An Introduction to Building Information Modeling

Industry Trends
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is an evolving concept that will modernize the construction industry. In its earliest iterations, the acronym "BIM" was appropriately used to describe CAD tools used in building design.   For over two decades this definition held true. Even the 2008 BIM Handbook defined it as a modeling technology and associated set of processes to produce, communicate, and analyze building models. However, within the past five years the term BIM has been increasingly used to describe a technology much more pervasive in building lifecycles.   Whether or not the current naming convention holds, the popularity and role of modern BIM will continue to grow.

So what is this new BIM? The Associated General Contractors of America describe BIM as an object-oriented building development tool that utilizes 5D modeling concepts, information technology, and software interoperability to design, construct, and operate a building project, as well as communicate its details. In BIM terms, 5D is the linking of a 3D model with schedule and cost information, adding the 4th and 5th dimension respectively.   In addition to extra dimensions, this definition emphasizes the role of BIM in the construction and operation of a building, a far cry from previous design focused descriptions. Similarly, the United Kingdom BIM Task Group defines BIM as, "value-creating collaboration though the entire life-cycle of an asset, underpinned by the creation, collation and exchange of shared 3D models and intelligent, structured data attached to them." Based on these descriptions, it appears that BIM is developing from a building modeling technology, to a model-based building lifecycle solution.

This evolution is driven by the need for a comprehensive design, construction, and hand-off process that allows for multidisciplinary input and management at each stage.   Such a process is imperative for preventing the miss-communications, cost overruns, and schedule slippages that plague large capital construction projects. Companies like Intergraph and Autodesk have recognized that any such process must rely on a building model as the single source of truth, with all project information tied back to it. Through role delegation, various disciplines and subcontractors can retrieve, manipulate, and feedback relevant data in a timely manner as a project progresses. Mobile applications allow for instant updates to construction progress, shipment timing, and corresponding budget and schedule projections, while cloud technology ensures that model updates are pushed out and everyone is on the same page.

I believe that this re-imagining of BIM could influence the architecture, engineering, & construction industry in the same way that PLM has influenced automotive. But what is the bigger picture? Will BIM change how capital projects are managed across industries? Will reduced risk and faster turn-around time prompt more frequent spending on capital projects or public infrastructure? How might BIM influence the development of smart buildings? We will explore these questions and others in the coming months. ARC will also host a BIM session during our 2017 Orlando Forum. This session will examine the current state and scope of BIM, and how digital asset information management is affecting capital projects, operations, and maintenance across the CAPEX to OPEX lifecycle. Users will present the current focus and efforts to re-define the scope of BIM and how asset lifecycle information management (ALIM) systems and the IIoT is bringing about a digital transformation to the construction and plant design industries.

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