A guide to BIM

MSc Project Management for Construction

5 Aug 2020

BIM is a software and best-practice process

Find out why it's so popular with professionals in the construction industry.

BIM gives architects, designers, engineers and construction project managers the tools and systems needed to make better decisions during a project's life cycle. It allows the collection of data into a single, shared dataset.

First things first: what is BIM?

Building information modelling – otherwise known as BIM – is a software and best-practice process used to plan, design, construct, and manage infrastructure.

With BIM, companies can create a digital representation of a building’s physical and functional features, enabling teams to make better decisions during a project’s life cycle.

Organisations also utilise BIM to serve as a shared information resource. This ensures that teams from all parts of a company work from the same data, minimising the risk of confusion or misinformation.

Why is BIM so popular?

Think about the work undertaken by architects, designers, engineers and construction teams in general. These professions rely on visual plans or models to some degree, and each of these plans are interwoven elements of a greater project. None can exist without the other.

This demands a tremendous amount of coordination between all parties. Any one change must be translated to a number of files to make sure there no errors caused by mismatched information. If these edits were to be made manually to each file, it’d be incredibly difficult for any organisation to function smoothly.

BIM confronts these challenges by equipping teams with the tools and systems needed to collaborate and coordinate. This involves fostering a ‘databased-first’ approach to their work – i.e. collecting all information into a single, shared dataset.

As a result of this, changes made to the data are implemented everywhere, meaning all teams are kept on the same page. This data can then be graphically represented in a multitude of ways, depending on whichever most benefits the team accessing it.

Therefore, not only does BIM promote efficiency, quality, and teamwork, but it also creates a framework that is accessible, sustainable and future-proofed.

What are BIM deliverables?

As mentioned earlier, project data can be accessed and presented in a variety of different ways. The term BIM deliverables is used to refer to the formats in which this data can be accessed. Just a few examples of this include:

  • 3D models
  • PDF plan drawings
  • Isometric building plans
  • Animations
  • Virtual tours

What about BIM objects?

BIM objects are another important aspect of any organisation’s platform. These are reusable components that can be dragged and dropped into different 3D models across different projects.

Typically, BIM objects are any elements of a building that aren’t part of its unique structural features. They tend to fall under one of two categories:

  • Component objects - these are BIM objects with fixed geometric shapes, such as doors and windows, piping, and beams.
  • Layered objects - these are BIM objects with variable shapes, such as carpeting, roofing, and ceilings.

The data that these objects carry can perfectly replicate the functions and expenses of the actual items set to be installed. Thanks to this, the benefits of BIM objects continue post-construction, as having information about these assets enables building managers to carry out maintenance more efficiently.

Types of BIM software

Much like any form of technology, companies will select different BIM software options depending on their requirements. Certain solutions may be highly specialised, while others might offer a more holistic array of features or serve as a hub for the integration of various tools.

Some commonly used BIM solutions include Revit, ARCHICAD, and BIM 360.

  • Revit - a modelling software used to collaboratively plan, design, and construct large-scale construction projects.
  • ARCHICAD - a computer-aided design (CAD) software that assists with the visual and engineering aspects of the building design process.
  • BIM 360 - a project management software that acts as a centralised platform for compatible design programs.

Making the most out of BIM

We now know how BIM promotes clarity and collaboration by giving teams the means to work efficiently together. This results in better, faster output – which in turn translates to lower production costs.

However, it’s also important to note that BIM is an excellent way to improve communication with clients. With BIM deliverables, teams have a multitude of ways to enhance pitches and presentations. For example, 3D models can showcase visual detail as well as functionality. If paired with AR or VR technology, companies are able to add yet another level of immersion.

Even project data, such as costs or timelines, can be communicated visually. BIM can provide attractive, easily comprehensible ways to present these externally, performing in the same way it does as an information-sharing resource within an organisation.

Ultimately, as both a software and a process, BIM is a valuable tool to see a structure though its entire lifecycle.

Do you work as a project manager in the construction industry? Take a look at our guide to the key terms and definitions for professionals in the field:

View glossary 

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