What is BIM?

Jim BaldingTechnology, The InformANT

Broad Museum The ANT Group

Broad Museum The ANT Group

Broad Museum BIM Cut View

Every quarter we will be highlighting a technology that we have come across that works for us.  In this initial article, we will be covering the foundation for most of our technologies—BIM (building information modeling).  BIM is at the core of our business, and the majority of our subsequent applications rely upon it.

BIM Basics

Autodesk defines building information modeling (BIM) an intelligent 3D model-based process that equips architecture, engineering, and construction professionals with the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.  But what does that mean exactly?  As one of the very earliest adopters of BIM technology (early adopter #4 of Autodesk® Revit® software), I understand it well, so let’s elaborate on some of these concepts.

CAD vs. BIM

Most AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) professionals are familiar with CAD (computer aided design) software.  Some people refer to BIM software as CAD because, well, they are in fact designing with it on a computer.  But BIM is much, much more.

BIM is not a software per se, it is a process.  Instead of drawing lines, arcs, and, circles that “represent” doors, walls, and, windows in CAD, with BIM software like Revit, you’re essentially creating a virtual 3D model of the real-world building that can be used for visualization, collaboration, coordination, simulation, and analysis before construction begins.  As we like say, “we find and fix problems before they become expensive.”  BIM is at the center of that statement.

Information

The “I” in BIM stands for “information”—and that’s where so much of the added value comes from.  Walls know that they are walls, windows know that they are windows.  And best yet, these objects understand their relationships to each other.  So, as you’re designing the model, the building must function (e.g., the roof must work – you can’t fake it).  Additionally, the information within the objects can be mined in dozens of ways to better communicate the design intent, insuring the building is constructed properly.  This precision means fewer change orders once construction begins—and that means money saved. Beyond that, this information can aide the owner in the operation of the building for years to come.

Communication & Coordination

Google Cardboard

Image Source: https://store.google.com/product/google_cardboard

As mentioned above, the models we create using BIM software become the foundation for other technologies we use here at The ANT Group.  Our models are used to create lifelike 3D visualizations and renderings; we’ve used them for 3D printing; and we’re even using them in immersive environments using Google Cardboard so clients can experience a virtual walk-through of their building during the initial design phase.

But it’s not just about client communication—it’s about architects communicating back and forth with the entire design team, including staff and consultants.  It’s also about the design team communicating with the contractor, which is critical.  We’re not quite there yet, but soon it will be the norm to hand over the model to contractors instead of traditional paper blueprints or PDF’s. By using the model, the contractor will be able to bring up data and details to better understand the project as it’s under construction.

In the meantime, BIM automates the production of traditional construction drawings.  When you make changes to the model, it knows to carry the changes through to the construction documents, saving time and reducing potentially costly errors.

There is So Much More to BIM

I could go on about the value that BIM software and workflows bring to our clients.  You’ll just have to keep an eye out for the next edition of the InformANT to learn more about BIM and other trend-setting technologies that are transforming the AEC industry!

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