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An introduction to Building Information Modelling (BIM)

6 November 2015

It seems that everyone has been talking about BIM lately. It’s clearly the latest buzzword in the building sector. But dig a little deeper and not many people seem to have a clear idea of exactly what BIM is or what it means for their business. With new initiatives sprouting up all the time it can be hard to know which to pay attention to. But with government mandating that all publicy-funded construction work must be undertaken using BIM by 2016, it seems this one is here to stay.

To get a little more clarity on exactly what BIM is and why it will benefit those involved with building projects, we interviewed some of the experts in the field. Here are the five key points that we learned and that we hope will be useful to you.

#1 – What is BIM?

BIM stands for Building Information Modelling. The idea is to introduce single, shared CAD models with open data that can be used by any organisation involved with a building project. Every component is required to provide the necessary data that can then be integrated into the CAD software. The intention is to move the construction industry to a ‘full’ collaborative working environment. It’s designed to be progressive, with distinct and recognisable milestones, in the form of ‘levels’.

#2 – The 3 levels of BIM

Let’s look at each level:

  • Level 0 means no collaboration, where buildings are modelled using 2D CAD drafting only.
  • Level 1 is where most companies are at the moment. They are using a mixture of 3D CAD for concept work, and 2D for drafting of statutory approval documentation and production information.
  • Level 2 is where those developing BIM want to see us moving towards. This level is distinguished by collaborative working. All parties use their own 3D CAD models, but are not necessarily working on a single, shared model. Design information is shared through a common file format, which enables any organisation to be able to combine that data with their own software, in order to make a consolidated BIM model, and to carry out thorough checks.
  • Level 3 is seen as the Holy Grail. It means full collaboration between all parties involved with a building project using a single, shared project model, which is held in a centralised repository. This is known as ‘Open BIM’.

#3 – Is BIM relevant to you?

BIM can be used on any project, whether you’re an architect, a product manufacturer, construction manager, installer or government agency. It’s useful for anyone who plans, designs, constructs, operates and maintains diverse infrastructures. BIM helps with all kind of building projects, whatever their size, level of complexity and whether they are new build or refurbishment projects.

#4 – How might BIM impact your business

BIM is not currently a requirement, either in public or private procurement. However, from 2016 any company participating in a public RFP that is not BIM compatible will automatically be rejected. Experts then predict that the initiative will slowly make its way into the private sector, with the retail industry expected to be a first mover.

#5 – What are the benefits of adopting BIM?

  • Architects will benefit from better understanding how their choices will impact the construction
  • Constructions managers can foresee and anticipate errors, avoid waste and save money.
  • Builders can easily generate fabrication plans for the parts they need.
  • Installers can more easily understand what part they need to use.
  • Potential problems can more easily be identified by superimposing multiple 3D drawings.
  • More efficient building can be designed through better access to information on the intrinsic performance of a building.

The question that still stands for us is whether BIM can actually do anything to solve the problem of value engineering, which is still the factor that most often causes projects to fail. Without an answer to this issue, there’s a danger that BIM is just another well-intentioned development that misses a big piece of the puzzle. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

We hope we’ve given you a useful introduction into the world of BIM. If you are already adopting BIM, please get in touch and we will be happy to provide you with all the data you need when integrating our intelligent lighting control system, LiGO.