Traditionally, the engineering design-documentation process was made up of manually created, two-dimensional documentation. This has evolved into the use of computer aided design (CAD) based software, which automated this procedure to a certain extent. In recent years, the engineering profession has been challenged to understand a new and fresh concept, Building Information Modelling – BIM. Using the traditional route means handling several 2D design-documentation tasks on projects, while BIM allows designers and contractors to work with a single 3D model. This model handles all of the tasks the 2D documentation tasks are required to do, plus numerous other tasks such as engineering integration, analysis and coordination across the board. BIM modelling allows engineering professionals to explore a project’s key physical and functional characteristics digitally, before it is built, and be able to interact with it during the entire building process. Environmental impacts can be visualised prior any construction takes place in real life, “Engineering design is coming to life before your eyes”.
Building information modelling (BIM) has recently become a valuable practice methodology in the facilities and Engineering industry. BIM is a building design and documentation process solely based around high quality data that allows design and construction teams to generate and manage information about the project, across its entire scope. Increasingly popular, BIM is changing the process, product and delivery requirements of the facilities and engineering industry.
BIM is not just a 3D model (ie: not about Revit only) – it is a process of carrying out a design, from the original design development, to the actual construction of the project. Every bit of information gathered from start to finish is placed in the model. This means that all of the design data from environmental science (ESD), structural, mechanical, civil, electrical and architectural engineers are entered into the same model in which the financial, planning and legal information is stored. This way, everyone who has access to the model can locate any category of data that they desire more efficiently. The way this information is stored is the key to the success of BIM. With the traditional 2D CAD based processes, designers produce the construction documentation. These 2D documents are then handed to the contractors through which bidding, estimating, detailing and the actual construction phase take place. With BIM, the designers and contractors can work together through the model to increase the efficiency of the project by eliminating interferences and decreasing change during construction. Construction detailing informs the design rather than following it, allowing issues to be addressed earlier, which improves the quality of the project and lowers its costs. For this to be possible, a design/build contract format would be required. A key point in BIM is interoperability. Communication between each discipline is the only way BIM can be used successfully. The construction drawings, environmental conditions, procurement details and submittal processes make up BIM’s fine details. If fully utilised, BIM provides the opportunity to prevent any information loss between the design team, construction team and owner. Each group has the luxury of referring back to the information in the BIM model.
What on Earth is Building Information Modelling – BIM?
It can be said that through persistence the BIM process will return benefits to both our business and the clients overall level of satisfaction in the project. In saying this, it is important to accept that the process has advantages and disadvantages and below is a few for you we must be conscientious of when adopting the process.
Advantages of BIM
- BIM process allows for more flexibility from the design of the project to the actual construction. It enables designers, contractors and owners to work through the model together to implement changes easily and efficiently.
- BIM offers the ability of specialised analysis tools to extract data from the design process to perform valuable analysis. Different fields of work (i.e. architects, transportation engineers, environmental engineers, etc.) use this capability for different tasks. Any category of data needed can be obtained from the work done in a BIM process. Every field has the ability to speak the same language regarding the model, from the lead architect in the design even to the project’s insurer.
- When you alter a dimension or property of a component, it is recognised by the model, and it modifies every database that deals with that element. This helps avoid any conflicts down the road that would normally slow the building process.
- The model has the technology to produce several user-friendly documents needed during the course of a project. A typical design project ($10 million or more) can contain over 50,000 pages of documents/ design data. With BIM, all you have is the model, from which any one of these documents can be produced. This feature can eliminate field or shop drawings by having parties work within the shared model. Two dimensional and 3D files can also be generated to give the owner or employees better visualisations of the design process.
Disadvantages of BIM
- BIM technologies, such as training, software costs and required hardware upgrades, are costly and it takes a lot of time to implement them into an existing process. Adequate training is needed in different areas, and levels of expertise can vary. The problem here is that because such a large amount of data is exchanged among team members, there is the risk that any weak link in the group could endanger the entire project. Also, staff buy-in is crucial to the success of BIM.
- Errors in accuracy – since the model is the core of the project, just one error in precision can be very costly. With today’s project method, there are several different sets of plans that can be used to check one another and prevent such mistakes. With BIM, the plans are generated from the model, so they all reflect the same data, making it harder to catch small miscalculations that can lead to bigger problems. In essence the more BIM is utilised, and the more data collected and stored during the life cycle of a project, the more benefits can be leveraged from the process.
So, What on Earth is BIM? Personally, BIM is a Fully Integrated Business Approach in the way company staff does business internally and externally. All business units are integrated seamlessly (via engineering smarts and technology), facilitating multidiscipline collaboration through the life of the project which becomes the base for an asset management system. This process/ approach challenges the way we think and behave on projects from here on end.