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Three Little Letters with One BIG Impact: BIM

Building Information Modeling (BIM) plays a critical role in the development of buildings across the world. This highly collaborative and efficient process allows for the professionals involved in the construction of a new building to work together in real time. Stakeholders, architects, engineers, and contractors can use one 3D model to design, plan, and construct the building. BIM also reaches into the operation and management of buildings by utilizing data owners have access to. The data is sourced from information derived by the model and allows stakeholders and owners to make critical decisions along the way.

A common misconception is that BIM is used only by architects. However, BIM can be used in any of the following:

  • Building Design

  • Energy and Utilities

  • Civil and Structural Engineering

  • Landscape and Land Surveying

  • Highway and Road Engineering

  • Tunneling and Subway Architecture

  • Offshore and Marine Architecture

  • Rail Transportation Engineering

  • Urban Master-Planning

So, what is BIM?

Blueprints to CAD to BIM

Blueprints and drawings have been used for ages to portray information about the plans for a new building. Visualizing dimensions, requirements and the overall final look of the project was made difficult by this 2D approach. In more recent years, Computer Aided Design (CAD) allowed drafters and builders to see a building’s plans in a digital environment. When CAD evolved into 3D models, blueprints were given more realistic visuals. With Building Information Modeling (BIM) as the new industry standard, builders are given much more than a 3D model to work with.

BIM Objects

The main objects that make up a BIM model have geometry, are intelligent, and they store data. If any of these elements are changed, the BIM software will update the model to show the change. Because of this real-time updating, the model can remain consistent throughout the process, allowing structural engineers, MEP engineers, project managers, designers and contractors stay coordinated in a more collaborative setting.

I for Information

BIM, as a whole, refers to the process of all parties involved in the construction and lifecycle management of built assets, working collaboratively and sharing data. However, the true power of BIM lives in the “I” (information). All of the information gathered— from conception to completion— isn’t just stored, it’s actionable. The data can be used to improve accuracy, express design intent from the office to the field, improve knowledge transfer from stakeholder to stakeholder, reduce change orders and field coordination problems, and provide insight into existing buildings for renovation projects later on.

Sharing is Caring

The mutually accessible online space known as Common Data Environment (CDE), allows the sharing of information in a BIM model. The data collected is called an “information model.” These information models are used during the entire process from creating to production of a building. Information models can even be used after the building is completed, through renovations and renewals.

BIM Levels

There are several levels of BIM, and each can achieved for different kinds of projects. The levels represent a specific set of criteria demonstrating a certain level of “maturity.” The levels determine how effectively, and how much, information is shared and managed throughout the whole process. BIM levels begin at 0 and go as high as 6D.

It’s good to be able to identify which level in BIM you’ve achieved, so you need to know what each level roughly involves. Below are a few descriptions of the first levels of BIM, a well as an explanation of the criteria set for each level.

Level 0 BIM

This level refers to no collaborative operations at all. Level 0 is for those using 2D CAD, working with drawings, and those utilizing digital blueprints. Most in the industry are working above Level 0, despite some pushback from larger corporations about introducing the new processes.

Level 1 BIM

If you’re using 3D CAD for conceptualization but 2D drafting for production information and other documentation, you’re working squarely at Level 1 BIM. CAD standards are maintained, while electronic data sharing is carried out from a CDE managed by the contractor. Most firms are at Level 1 BIM. It doesn’t involve much collaboration, and stakeholders manage and publish their own data.

Level 2 BIM

At this level, there is more of a collaborative effort. At Level 2 BIM, team members all use 3D CAD models, though perhaps not in the same model. Stakeholders transfer information in a different way at this level, though. A common file format is used to share information regarding the design of the building environment. Firms can combine this information with their own data to save time, eliminate reworking efforts, and reduce costs. The CAD software used at this level must be capable of exporting to a common file format in order to share data effectively. The most common formats are Industry Foundation Class (IFC) and Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie).

Level 3 BIM

Collaboration at Level 3 BIM is very high. Each team member doesn’t work in their own 3D model. Instead, everyone uses one shared project model. Existing in a centralized environment means the model can be accessed and modified by everyone on the project. Communication at Level 3 BIM and above is timely, efficient, and relevant to a given project. Often, Level 3 BIM is considered more timely and probabilistic.

What’s in Store for BIM?

BIM offers incredible, real-time data sharing for every member of a building project. Because of the obvious benefits, it’s no question that BIM won’t be going anywhere for quite some time. Collaboration has become a standard in the industry, and as more firms embrace the abilities of BIM data sharing, we will see the industry become even more highly collaborative and digital. BIM’s sophistication is increasing, with 4D, 5D, even 6D BIM starting to play a role in the process. Global attempts to reduce waste in construction mean more and more of the process will move in the digital sphere.

Overall, BIM offers everyone on a building project from designers to contractors the ability to reduce inefficiencies, waste, information gaps, and reworking. The collaborative and up-to-date information available in the BIM environment can only create better workflows for the future.

Are you looking for a construction partner? Contact Hannig Construction, Inc. today to speak with a representative!


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