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From BIM to CIM

From BIM to CIM

From BIM to CIM: how to manage buildings, infrastructures and entire cities with virtual and interactive 3D models

CIM is a term that has been in use for many years but is not as popular as BIM (Building Information Modeling).

Let’s take a closer look at what CIM is, what its characteristics are and why you will hear more and more about it.

What is CIM in the construction sector?

CIM stands for Civil/City/Construction Information Modeling and is a process based on 3D model management of large areas or complex systems consisting of several BIM models (hence known as super BIM).

To find out more about BIM, we recommend you reading the article “What is BIM used for?“.

CIM is therefore a set of BIM models that, when combined, recreate a piece of city or an infrastructure extended in space. Basically, it is the same concept as BIM but applied to the urban scale and the infrastructure sector.


What is CIM

We could say that CIM is an extension of BIM.

As in the case of BIM, the 3D model is at the core of the entire process and represents the link between the users (designers, contractors, clients, maintainers, etc.) and the information (geometric and non-geometric) relating to the project to be carried out.

In the case of CIM, the model contains information about buildings, streets, public spaces, street lighting systems (also thanks to IoT technology), up to data about the users of those specific areas.

Planners involved in the process have access to information that is stored and implemented over time.

Benefits of CIM and why it is useful for professionals

Collaboration is one of the key elements of BIM and the same potential for collaboration certainly applies to CIM.

Like BIM for the construction industry, CIM allows designers to work in teams on a series of virtual 3D models, interactively and in real time. This way of working, compared to traditional methods, offers optimal results at low costs, especially in multi-disciplinary environments, through interactive and real-time design.

Thanks to CIM, it becomes much easier to analyse different project scenarios, assess risks and solutions and make planned and shared decisions, limiting errors and unforeseen events. It is possible to implement projects on any scale, from a single small structure to an entire city, and take advantage of artificial intelligence and internet of things (IoT) systems.

To learn more about IoT in BIM, check the article “IoT in BIM“.

In practice, the users involved will integrate BIM project models directly into their web browsers in interactive and content-rich 3D city model environments. CIM models thus become rich repositories of information from which to exchange, analyse and consult all relevant project data and to collaborate with any team member anywhere in the world in real time.

CIM also enables complex assessments such as analyses of sunlight, microclimate, lighting, traffic and the impact of natural disasters (such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, etc.).

CIM models are mainly used by architects, engineers, urban planners and professionals involved in design at any scale.

From BIM to CIM

As it is well known, BIM is a process that combines design, construction, maintenance and decommissioning of a building while also taking cost management into account. As BIM became established in construction and extended to infrastructure and civil industry, the concept of CIM was developed.

To make an immediate distinction between BIM and CIM we could say that BIM refers to “vertical constructions” (buildings, structures, etc.). (buildings, structures, etc.), whereas CIM is used for “horizontal constructions” (roads, tunnels, infrastructures, etc.). But the concept is exactly the same: in both cases we have a virtual 3D model that is the digital twin of the one to be built and is complete with all the details and information useful for the entire life cycle of the construction. This information is entered directly into the 3D model using specific BIM data management software and analysed before the project is built.

In the BIM model, when an element (or parametric object) is modified, all views are automatically updated in real time. This is also the case for CIM models and is a great advantage especially in the case of complex models.

Designing 3D models, whether for BIM or CIM, has always had its challenges, including communication and collaboration between all the stakeholders involved in the process.

However, technological advances over the years have brought significant improvements and the use of BIM has become a common practice for companies and AEC professionals thanks also to collaborative tools and municipal asset management software that facilitate teamwork.

CIM will also become more and more present in the practice of professionals and it is essential to keep up with the continuous technological and methodological evolutions of the construction world.

Like BIM, CIM is more of a process than a software. It involves project planning through to construction, operation and maintenance, taking into account the management of costs, operations and the project as a whole.

BIM and CIM are processes used to improve workflows, information sharing and management of the entire lifecycle of a construction.

Specifically, CIM allows the 3D model of an entire area to be designed and managed dynamically to improve collaboration and the project outcome, including the profitability of the intervention.


In order to plan smart cities, it would be very useful to combine information and benefits from the application of BIM, GIS and CIM technologies.

To learn more about the connection between BIM and GIS, read the article on BIM and GIS integration.

As we have seen, the concept of CIM involves modelling information from urban and infrastructure models, using a large amount of multidisciplinary data.

By integrating these data with those derived from Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which place models and data on a geo-referenced map, and BIM (Building Information Modeling) it is possible to generate a structured system that links the infrastructure to its urban context.

This generates an informed decision-making process for all stakeholders involved and facilitates planning choices. For example, it is the optimal system to choose the ideal location for a particular building, based on its purpose and the potential change in the surrounding urban scenario (proximity to schools, public transport, etc.).

In addition, it is possible to run simulations to manage emergencies, such as in case of fire, terrorist attack, natural disasters, etc., predicting escape routes, evacuation plans, safe areas, etc.

In practice, a great deal of data is integrated, leading to harmonised processes aimed at avoiding errors and planning decisions in a virtuous manner.

If you are looking for an online tool to work with GIS, start immediately using usBIM.gis for free.