrastructure projects

As a working methodology, BIM offers other benefits beyond being an enhanced drawing and design tool. In fact, it gives engineering and construction professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, and build infrastructures by also:

  • capturing existing site conditions: the use of BIM helps civil engineers to create large-scale intelligent 3D models that describe the characteristics of the area of intervention. These models can aggregate a large amount of data, including reality capture data, 2D CAD data, raster data, and Geographic Information System (GIS) data. The collection of this data improves the accuracy of the digital model of the territory and allows to start the infrastructure project more efficiently;
  • conceptualizing project idea: BIM modeling allows you to quickly produce several conceptual models of the infrastructure and to evaluate different scenarios already during the preliminary stage that help to choose the best design alternative;
  • developing the subsequent design phases: the data-driven approach typical of BIM supports civil works designers in the development of the most advanced phases of design.It allows to keep under control all aspects related to safety, timing, costs, site organization, maintenance operations, etc.
  • performing analysis and simulations: Building Information Modeling provides advanced solutions to run any type of simulation on infrastructure models (such as dynamic analysis, flood simulation, traffic simulation, etc.). This also enables design teams to make more informed decisions;
  • detecting interferences: BIM Clash Detection processes help accelerating infrastructure projects and eliminating potential errors by identifying interference during the design phase;
  • outlining scheduling: BIM is able to combine 3D infrastructure models with planning data. This allows you to create intelligent visual construction timelines, therefore improving planning.

BIM and the future of infrastructure

BIM is particularly relevant to civil engineering, where large and complex infrastructure projects require precise planning and execution. Among the fields that most benefit from BIM adoption we can include:

  •  transport: next-generation road networks can collide with existing underground and air infrastructure, such as water pipelines, gas pipelines, electricity grids, etc. BIM provides a common platform for all parties involved to share every phase of the project and resolve any conflicts before the actual implementation;
  • offshore structures: offshore oil rigs are particularly complex and large structures. The adoption of BIM technology helps to better organize all phases of design, construction, operation and dismantling. It also helps solving all problems relating to security and accessibility;
  • territorial development: territorial development projects involve the modeling of topographic surfaces, buildings, retaining walls, roads, parking areas, landscape elements, and so on. All these elements can be aggregated within a single BIM model with the aim of helping the competent authorities to obtain a deeper understanding of the project, and thus facilitate permits and authorisations release;
  • tunnel construction: the design and construction process of tunnels involves considerable risks due to the high complexity of these works. The use of BIM provides a realistic 3D representation of the components involved in the construction of these structures, which allows to detect and mitigate inconsistencies even before the excavations;
  • bridges and dams’ construction: the design of horizontal structures, such as bridges and dams, involves numerous engineering disciplines. BIM models are able to integrate and coordinate all the services and elements that come into play in the implementation of such projects, including support structures, power and lighting systems, pipelines and underground services, wastewater management, road and rail transport systems, etc.

BIM Interoperability in the Structural Engineer Workflow


In addition to the examples just described, BIM also provides an essential contribution in the design of sewage treatment plants, service networks (both aerial and underground), airports, stadiums and complex structures of all kinds.

The main success that the BIM methodology is providing to the infrastructure sector is mainly due to the continuous exchange of information, supported by the use of files in interoperable format.

The new IFC 4.3 standard has recently been released and it has specifically been designed to simplify the exchange of infrastructure models and to introduce a more specific classification for the entities incorporated in these projects. The IFC 4.3 program was established to extend the open BIM benefits for “horizontal assets”.

If you work in the field of infrastructure and so far, you have generated BIM models based on the IFC 2×3 scheme, rest assured that the IFC 4.3 scheme now contains all the additional information specific to this industry! By using a Refactoring & Merge IFC files system, you’ll be able to automatically adapt these models to the IFC 4.3 standard. You can also federate multiple IFC files of any size into a single model that conforms to the new ISO standard, and export the updated version in a few simple steps.

To make your infrastructure design even more efficient, use a BIM file viewer, a tool that allows you to view even large size BIM models online using any device and with great performance.