The term BIM (Building Information Modeling) can be used to describe many different aspects of a design and construction project. Fundamentally, the BIM process involves the development of an advanced 3D model for the proposed project and includes all structural, architectural and MEP components. The ability to view these components in three dimensions allows project leaders to better coordinate during the design stages by creating a visual model of how all these systems interact with one another. Detailed BIM models also accelerate installation of the building’s systems during the construction phases due to fewer ‘hits’ needing to be worked out in the field.
Although BIM is a relatively new design tool, the concept has been around for several decades. The BIM process has started to be widely used over the past 10 years due to significant advancements in software and hardware technologies. I first became involved in the BIM process with the design of Yankee Stadium using Autodesk’s Building Systems software, and following through during the construction process with 3D contractor coordination using NavisWorks. Many of my projects now require in-depth knowledge of the Autodesk REVIT software.
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, we can expect to see further advancements as more project teams incorporate BIM into their design process. As more project teams explore their options using a BIM system, it will trigger high level discussions about project delivery, ownership of documents and team assembly. These types of conversations are an important part of the process and have the potential to change the design and construction industry.
The current trend in the BIM process is a push towards design teams advancing their design models to a higher level of detail than previously accepted. Design teams are also expected to model all components of the MEP systems, no matter the size, which has traditionally been left to the respective trade contractors to complete during the shop drawing coordination process. This trend will lead to discussions that distinguish the design team and contractor’s responsibilities and how to effectively migrate the model from a design model to a construction model.
Beyond design and construction, the BIM process is also available to the end user to create efficiencies in building operation and maintenance. For example, BIM has the ability to not only show the physical location of a light fixture, but it can also tag the light fixture with information that will be pertinent to building operation and maintenance staff (such as the manufacturer and model number of the fixture, type and quantity of lamps and the date when they were last replaced).
Even as these developments unfold, we must remember that at the core of the BIM process is the information; the process is only as good as the information presented in the model.