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what is BIM

What is BIM and what is it for? Everything you need to know

BIM is the acronym for ‘Building Information Modelling ‘. In this article, we’ll find out more about what BIM actually is and how its implementation can improve your design workflow!

The construction sector has been lagging behind other industries when it comes to digital adoption until recently. Today, however, construction is going through a radical transformation thanks to BIM and new technological advances that are majorly impacting its productivity and efficiency.

But what is BIM? What are its benefits to the construction industry?

What is BIM?

BIM stands for ” Building Information Modeling” or Building Information Model. The NIBS (National Institutes of Building Science) defines BIM as the “digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of an object”.  

First of all, it is necessary to clarify that BIM is an operational methodology and not a tool that incorporates geometric (3D), temporal (4D), cost (5D), environmental (6D) and maintenance (7D) information. BIM can be intended as a process for:

  • programming
  • designing
  • operations
  • maintenance

of a building that uses a data-rich, object-oriented and parametric representation of the facility, that is basically a model carrying all the information relating to the building over the course of its entire life cycle. In other words, taking into account design, construction, operations, demolition and dismissal/waste treatment.

BIM life cycle

What is BIM (Building Information Modelling)

Across the industry, BIM can be defined as a collaboration process by different stakeholders at different phases of a building’s lifecycle, in order to add, export, update or edit the information of a BIM model.

For example, the architectural designer defines shapes, geometries of the 3D model; the structural designer defines the structure’s elements (beams, columns, walls, foundations, etc.), etc.

meaning of BIM collaboration

BIM collaboration

As a matter of fact, the technology component of BIM helps project stakeholders to visualize what is to be built in a simulated environment to identify any potential design, construction or operational issues through the contribution and interoperability of all the figures involved in the project (architects, engineers, consultant designers, energy analysts, etc).

BIM interoperability

the interoperability concept

In short, BIM is a highly strategic approach which offers the possibility to analyze the architectural object and evaluate its performance already during the design stage.

Here is the answer to the recurring question ‘what is BIM?

BIM is not a software, but it is rather an approach, a methodology that allows you to create a realistic shared information model. Specifically, BIM collects all the information relating to the development, growth and analysis process of multidimensional virtual models which are digitally generated by using specific software.

What are the advantages of BIM compared to traditional methods?

BIM and CAD are two different approaches. BIM is not simply the evolution of CAD but a completely new way of looking at the design and construction of a building.

The advantages of BIM over the traditional way of working are many, we will briefly list some of them:

  • time and cost savings: the designer will no longer have to draw an incredible amount of lines, polylines, and geometric shapes (which take a long time), but simply have dedicated smart objects with their own properties and information (material, cost, thermal capacity, maintenance, etc.)
  • error reduction: floor plans, elevation views, and cross-sections are simply different views of the same object. Any modification to the BIM model affects all the correlated views and representations
  • more simplicity: easily create even complex models. Anyone involved in architectural design can now expand his/her creative skills by proposing ideas and solutions that would never be reached using a traditional CAD application.

The specific functions of each discipline are managed by different software. Each professional involved in the BIM project will carry out that specific part of the project with what considers the best BIM software for his job.

Therefore, BIM authoring software can be defined as applications capable of defining the characteristics and properties for a specific design aspect in the 3D virtual model and according to their purpose (architectural, structural, installation systems engineering, infrastructural design).

BIM and architectural design

BIM definitely offers a clear advantage to designers and the potential to bring great efficiency among players.

working drawings in a BIM project

working drawings produced with Edificius

For the professionals (architects, surveyors, engineers) involved in a project, BIM allows for a virtual information model that encompasses all the aspects relating to design to be communicated from the design team to the main contractor. In addition, thanks to BIM, each specific professional can add specific data to the single-shared model and from simple parametric architectural objects (beams, columns, walls, windows, etc.) they can automatically obtain floor plans, elevation and cross-section views.

This means that every variation made to the BIM model corresponds to an automatic and dynamic updating of all related drawings and construction details!

The use of BIM obviously translates into increased productivity, as it completely erases the possibility of making mistakes or having misalignments between the various working drawings and documents.

Various BIM software are integrated with “Real Time Rendering” technology that allows you to obtain photorealistic architectural renderings in real time, just as it is designed with the BIM, without having to waith hours for a render top process.

Exterior render produced with Edificius

Exterior render produced with Edificius

Thanks to Real Time Rendering you can evaluate your design choices, experiment with new shapes, materials, objects, lights, etc. and instantly verify any kind of design hypothesis.

From sketch to render - Edificius

Rendering/sketch created with con Edificius

BIM and structural calculation

Even in the structural sphere, BIM technology clearly demonstrates the significant benefits that increase productivity.
In this case, the structural designer avoids having to start all over to re-model the structure again. This drastically reduces the possibility of making mistakes.

BIM structural project made with EdiLus

structural project created with EdiLus

Thanks to BIM integration with the aspects of structural calculations, adding structural information, such as, (columns, beams, materials, reinforcements, etc.) and perform the relating calculations, is amazingly straight-forward and easy to manage completing the entire process with all the necessary construction documents and drawings.

BIM installation systems

Thanks to the BIM integration with the plant engineering (MEP), it is possible to enrich the 3D model with all the plant engineering elements: ducting, cable paths, junction boxes, electrical switch panels, etc..

In this way it becomes easy to have control over the entire installation project and see if there are possible conflicts with the architectural design or with the structural members.

Obviously, without the use of BIM technology, installation system design remains something confined in itself and it is not possible to have an overview of the building.

Plant design using Edificius-MEP

Installation system produced with Edificius-MEP

BIM and construction estimating

Thanks to the integration with BIM you can get detailed cost estimates of the project in a completely automatic way.
The advantages in this case are also remarkable: the resulting estimates is obtained is dynamic, that is, every variation of the project corresponds to a real-time variation of the cost estimate and therefore, the total project cost. All this, once again, avoids the design team a lot of aggravation and any risks in making mistakes.