Building information modeling (BIM) is currently used across multiple industries, from architecture and engineering to construction. It’s expected to become even more prevalent in the coming years, too, as more people get comfortable with the technology and understand its benefits.
For those who are still hesitant about utilizing BIM solutions, knowing more about these tools and their benefits may persuade them to take the plunge.
We’ll explore the specifics of BIM’s potential to streamline the design process, increase efficiency, and improve collaboration below.
What Is Building Information Modeling (BIM)?
Building information modeling is a holistic information management process for built assets (assets made by humans, such as buildings, water and sewer systems, etc.). BIM allows users to integrate data from a variety of sources to produce digital representations of built assets across their lifecycle, from the early planning and design stages to construction and operations.
Salman Azhar, who has a PhD in building construction, explains that architects, engineers, and constructors can use BIM to “visualize what is to be built in a simulated environment to identify any potential design, construction, or operational issues.”1
How Is BIM Used in the Design Process?
BIM benefits professionals across all phases of a project.2 However, it’s especially valuable during the design process. Regardless of the project’s size, all team members can work together with BIM’s help to create detailed asset models. Highly detailed models ensure that everyone is on the same page, from the project team to the client.
Peter J. Arsenault, the cofounder of ROJO Architecture, said about his team using BIM technology, “The better we can show our designs, the better we can sell them.” He also noted that by sharing fully developed presentations, client meetings are successful 95 percent of the time.3
How BIM Is Used in Manufacturing Facilities
BIM is applicable to constructing manufacturing facilities and supporting their automation. BIM streamlines design, collaboration, and issue detection during construction. It incorporates machinery models, aiding in automation layout planning.
Through simulating automation processes within BIM, potential problems are preemptively addressed, reducing downtime and enhancing facility efficiency.
Essentially, BIM improves construction and automation, ensuring smooth processes and optimal manufacturing operations.
How BIM Increases Efficiency
In addition to increasing client satisfaction, BIM helps to increase efficiency in multiple ways. For example, BIM saves employees from having to make a drawing of a structure twice. They can use the model created using BIM as a reference point for creating a drawing, which saves them time.
Designers can also save time on decision-making, adjustments, and specifications for different components and elements of a project. They can download ready-made models and integrate them into the design without having to start from scratch.
In addition to saving time, this approach also saves money and resources while preserving (and potentially enhancing) the design’s quality.
BIM and Iterative Design
In the article linked above, architect Peter J. Arsenault also notes that BIM encourages truly iterative design processes. BIM makes it easier for workers to make changes in a model and understand a project more deeply—without spending excessive amounts of time on it.3
Arsenault explains that it’s very time-consuming to make changes to a design when a team relies on cardboard models and paper drawings. With BIM, they can create a base model and then save it as a separate file, which is used to create different variations.
The BIM design process is more time-efficient but doesn’t quash designers’ creativity or ability to experiment. In fact, it enables them to be more creative since they won’t be as worried about potential time constraints.
How BIM Improves Collaboration
Not only does BIM have the potential to increase efficiency and streamline the design process, but it can also improve collaboration among all participants.
Because BIM produces a digital rendering of a project, images and models are available to everyone. Equal availability means that everyone can assess the project and make suggestions or identify potential problems earlier in the process.
For example, imagine an electrical team needs to run cables through a wall. If BIM wasn’t used, they might not know where to run the cables until they got to the project site. However, with BIM, they can review the model in the early stages, identify where the cables will go, and make updates right away, which saves everyone time and minimizes frustration.
BIM also allows for earlier clash detection and improved conflict resolution. Since everyone has access to models at the same time, all team members can identify potential problems and address them earlier—saving them from clashing later and dealing with the fall-out from that clash, such as delays or added costs.
According to Ryan Simmonds of Metsec Framing, it’s vital that teams detect and address conflicts as early as possible. He noted that without BIM technology, “issues are often only picked up at major project milestones, and at this point, they can be difficult and expensive to rectify.” 4
BIM notifies team members of updates in real-time. If someone makes a change, everyone finds out about it simultaneously. That means no one is left out of the loop, which improves communication across the board and prevents potential misunderstandings and conflicts.
What to Look for in BIM Solutions
BIM technology is becoming more popular than ever in architecture, engineering, and construction tools. Considering the benefits discussed above, it’s not surprising that’s the case.
For those who are interested in incorporating BIM solutions into their design process, it’s important to choose the right tool. Here are some essential factors to consider when searching:
- Software interface (design, navigability, etc.)
- Supported exchange formats
- Integration options
- Collaboration features
- Intelligent design and adaptability to changes
- Ability to support large file sizes
- Subscription model vs. permanent licensing
- Security features
Not all BIM tools are created equal. However, taking the time to select the right option can help teams save money and time while improving communication and maintaining strong relationships throughout the project.
As Azhar noted in a separate publication, BIM “represents a new paradigm within AEC…that encourages integration of…all stakeholders [and] has the potential to promote greater efficiency and harmony among players who, in the past, saw themselves as adversaries.” 5
- "Building Information Modeling (BIM): Trends, Benefits, Risks, and Challenges for the AEC Industry," Salman Azhar, Leadership and Management in Engineering, Volume 11, Issue 3, https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)LM.1943-5630.0000127.
- "The Benefits of BIM," Anna Liza Montenegro, Microsol Resources, microsolresources.com/tech-resources/article/the-benefits-of-bim/
- "Building Information Modeling as a Design Process," Peter J. Arsenault, Continuing Education Center: Architecture + Construction, May 2015, https://continuingeducation.bnpmedia.com/article_print.php?C=1335&L=412
- "Collaboration is key: How BIM helps a project from concept to operations," Ryan Simmonds, PCB Today, November 29, 2018, http://www.pbctoday.co.uk/news/digital-construction-news/bim-news/bim-helps-concept-to-operations/49665/
- Building Information Modeling (BIM): A New Paradigm for Visual Interactive Modeling and Simulation for Construction Projects, Salman Azhar and Abid Nadeem, August 2008, Conference: First International Conference on Construction in Developing Countries (ICCIDC–I), Karachi, Pakistan, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283118367_Building_Information_Modeling_BIM_A_New_Paradigm_for_Visual_Interactive_Modeling_and_Simulation_for_Construction_Projects.