Architects, engineers, and construction contractors collaborate throughout the lifecycle of a construction project. Efficient communication ensures construction goes smoothly and the end product fits the client’s vision. As projects become more complex, it is significantly more difficult to manage the moving pieces and communicate changes to the right people in a timely manner. Having a solution that shows what the finished product should look like as well as how changes affect the project will go a long way in improving workflow efficiency.
In this guide, we will go over:
BIM (building information modeling) is a smart 3D modeling process used to efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings or infrastructure. By keeping a shared resource of project data, BIM helps keep workers, managers, and stakeholders on the same page.
At a minimum, BIM is a 3D model of the building and infrastructure. More advanced BIM systems may include project scheduling, costing, and lifetime maintenance data.
BIM is defined by the National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee as: "[BIM] is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition."
The NBS National BIM Report 2018 found that BIM adoption rates are at 74% from those surveyed. This is significantly higher compared to 2011, where BIM adoption rates were only at 13%.
BIM software is primarily used for very large construction projects (often with a budget over $10 million). If your project is too small, BIM tools can be a waste of time and money and you won’t see benefits from clash detection, scheduling, or cost tracking.
BIM is used by those involved in the design and building process including:
The NBS National BIM Report 2018 found that medium-sized businesses and large businesses with adopted BIM more frequently than small businesses. However, BIM is being used more and more by smaller businesses as well.
While BIM tools technically include CAD, the term CAD is almost exclusively used for drafting and design processes. CAD systems are unaware of construction components and their various properties like manufacturer info, weight, cost, and compatibility. Put simply, CAD systems are just a grouping of lines and shapes.
BIM dimensions broadly refer to types of building information required in a model. Some BIM dimensions include:
|2D||Drafting on X,Y planes|
|3D||Drafting on X,Y,Z planes|
|4D||3D + project scheduling|
|5D||4D + cost management|
|6D||5D + lifetime maintenance planning|
Some developers are trying to popularize further dimensions of BIM including 7D and 8D. However, we haven’t seen consensus on these terms yet.
Revit (in the video above) is a popular BIM solution for large commercial construction projects. Revit is utilized by architectural design, structural engineering, MEP engineering, and construction industry professionals to coordinate planning, design, and construction of buildings and infrastructure.
ARCHICAD (in the video above) is a BIM CAD software solution for Mac and Windows that helps with the aesthetics and engineering aspects during the building design process. Software applications integrated with ARCHICAD include 2D CAD drawing, 3D modeling, architectural rendering, and document management.
According to the NBS National BIM Report 2018, Revit is the most overwhelmingly popular BIM software developer by participants producing drawings or models:
BIM software is typically priced on a user-based subscription model. A popular solution like Revit starts at $173.19/month for a 3-year subscription. Most BIM software solutions also require some form of training that can cost you up to $2,000 on top of what you’re already paying.
For many small businesses, BIM software is too costly to effectively increase ROI. However, some free software options are available including:
SketchUp by Trimble - a free plan for SketchUp is available for personal use. The free plan is a simple version that lets users draw in 3D. Paid plans have more advanced features like AR model viewing on iOS and Android devices and unlimited cloud storage. The paid version for professionals starts at $119/year. A cheaper plan for students starts at $55/year for creating 3D models.
Graphisoft BIMx - a free app for iOS and Android devices that lets users view 2D and 3D models for free. This app is primarily for those needing to present to clients or contractors. Add-on BIMx PRO starts at $49.99 and gives you access to features including Smart 2D and 3D Measure, AirPrint and Google Cloud Print, and integration with external databases.
Most of the free software is very limited in what it can do with 3D modeling. A paid software solution will have more useful functionalities like scheduling and cost management.
BIM objects are simply reusable components that one can drag and drop into 3D models. Objects can range from building fabric to electric and plumbing components i.e. windows, pipe fittings, doors, support beams, etc.
Designers can get BIM objects directly from manufacturers, BIM catalogs, or create their own sets of reusable objects. Here are some popular libraries:
There is a major push to create a set of shared standards for creating BIM objects. The goal being that each object is intelligent enough to allow for truly plug and play drafting regardless of who created the object.
Ideally, each object is more than just a 3D model. An object’s built-in intelligence can be aware of (and can contribute to) environment restrictions. For example, adding/removing a wall object could inform and adjust HVAC requirements on the fly. Or adding additional floors can change support requirements.
The NBS National BIM Report 2018 found that 70% of respondents do not believe BIM is sufficiently standardized. Some of the participants stated that there are too many interpretations of the Public Available Specification (PAS) documents and the basic requirements of BIM standards are not known well enough.
Augmented Reality (AR) is helping the construction industry gain a better look into every phase of the project lifecycle. 3D and reality modeling allows architects and project designers to move various elements around and identify any potential issues in the design before a problem arises.
With AR, clients can walk through the building before it is built. Clients will be able to get a better picture of the end result, allowing designs to be approved faster.
Combining BIM with AR lets users view 3D models from BIM in the real world.
Prefabrication - Buildings or building components are built offsite and transported to the construction site once completed. Prefab is considered to be more efficient and faster than onsite construction. BIM software facilitates prefabrication by detailing the materials and design of a building and its components making it easier to plan the resources you need as well as schedule assembly.
3D Printing - 3D printers are primarily used to create custom components or tools that are required based on the BIM model. Some BIM software solutions, like Revit, also allow you to export models for 3D printing. Clients and architects can compare the printed models side-by-side to decide on building layouts and other design elements. Some companies have even been experimenting with 3D printing entire buildings. For example, a Chinese company, WinSun Decoration Design Engineering, built 10 single-story homes in one day with 3D printing.
3D Scanning - With 3D scanning, you can obtain accurate measurements and import the existing physical environment into your BIM system to use as a starting point for designing building additions and remodels.
Drone Surveys - Drones are being used to obtain aerial imagery of a building site’s topography. These drone surveys provide a better starting point to begin the design process. Drones can also be used to take aerial photographs throughout the construction process that you can use to compare to the BIM models.
|AEC||Architecture, engineering, and construction|
|AIM||Asset information model|
|AIR||Asset information requirements|
|CADD||Computer-aided design and drafting|
|IFC||International Foundation Classes|
|MEP||Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing|
|VDC||Virtual design and construction|
|CIC BIM Protocol||A standardized legal agreement in the UK that enables the production of information models, requires an information manager to be appointed and requires common standards to be laid out in a contractual agreement.|