Building Information Modelling (BIM): Answering the Web’s Most Asked Questions.

We have scoured the internet’s biggest forums, search engine queries, and keywords to find the web’s most asked questions about BIM (Building Information Modelling).

With over 20 years of experience in the industry, we have adapted and evolved to address the accelerating demands and the questions that pop up all the time. From the factors fuelling the expansion of BIM to the future of BIM in construction, we aim to put a full stop on the pinch points for people who are curious about the world of BIM.

For our research, we used a mixture of questions asked on Reddit, Quora, Google Search, Bing Search, and Answer the Public to identify the top 10 BIM questions.

1: What is BIM? (Building Information Modelling)

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the now, and the future, of the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) sector. It is transforming the way we do construction from design to the production of architectural and engineering drawings and documentation, and much more such as analysis, costing, purchasing, construction, monitoring, and facilities management.

BIM will touch and affect everyone and every business dealing with design, construction, manufacturing, facilities management, and building ownership. It is leading to changes in processes and procedures, as well as cost savings throughout the entire design, builds, and management phases of a project.

If you distil it down to its essence, BIM is an information exchange, communication, and collaborative process. The future of BIM involves using the digital model at all stages of a project – from project concept right through to handover and facilities management. The ultimate goal of BIM is to have a digital twin of the ‘As Built’. The proper use of BIM throughout an entire project life-cycle will result in significant value and return on that investment.

At various stages of the BIM cycle/process, the digital model will also evolve in terms of Level of Detail (LOD) and Level of Information (LOI). Combining the geometric aspect of BIM with the LOI within the digital model is the holy grail of BIM. When executed correctly this leads to swifter decision making from very early concept design stages right through a project life-cycle resulting in significant time and cost savings.

There are currently 7 no. Ds (dimensions) of BIM are used throughout the life-cycle of a project, but AEC professionals recognise them from 3D BIM onwards.

The 7D’s of BIM:

  • 1D: Research
  • 2D: 2D drawings, plans, and documentation
  • 3D: Geometric Digital Modelling
  • 4D: Project Scheduling
  • 5D: Cost Analysis
  • 6D: Sustainability – Daylight/Sunlight and wind analysis
  • 7D: Facilities Management of the ‘As Built’

The dimensions apply to all roles within a project and can support decision-making in architecture (3D, 5D, 6D, 7D), quantity surveying (5D, 6D), and project management (3D, 4D, 5D).

2: What are the benefits of adopting BIM? (Building Information Modelling)

Adopting BIM across the AEC sector can significantly improve the delivery and performance of projects while providing a consistent approach that promotes collaboration and innovation. 

BIM processes have helped deliver benefits such as monitoring, safety, planning, cost, and many more. It has the potential to deliver further benefits in the operations of small enterprises by establishing standardisation and asset libraries that can be used across design teams.

The main benefits of BIM are: 

  • Efficiency through the lifecycle of a building project – this is achieved by enabling consistency, optimising time management, and strategic decision-making.  
  • Increased productivity, which accelerates delivery. 
  • Eliminating risks and assisting health and safety planning – this leads to a safer approach and fewer mistakes through seamless sharing of information, coming from a verified source and used consistently. 
  • Improved prediction and reduction of the whole lifecycle costs. 
  • Support for the whole supply chain to manage data, reducing wasted effort and cost in capturing unwanted information. 
  • Value – BIM technologies help to make smart decisions about built assets’ lifecycle.  
  • Better stakeholder engagement – models and virtual reality applications can deliver insights about assets, reducing delays and wasted design effort. 
  • Alignment with government’s policy priorities and objectives. An increasing number of governments now require some level of BIM on government-tender projects.

3: What are upcoming trends in the Building Information Modelling (BIM) market?

The combination of BIM and smart technologies such as artificial intelligence is a growing trend in the industry. Using big data and complex algorithms (Using AI) can create standardised design models at a fast pace. The resulting digital models can then be tested on virtual platforms such as BIM 360 OPs to determine viability and cost, the local environment, and the developer’s specific requirements. This means decisions and commitments can be made at an early stage, which speeds up the whole process.

There is also a trend-focused on providing a single platform to facilitate the lifecycle of a BIM project. Autodesk Navisworks is the leading platform moving towards this goal. It currently supports 5D simulation, coordination, analysis, and communication of design intent, and constructability.

4: How do I become a BIM architect? What knowledge should I gather, and what skills should I gain?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a BIM architect as BIM is a process; it is not a tool. You are either in an environment where the process is used, or you are not.

Many AEC professionals work in collaboration to feed into the BIM process. For architects, they should have a deep knowledge of BIM enabling software such as Autodesk Revit or Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD to develop an integrated model of a design. Various aspects of architectural design such as structure, mechanics, electrical, HVAC, horticulture, etc can be linked together to develop a cohesive model.

There is a growing number of Applied Building Information Modelling courses becoming available in universities and institutes across the world. These courses are targeted towards AEC professionals such as architects, engineers, surveyors, technologists, and construction managers. These courses enable AEC professionals to work within a multidisciplinary, collaborative design and management process based on international standards.

5: What are the differences between BIM Modeller, BIM Engineer, BIM Technician, BIM Coordinator, BIM Manager, and BIM Information Manager?

BIM Modeller/Engineer/Technicians: Create detailed digital 3D models using software such as Autodesk Revit or ArchiCAD. They will work closely with their project architect creating the model from sketch designs from the early concept stage. However, sometimes this professional will be required to create 3D models from third-party files such as CAD drawings, elevations, etc. which is against the grain of BIM as 2D data should be pulled from the 3D model. BIM modellers also liaise with design team members to provide project coordination documentation.

BIM Coordinators: Are responsible for handling a team of BIM Modelers and handles the process for interdisciplinary coordination among Architecture, Structure, Mechanical, Electrical, etc. They will distribute work among the modellers, will do linking, managing, supervising, and guiding the team members/modelers about the process. They will generate clash reports and submit them to all stakeholders for further coordination.

BIM Manager: They will be responsible for developing BIM strategy documents i.e., BIP/BEP (BIM Implementation Plan and BIM Execution Plan). They will lead the coordination process. define the protocols and processes and will be overall in charge to make the BIM adoption a successful process.

BIM Information Manager: They unite the digital model, validating the data and producing COBie outputs at each RIBA stage. They ensure that the right data, in the right format is delivered at the right time. They validate data at the point of delivery, ensuring that is it correct and in context as important decisions are made based on its integrity.

6: What are the top benefits of BIM (Building Information Modelling) for small architecture firms?

BIM (Building Information Modelling) is no longer a luxury but rather a necessity for small architectural firms. The advantages of using the BIM process on large-scale projects are well-documented but it also has significant benefits for smaller projects and for winning tenders. For architects who are yet to embark on their BIM journey, they can outsource their projects to third-party BIM service providers.

Here are four reasons why BIM for small architectural firms is a distinct advantage: 

Accurate Conceptual Ideas: With BIM and 3D architectural software, it is easy to quickly create a 3D massing model of the initial design concept and overlay it onto accurate site data. This gives the clients a better understanding of the proposed design and allows any adjustments to be made early on before too much time has been spent on the project. It also allows for early assessments such as daylight and sunlighting. (6D BIM)

Competitive Edge: BIM offers smaller firms a level playing field – more efficient designs using the most up-to-date technology allowing them to future-proof their business.

Faster Design Changes: Without BIM, updating plans, roof plans, sections, elevations, and specifications are extremely time-consuming. But with BIM and 3D modelling software, the drawings are derived from the model and update as the model changes, making updates a simple case of changing the model and regenerating the drawings.

Precise Construction: With BIM, designs are more accurate, which leads to fewer unforeseen issues during construction. Also, construction costs and programs can be more accurately predicted through BIM, giving clients confidence that projects will be delivered on time and to budget.

7: What is the career scope in the BIM field, and what difference can we do in it?

There is a growing number of career opportunities involving BIM with the continued surge in the adoption of the process across industries.

Whilst we tend to think about designers and architects first when discussing BIM, the actual BIM workflow ties together different fields at every stage of the project and even beyond. These industries include:

Architecture: Make better design decisions, improve building performance, and collaborate more effectively throughout the project lifecycle.

Civil: Use intelligent, connected workflows to help improve predictability, productivity, and profitability

Construction: Digitise construction sites and connect project information from design through construction and handover.

MEP: Improve MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) design quality and collaborate in real-time to support the project delivery process.

Plant: Manage the design and construction of intelligent piping, structures, and processes more efficiently and collaboratively throughout the project lifecycle and at hand-off.

Structures: Explore how structural design and detailing software helps you win new business and support project delivery.

8: What is behind the massive growth in the Building Information Modelling market?

The future of the Building Information Modelling (BIM) market looks promising with major opportunities within the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry. According to a report by Market and Markets, The Global BIM Market is projected to grow from €3.78 billion in 2020 to €7.39 billion by 2025, with year-on-year growth of 14.5%.

Whilst BIM is not new, its recent growth has gathered pace in the past number of years. This is attributed to many factors, such as rapid urbanisation and demand for ‘green’ buildings, strong government support for making BIM mandatory, and using BIM for technologies such as AI, AR/VR, cloud, Big Data, and IoT. The market has also been accelerated due to the COVID-19 outbreak with the focus shifting to find safer and smart ways of construction.

We have outlined 4 key factors that are fuelling the massive growth of BIM below:

BIM Construction Fuelling Market Growth

Due to rising trends in digitisation across all industries, BIM is continuing to gain widespread adoption in the construction industry. Building applications mainly include commercial, residential, healthcare, and retail buildings, however, infrastructure projects have also adopted BIM and are implementing it very successfully (E.g. Shanghai Tower High-rise sustainable design).

Buildings are designed with BIM from the early concept design stage right through the construction phase and up to handover. The holy grail of BIM is to have a ‘digital twin’ of the finished development to be used for facilities management. (BIM Design Model – BIM Construction Model – BIM as a Built Model – BIM Facilities Management Model)

BIM Application Accelerated by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the AEC sector to find safer and smarter ways of constructing buildings. During worldwide lockdowns, BIM facilitated the continuation of projects within the digital and virtual environment, even when participants were unable to meet in person. Whilst BIM has always been a collaborative process, this was accelerated due to COVID-19. BIM processes allowed data to be shared remotely across professional disciplines and facilitate smarter construction.

Strong Government Support for Making BIM Mandatory

Nowadays, all public-private partnership (PPP) tenders are requiring “some” form of BIM capability, although the standards and expectations vary from case to case. According to a report by Market and Markets, Asia-Pacific countries are likely to be the highest growing market for BIM in the coming years. In this region, BIM is being widely adopted for large-scale infrastructure and building projects. This is attributed to Government initiatives to construct ‘green’ buildings.

Key Players Driving Growth in the BIM Industry

The building information modelling market is highly competitive owing to the presence of many small and large vendors providing solutions in the domestic and international markets. According to Market and Markets, “The industry appears to be concentrated on moving towards the fragmented stage with the emergence of new players in the market. Major players in the market are adopting strategies like product & service innovation and mergers & acquisitions.

Some of the key software players profiled in the Building Information Modelling Market include Archidata Inc, Asite Solutions, Autodesk Inc, Aveva Group Plc, Beck Technology Ltd, Bentley Systems, Cadsoft Corporation, Dassault Systèmes, Hexagon AB, Nemetschek SE, Pentagon Solution Ltd, RIB Software SE, Synchro Software Ltd, Tekla Corporation and Trimble Ltd.

9: What are the different levels involved in BIM? (Building Information Modelling)

The strategic roadmap for the BIM industry has four levels. Each level represents the extent of collaboration and the application of digitization to a construction or infrastructure project.

BIM Level 0: This means a complete non-existence collaboration between stakeholders, and projects will only use 2D CAD drafting. Distribution is either paper-based or electronic (or both). This BIM level is pretty much obsolete today.

BIM Level 1: Represents partial collaboration between stakeholders and design teams. Projects at this level use a mixture of 2D and 3D CAD drafting. Typically, information is shared digitally using a common data environment (CDE), managed by the principal contractor, and shared among team members, and projects may also use some standard data structures.

BIM Level 2: Projects are fully collaborative, with stakeholders using detailed 3D models in a sophisticated BIM environment. In this instance, all parties working on a project can combine their BIM and design data to work together and share information through a CDE. The CDE enables users to carry out regular checks against data validation strategies to ensure the project stays on track. One indicator of maturity for BIM Level 2 projects is the inclusion of a 4D BIM (Project Scheduling), which enables the planning of construction sequences. Another is 5D BIM (Cost Analysis) for improved cost management.

BIM Level 3: This means full collaboration and full integration among all disciplines and stakeholders. They are using a single, shared project view for data integration, which all parties can access and modify as defined through process and security controls. Projects at this level can also have dedicated project streams that inform 7D BIM (Facility Management). In effect, a 6D model enables improved asset management for the complete lifecycle of a building.

The UK had officially mandated BIM Level 2 in 2016 and is working out a path towards Level 3. In Germany, progress has not been as quick. BIM will be made mandatory for all infrastructure projects by the end of 2021. Beyond that, there are no requirements for the use of BIM.

10: What is the future of BIM (Building Information Modelling) in the architectural and construction industry?

Arguably, the future of BIM is already here; it is no longer a prediction of how efficient a building project can be. Today it is possible to address the complete lifecycle of a building, from design to construction, and from maintenance to renovation. It is also possible to bring intelligent digital 3D models together with reality capture technologies through cloud processing to connect collaborative models with psychical on-site structures.

The future of BIM will involve more national institutions to guide the implementation of BIM to make it mandatory for all construction projects. The current standards include the National BIM Standard (USA), the BSi Standard Framework and Guide to BS1192 (UK), Rgd BIM (Netherlands), and Stufenplan Digitales Planen und Bauen (Germany). Countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, and Australia already have government mandates for obligatory use of BIM in public sector infrastructure projects. Others are following suit.

The future of design and construction is bright. The future is BIM!

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