How is BIM benefiting the construction industry
New digital technologies such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality, advanced automation and artificial intelligence are beginning to revolutionise major engineering sectors such as manufacturing, transport and energy, but construction is also undergoing a transformation through the adoption of building information modelling (BIM).
by Adam Savage
In short, BIM is a platform that enables the creation and management of a 3D model of a built asset or set of assets throughout the lifecycle. It allows for in-depth collaboration between all parties involved on a project, spanning right through the supply chain, so each stakeholder can be kept informed of progress from design to completion.
Some think of it, in simple terms, as 3D CAD, but there is a lot more to it than that. Instead of just being able to look at the ‘drawing’ of a building in three dimensions, it lets you break the build down into its individual elements and look at them in detail. If you wanted to know all about a section of flooring, for example, you could be told what materials are being used, where they’re coming from, how much they cost and when that part of the project is scheduled to be worked on.
The technology delivers on a long-standing need from the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector for an effective new method of managing design and construction data in a reliable, transparent way.
Before the days of BIM it was not uncommon for important physical 2D information such as blueprints and CAD drawings to go missing, resulting in lost time and lots of general frustration, but this problem is effectively eliminated when everything is saved within a 3D digital environment.
The possibilities that BIM presents go a lot further than just a 3D model of a building’s main structure. With it, all key players can have access to the build, design, management and maintenance data of each physical asset within that building, whether it’s the power or water supply, the waste system or the communications infrastructure. It all depends on how deep you want to go and how much data you want to have access to.
The ability to rapidly recall the data is another plus point. It not only means that those working on the build can jump straight back in with ease; it also means that if any new parties need access to information on the building at a later date, that data is already packaged up and ready to go.
Efficient time management is crucial in construction when projects can be complex and full of risk and uncertainties. Because there is so much that can go wrong on a job, there are often delays and setbacks, but when everything is mapped out before any work starts, potential problems can be identified and avoided in advance.
As well as saving time it can also save money too, as users can see with real clarity where potential problems could occur before they happen, avoiding expensive fixes during the build. It can also point out where issues may arise with a project’s planned sequencing – by combining the 3D model with the scheduled work, errors are easily identifiable in the virtual build, which can then be addressed before they become a problem in reality.
Despite all of this, the benefits of BIM are still not completely clear to everybody, and some professionals in industries such as real estate are not quite fully on board. It could be down to a lack of understanding of the technology or unfamiliarity with it, but BIM is a tool that the real estate sector should be getting behind just as much as the architects and construction professionals.
When implemented properly and right from the start of a build, BIM can be result in better quality buildings developed at lower costs and more quickly than through conventional means, and once it becomes fully integrated with other new technologies such as VR and AR that will bring about new immersive possibilities, its benefits will only become more apparent.