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Building information modelling: BIM

Building Information Modelling is a process for managing the information produced during a construction project in a common format so that everyone involved in the project, from feasibility, through construction and operation to final demolition, can use and share the 'right' (i.e. up to date and approved) information.

It is usually represented by a three dimensional model, which has standard and consistent nomenclature, and everyone in the project uses the same information source.

Essentially, a BIM is a shared representation and spatial database that records the location and attributes of every component.

 

The background to BIM

Architects, Engineers, Construction experts, Facilities Managers and Clients need to communicate with each other to explain and  agree what is required at each stage of the construction process.  Computer aided design and drawing (CADD or CAD) was the standard approach to representing the construction or building project as a drawing with measurements and layouts

Manufacturers also developed their information for customers using catalogues, CD-ROM based catalogues and now the internet.

Essentially, the basic system of drawings, specifications and bills of quantities had changed little since the mid nineteenth century.  Moreover, each party held their own information in their own way. Manufacturers pass details to designers who rework or redraw the information which is then passed to contractors who in turn reassemble the model in their own format. Apart from the waste of resources, this process almost always leads to mistakes which have to be rectified later, at not insignificant cost. So something had to change.

 

The government’s requirements

According to the government’s BIM Task Group: ‘BIM is essentially value-creating collaboration through 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.

The Government Construction Strategy was published by the Cabinet office on 31 May 2011. The report announced the government’s intention to require collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) on its projects by 2016.

Essentially the UK government has embarked with industry on a four year programme of sector modernisation with the key objective of reducing capital cost and the carbon burden from the construction and operation of the built environment by 20%. Central to these ambitions is the adoption of information rich Building Information Modelling (BIM) technologies, process[es] and collaborative behaviours that will unlock new, more efficient ways of working at all stages of the project life cycle.  In summary, government is asking the construction industry to reduce the costs of building by 20% in both capital monetary and whole-life carbon terms through, amongst other means, the use of BIM.

Three-dimensional models are the most evident feature of BIM, aligned to the data structure and exchange format. Data sharing is just as important as the model, in fact structured data is perhaps the single most important feature of BIM. This system is known as COBie.  (Construction Operations Buildings information exchange), which is an open (non-proprietary) standard. For the UK government there is a specific version known as COBie UK 2012.

 

Why BIM?

In the last few years, many projects have introduced BIM with the aim of getting all of the information for the project into one place that is accessible by all parties. The BIM embeds the key product and asset data into a three-dimensional computer model that should be used for effective management of information throughout a project lifecycle, from earliest concept through to operation. It's not just a tool to check that assets do not clash and the building regulations are satisfied.

The key features of BIM are:

  1. collaboration across the industry;
  2. engagement through the entire lifecycle of the building;
  3. collation and exchange of information in common format;
  4. shared three-dimensional models;
  5. intelligent, structured databases.

The last three points are about technology and a great deal of expertise and effort is being applied to ensure this happens. It is the first two points that we really need to address to ensure BIM is not just a new word in our construction lexicon, but a real and meaningful change in the way we work together. For much of the industry this collaboration of companies/people is difficult because it involves changing a deeply ingrained culture. Collaboration is defined as working with others and the current procurement and payment practices do not always allow this to happen. We need to change the way we collaborate and the way we trust each other before BIM can deliver its potential savings.

 

BIM and facilities management

It is widely recognised that much of the cost of construction projects is incurred during their operating life, from energy and maintenance costs. BIM enables better information to be delivered to the building operators and this is where significant value can be added. But is this happening? Is so much data produced that the real information to help manage and operate the construction project efficiently is not immediately clear or available?

 

Coventry Simulation Centre

Build the team before you go on site - learn how to trust and collaborate across the whole project team before you start to build your project.

Use the simulation hall to view and walk through your project to value engineer and use each other's expertise to realise efficiencies.

Put yourself in your colleagues role to understand completely what information is required and when it is used.