What is BIM?

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Modern construction is increasingly complex, and effective communication among different engineering teams on a construction project is critical. Communication must be efficient, accurate, multi-directional and collaborative. BIM can offer a solution.

What Is BIM?

BIM stands for building information modeling, but the acronym only tells part of the story. BIM has many components, some technological, some procedural and some social. At its core, BIM is a set of best practices combined with 3-D modeling technology and a workflow and information management system that allows construction teams to take on highly complex projects.

By using BIM in a collaborative manner, construction teams are able to handle huge amounts of technical information while minimizing miscommunication and creating a 3-D model of the project complete with extensive metadata.

BIM Origins

While BIM has become increasingly popular lately, it is not a new idea. Douglas Englebart’s 1962 paper, “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework,” detailed a process much like modern BIM. Englebart described an architect constructing a 3-D model of a building on a computer and the various pieces of information and data the architect attached to the model. He outlined how to store the information so that other architects, builders and clients could access it and collaboratively make changes.

While the concept isn’t new, the term (and the technology) is. It wasn’t until 2002, when Autodesk published a white paper on the subject, that the term building information modeling was used. Since then, BIM has grown in popularity. And while economic realities prevented the methodology from gaining a foothold for several years, BIM is now very much in demand.

Purpose

BIM’s primary purpose is to increase efficiency and accuracy within a construction project and enable more complex and difficult projects to be completed. While it’s easy to misunderstand BIM as simply a design tool that replaces CAD for architects and civil engineers, it’s actually much more than that. The 3-D design tool is a crucial component, and the procedural and social components are just as important.

BIM is a multi-layered, sociotechnical system; its utility and importance come as much from the collaborative information-sharing and project management as from the 3-D model. As a methodology, BIM allows for an accurate digital representation of the construction project. Teams of architects, engineers and other construction professionals can communicate rapidly with each other in an efficient way. This reduces waste and redundancy throughout the project.

Aspects of Building Information Modeling

BIM touches many aspects of the construction process, including the following components.

Metrics

BIM seeks to improve the construction process. Because of this, tracking performance metrics is an important component of managing a BIM project.

Project Management

Managing workflow for a large team is part of BIM’s value. The methodology and technological components of BIM can be used to set and change goals as well as share project milestones to ensure they are being reached.

3-D Modeling

A core principle of BIM is that, before you build a project in the real world, you build it digitally. This model acts as a useful reference tool as well as a way to communicate ideas to the client.

Metadata

The 3-D model, in turn, contains huge amounts of metadata: information that various members of the construction team can access and alter as necessary. Metadata can include materials, structural data, geographic information, costs and other pieces of vital information. Because everyone’s working from the same metadata, information is efficiently disseminated throughout the team.

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