Just like email and cell phones, the origins of building information modeling (BIM) date back to the 1970s.
In a 1974 report, Charles Eastman outlined a concept he called “Building Description System (BDS)”, which he explained would overcome the challenges associated with designing and fabricating 3D structures using 2D plans. Eastman’s prototype involved the use of a graphic interface to access a single, integrated database of high-quality images that could be manipulated and analyzed. This became the basis for modern BIM.
As the potential applications of building information modeling grow, so does our excitement about what the future holds. Here’s an overview of BIM basics and a glimpse at what’s to come.
What Is Building Information Modeling (BIM)?
BIM integrates the use of 3D modeling and information management software with a collaborative process that enables architects, engineers and project managers to work together on the planning, design, construction and maintenance of a building within a shared environment.
It’s a common (and understandable) misconception among professionals less familiar with BIM that it is essentially a more sophisticated version of CAD. But a more accurate way to think about BIM is as a process fueled by technology, not just the technology itself. The core of BIM is collaboration and data sharing; the technology is what makes it possible.
Benefits of BIM
BIM offers many benefits, including:
- Consolidating information into a single database
- Enhancing collaboration between teams involved in construction
- Making data actionable
- Helping stakeholders understand how occupants will interact with a built environment before construction starts
- Allowing engineers and architects to experiment with innovative workplace design
Ralph Bond, the former PR manager of Autodesk, describes BIM as “an intelligent model-based process that helps make design, engineering, project and operational information accurate, accessible and actionable.”
From the subfloor to the ceiling vents, every part of a construction project has multiple data points associated with it. This includes basic facts like dimensions and installation costs as well as more complex details like future maintenance needs. Throughout the project lifecycle, this data will evolve in response to various factors, such as changes in scope and budget. BIM makes sure that all this information is up to date and lives in a single system.
“Using a BIM methodology improves collaboration and ensures a new level of control over projects of all sizes,” said Harry Vitelli, Senior VP of Construction and Field Project Delivery at Bentley. “It supports better project outcomes by facilitating a complete flow of information among applications and across distributed project teams.”
The complexity of information shared is based on the BIM dimension. Each dimension builds on the previous one to include additional data about the project. Below is a breakdown of the five current BIM dimensions:
- 2D: Two-dimensional construction drawings with an x and y axis
- 3D: Three-dimensional drawings with an added z-axis
- 4D: Three-dimensional drawings with the added element of scheduling
- 5D: Three-dimensional drawings with scheduling and budget information
- 6D: Three-dimensional drawings with information on scheduling, budget, maintenance and sustainability
The Future of BIM
So what’s on the horizon for building information modeling? Here are our predictions:
Combating Sick Building Syndrome
According to the EPA, sick building syndrome (SBS) refers to buildings where occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, without a specific illness or cause identified. With building information modeling, project stakeholders may be able to reduce the risk of SBS by determining how best to maximize natural light, increase airflow and ventilation and improve office acoustics prior to construction.
Improving Energy Efficiency and Sustainability
While engineers already use energy modeling, the process is costly and time-consuming. Building information modeling has the potential to enable engineers to accurately estimate energy utilization, water consumption and CO2 emissions. This can help them identify opportunities to reduce waste and improve sustainability throughout a building’s lifecycle. And considering the average commercial building wastes as much as 30 percent of the energy it consumes, this is critical.
BIM and Augmented Reality
BIM already allows users to virtually navigate a space that doesn’t yet exist, but it’s not exactly immersive. In the not-so-distant future, architects, engineers and designers will be able to leverage augmented reality (AR) to conduct digital walkthroughs of future buildings. This will allow them to develop a more thorough visual and quantitative analysis of individual elements within the space.
Building Smart Buildings From The Ground Up
A smart building is one that uses IoT sensors and building automation to control everything from lighting and energy usage to user-centric functions like wayfinding and conference room scheduling.
Smart buildings improve energy efficiency and enhance the employee experience. However, the cost and time involved in building them can be difficult for workplace leaders to justify. Today’s BIM technology makes it easier to generate models of smart workplaces, which can help build the business case for them.
While the technology of BIM has certainly evolved over the past 45 years, the core components haven’t changed. It is this solid foundation that has allowed architects and engineers to explore innovative ideas in a risk-free environment. Thanks to Eastman, long before a single bit of dirt is disturbed and well after the last tenant settles in, BIM helps ensure every stakeholder has the information he or she needs to make the best decisions.