Building information modeling
Building information modeling (BIM) is a process supported by various tools, technologies and contracts involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of places. Building information models (BIMs) are files (often but not always in proprietary formats and containing proprietary data) which can be extracted, exchanged or networked to support decision-making regarding a built asset. Current BIM software is used by individuals, businesses and government agencies who plan, design, construct, operate and maintain diverse physical infrastructures, such as water, refuse, electricity, gas, communication utilities, roads, railways, bridges, ports and tunnels.
BIM origins and elements
The term 'building model' (in the sense of BIM as used today) was first used in papers in the mid-1980s: in a 1985 paper by Simon Ruffle eventually published in 1986, and later in a 1986 paper by Robert Aish - then at GMW Computers Ltd, developer of RUCAPS software - referring to the software's use at London's Heathrow Airport. The term 'Building Information Model' first appeared in a 1992 paper by G.A. van Nederveen and F. P. Tolman.
However, the terms 'Building Information Model' and 'Building Information Modeling' (including the acronym "BIM") did not become popularly used until some 10 years later. In 2002, Autodesk released a white paper entitled "Building Information Modeling," and other software vendors also started to assert their involvement in the field. By hosting contributions from Autodesk, Bentley Systems and Graphisoft, plus other industry observers, in 2003, Jerry Laiserin helped popularize and standardize the term as a common name for the digital representation of the building process. Facilitating exchange and interoperability of information in digital format had previously been offered under differing terminology by Graphisoft as "Virtual Building", Bentley Systems as "Integrated Project Models", and by Autodesk or Vectorworks as "Building Information Modeling".
As Graphisoft had been developing such solutions for longer than its competitors, Laiserin regarded its ArchiCAD application as then "one of the most mature BIM solutions on the market." Following its launch in 1987, ArchiCAD became regarded by some as the first implementation of BIM, as it was the first CAD product on a personal computer able to create both 2D and 3D geometry, as well as the first commercial BIM product for personal computers.
The US National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee has the following definition:
- Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.
Traditional building design was largely reliant upon two-dimensional technical drawings (plans, elevations, sections, etc). Building information modeling extends this beyond 3D, augmenting the three primary spatial dimensions (width, height and depth) with time as the fourth dimension (4D) and cost as the fifth (5D).
More recently there are also references to a sixth dimension (6D) representing building environmental and sustainability analysis, and a seventh dimension (7D) for life-cycle facility management aspect, although there are conflicting definitions (6D BIM).
BIM therefore covers more than just geometry. It also covers spatial relationships, light analysis, geographic information, and quantities and properties of building components (for example, manufacturers' details).
BIM involves representing a design as combinations of "objects" – vague and undefined, generic or product-specific, solid shapes or void-space oriented (like the shape of a room), that carry their geometry, relations and attributes. BIM design tools allow extraction of different views from a building model for drawing production and other uses. These different views are automatically consistent, being based on a single definition of each object instance. BIM software also defines objects parametrically; that is, the objects are defined as parameters and relations to other objects, so that if a related object is amended, dependent ones will automatically also change. Each model element can carry attributes for selecting and ordering them automatically, providing cost estimates as well as material tracking and ordering.
For the professionals involved in a project, BIM enables a virtual information model to be handed from the design team (architects, landscape architects, surveyors, civil, structural and building services engineers, etc.) to the main contractor and subcontractors and then on to the owner/operator; each professional adds discipline-specific data to the single shared model. This reduces information losses that traditionally occurred when a new team takes 'ownership' of the project, and provides more extensive information to owners of complex structures.
BIM throughout the project life-cycle
Use of BIM goes beyond the planning and design phase of the project, extending throughout the building life cycle. The supporting processes of building lifecycle management includes cost management, construction management, project management, facility operation and application in green building.
Management of building information models
Building information models span the whole concept-to-occupation time-span. To ensure efficient management of information processes throughout this span, a BIM manager (also sometimes defined as a virtual design-to-construction, VDC, project manager – VDCPM) might be appointed. The BIM manager is retained by a design build team on the client's behalf from the pre-design phase onwards to develop and to track the object-oriented BIM against predicted and measured performance objectives, supporting multi-disciplinary building information models that drive analysis, schedules, take-off and logistics. Companies are also now considering developing BIMs in various levels of detail, since depending on the application of BIM, more or less detail is needed, and there is varying modeling effort associated with generating building information models at different levels of detail.
BIM in construction management
Participants in the building process are constantly challenged to deliver successful projects despite tight budgets, limited manpower, accelerated schedules, and limited or conflicting information. The significant disciplines such as architectural, structural and MEP designs should be well coordinated, as two things can’t take place at the same place and time. BIM additionally is able to aid in collision detection, identifying the exact location of discrepancies.
The BIM concept envisages virtual construction of a facility prior to its actual physical construction, in order to reduce uncertainty, improve safety, work out problems, and simulate and analyze potential impacts. Sub-contractors from every trade can input critical information into the model before beginning construction, with opportunities to pre-fabricate or pre-assemble some systems off-site. Waste can be minimised on-site and products delivered on a just-in-time basis rather than being stock-piled on-site.
Quantities and shared properties of materials can be extracted easily. Scopes of work can be isolated and defined. Systems, assemblies and sequences can be shown in a relative scale with the entire facility or group of facilities. BIM also prevents errors by enabling conflict or 'clash detection' whereby the computer model visually highlights to the team where parts of the building (e.g.:structural frame and building services pipes or ducts) may wrongly intersect.
BIM in facility operation
BIM can bridge the information loss associated with handling a project from design team, to construction team and to building owner/operator, by allowing each group to add to and reference back to all information they acquire during their period of contribution to the BIM model. This can yield benefits to the facility owner or operator.
For example, a building owner may find evidence of a leak in his building. Rather than exploring the physical building, he may turn to the model and see that a water valve is located in the suspect location. He could also have in the model the specific valve size, manufacturer, part number, and any other information ever researched in the past, pending adequate computing power. Such problems were initially addressed by Leite and Akinci when developing a vulnerability representation of facility contents and threats for supporting the identification of vulnerabilities in building emergencies.
Dynamic information about the building, such as sensor measurements and control signals from the building systems, can also be incorporated within BIM software to support analysis of building operation and maintenance.
There have been attempts at creating information models for older, pre-existing facilities. Approaches include referencing key metrics such as the Facility Condition Index (FCI), or using 3D laser-scanning surveys and photogrammetry techniques (both separately or in combination) to capture accurate measurements of the asset that can be used as the basis for a model. Trying to model a building constructed in, say 1927, requires numerous assumptions about design standards, building codes, construction methods, materials, etc., and is therefore more complex than building a model during design.
One of the challenges to the proper maintenance and management of existing facilities is understanding how BIM can be utilized to support a holistic understanding and implementation of building management practices and “cost of ownership” principles that support the full product lifecycle of a building. An American National Standard entitled APPA 1000 – Total Cost of Ownership for Facilities Asset Management incorporates BIM to factor in a variety of critical requirements and costs over the life-cycle of the building, including but not limited to: replacement of energy, utility, and safety systems; continual maintenance of the building exterior and interior and replacement of materials; updates to design and functionality; and recapitalization costs.
BIM in green building
BIM in green building, or "green BIM", is a process that can help architecture, engineering and construction firms to increase sustainability in the construction industry. It can allow architects and engineers to integrate and analyze environmental issues in their design over the life cycle of the building.
The first software tools developed for modelling buildings emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and included workstation products such as Chuck Eastman's Building Description System and GLIDE, RUCAPS, Sonata, Reflex and Gable 4D Series. The early applications, and the hardware needed to run them, were expensive, which limited widespread adoption. ArchiCAD's Radar CH, released in 1984 was the first modelling software made available on a personal computer.
Due to the complexity of gathering all the relevant information when working with BIM on a building project some companies have developed software designed specifically to work in a BIM framework. These packages differ from architectural drafting tools such as AutoCAD by allowing the addition of further information (time, cost, manufacturers' details, sustainability and maintenance information, etc.) to the building model.
Non-proprietary or openBIM standards
BIM is often associated with Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs) and aecXML – data structures for representing information. IFCs have been developed by buildingSMART (the former International Alliance for Interoperability), as a neutral, non-proprietary or open standard for sharing BIM data among different software applications (some proprietary data structures have been developed by CAD vendors incorporating BIM into their software).
Poor software interoperability has long been regarded as an obstacle to industry efficiency in general and to BIM adoption in particular. In August 2004 a US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report conservatively estimated that $15.8 billion was lost annually by the U.S. capital facilities industry due to inadequate interoperability arising from "the highly fragmented nature of the industry, the industry’s continued paperbased business practices, a lack of standardization, and inconsistent technology adoption among stakeholders".
An early example of a nationally approved BIM standard is the AISC (American Institute of Steel Construction)-approved CIS/2 standard, a non-proprietary standard with its roots in the UK.
International BIM developments
China began its exploration on informatisation in 2001. The Ministry of Construction announced BIM was as the key application technology of informatisation in "Ten new technologies of construction industry" (by 2010). The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) clearly announced BIM technology as a national key research and application project in "12th Five-Year" Science and Technology Development Planning. Therefore, the year 2011 was described as "The First Year of China's BIM".
The Hong Kong Housing Authority set a target of full BIM implementation in 2014/2015. BuildingSmart Hong Kong was inaugurated in Hong Kong SAR in late April 2012. The Government of Hong Kong mandates the use of BIM for all government projects over HK$30M since 1 January 2018.
In India BIM is also known as VDC: Virtual Design and Construction. Due to its population and economic growth, India has an expanding construction market. In spite of this, BIM usage was reported by only 22% of respondents to a 2014 survey.
The Iran Building Information Modeling Association (IBIMA) was founded in 2012 by professional engineers from five universities in Iran, including the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Amirkabir University of Technology. While it is not currently active, IBIMA aims to share knowledge resources to support construction engineering management decision-making.
BIM implementation is targeted towards BIM Stage 2 by the year 2020 led by the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB Malaysia). Under the Construction Industry Transformation Plan (CITP 2016-2020), it is hoped more emphasis on technology adoption across the project life-cycle will induce higher productivity.
The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has announced that BIM would be introduced for architectural submission (by 2013), structural and M&E submissions (by 2014) and eventually for plan submissions of all projects with gross floor area of more than 5,000 square meters by 2015. The BCA Academy is training students in BIM.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) has announced "Start of BIM pilot project in government building and repairs" (by 2010). Japan Institute of Architects (JIA) released the BIM guidelines (by 2012), which showed the agenda and expected effect of BIM to architects.
Small BIM-related seminars and independent BIM effort existed in South Korea even in the 1990s. However, it was not until the late 2000s that the Korean industry paid attention to BIM. The first industry-level BIM conference was held in April, 2008, after which, BIM has been spread very rapidly. Since 2010, the Korean government has been gradually increasing the scope of BIM-mandated projects. McGraw Hill published a detailed report in 2012 on the status of BIM adoption and implementation in South Korea.
United Arab Emirates
Dubai Municipality issued a circular (196) in 2014 mandating BIM use for buildings of a certain size, height or type. The one page circular initiated strong interest in BIM and the market responded in preparation for more guidelines and direction. In 2015 the Municipality issued another circular (207) titled 'Regarding the expansion of applying the (BIM) on buildings and facilities in the emirate of Dubai' which made BIM mandatory on more projects by reducing the minimum size and height requirement for projects requiring BIM. This second circular drove BIM adoption further with several projects and organizations adopting UK BIM standards as best practice. In 2016, the UAE's Quality and Conformity Commission set up a BIM steering group to investigate statewide adoption of BIM.
Austrian standards for digital modeling are summarized in the ÖNORM A 6241, published on March 15, 2015. The ÖNORM A 6241-1 (BIM Level 2), which replaced the ÖNORM A 6240-4, has been extended in the detailed and executive design stages, and corrected in the lack of definitions. The ÖNORM A 6241-2 (BIM Level 3) includes all the requirements for the BIM Level 3 (iBIM).
The Czech BIM Council, established in May 2011, aims to implement BIM methodologies into the Czech building and designing processes, education, standards and legislation.
In Estonia digital construction cluster (Digitaalehituse Klaster) was formed in 2015 to develop BIM solutions for the whole life-cycle of construction. The strategic objective of the cluster is to develop an innovative digital construction environment as well as VDC new product development, Grid and e-construction portal to increase the international competitiveness and sales of Estonian businesses in the construction field. The cluster is equally co-funded by European Structural and Investment Funds through Enterprise Estonia and by the members of the cluster with a total budget of 600 000 euros for the period 2016-2018.
In France, a Building transition digital plan - French acronym PTNB - has been created (mandated since 2015 to 2017 and under several ministries). There is also the French arm of buildingSMART, called Mediaconstruct (existing since 1989).
In December 2015, the German minister for transport Alexander Dobrindt announced a timetable for the introduction of mandatory BIM for German road and rail projects from the end of 2020. Speaking in April 2016, he said digital design and construction must become standard for construction projects in Germany, with Germany two to three years behind The Netherlands and the UK in aspects of implementing BIM.
In November 2017, Ireland's Department for Public Expenditure and Reform launched a strategy to increase use of digital technology in delivery of key public works projects, requiring the use of BIM to be phased in over the next four years.
Through the new D.l. 50, in April 2016 Italy has included into its own legislation several European directives including 2014/24/EU on Public Procurement. The decree states among the main goals of public procurement the "rationalization of designing activities and of all connected verification processes, through the progressive adoption of digital methods and electronic instruments such as Building and Infrastructure Information Modelling". A norm in 8 parts is also being written to support the transition: UNI 11337-1, UNI 11337-4 and UNI 11337-5 were published in January 2017, with five further chapters to follow within a year.
In early 2018 the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport issued a decree (DM 01/12/17) creating a governmental BIM Mandate compelling public client organisations to adopt a digital approach by 2025, with an incremental obligation which will start on 1 January 2019.
Lithuania is moving towards adoption of BIM infrastructure by founding a public body "Skaitmeninė statyba" (Digital Construction), which is managed by 13 associations. Also there is a BIM work group established by Lietuvos Architektų Sąjunga (a Lithuanian architects body). The initiative intends Lithuania to adopt BIM, Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) and National Construction Classification as standard. An international conference "Skaitmeninė statyba Lietuvoje" (Digital Construction in Lithuania) has been held annually since 2012.
On 1 November 2011, the Rijksgebouwendienst, the agency within the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment that manages government buildings, introduced the Rgd BIM Standard, which it updated on 1 July 2012.
In Norway BIM has been used increasingly since 2008. Several large public clients require use of BIM in open formats (IFC) in most or all of their projects. The Government Building Authority bases its processes on BIM in open formats to increase process speed and quality, and all large and several small and medium-sized contractors use BIM. National BIM development is centred around the local organisation, buildingSMART Norway which represents 25% of the Norwegian construction industry.
BIMKlaster (BIM Cluster) is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation established in 2012 with the aim of promoting BIM development in Poland. In September 2016, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Construction began a series of expert meetings concerning the application of BIM methodologies in the construction industry.
Created in 2015 to promote the adoption of BIM in Portugal and its normalisation, the Technical Committee for BIM Standardisation, CT197-BIM, has created the first strategic document for construction 4.0 in Portugal, aiming to align the country's industry around a common vision, integrated and more ambitious than a simple technology change.
The Russian government has approved a list of the regulations that provide the creation of a legal framework for the use of information modeling of buildings in construction.
The BIM Association of Slovakia, "BIMaS", was established in January 2013 as the first Slovak professional organisation focused on BIM. Although there are neither standards nor legislative requirements to deliver projects in BIM, many architects, structural engineers and contractors, plus a few investors are already applying BIM. A Slovak implementation strategy created by BIMaS and supported by the Chamber of Civil Engineers and Chamber of Architects has yet to be approved by Slovak authorities due to their low interest in such innovation.
A July 2015 meeting at Spain’s Ministry of Infrastructure [Ministerio de Fomento] launched the country’s national BIM strategy, making BIM a mandatory requirement on public sector projects with a possible starting date of 2018. Following a February 2015 BIM summit in Barcelona, professionals in Spain established a BIM commission (ITeC) to drive the adoption of BIM in the region. Today es.BIM is the official place for the BIM implementation process in Spain.
Since 2009 through the initiative of buildingSmart Switzerland, then 2013, BIM awareness among a broader community of engineers and architects was raised due to the open competition for Basel's Felix Platter Hospital where a BIM coordinator was sought. BIM has also been a subject of events by the Swiss Society for Engineers and Architects, SIA.
In May 2011 UK Government Chief Construction Adviser Paul Morrell called for BIM adoption on UK government construction projects. Morrell also told construction professionals to adopt BIM or be "Betamaxed out". In June 2011 the UK government published its BIM strategy, announcing its intention to require collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) on its projects by 2016. Initially, compliance will require building data to be delivered in a vendor-neutral 'COBie' format, thus overcoming the limited interoperability of BIM software suites available on the market. The UK Government BIM Task Group led the government's BIM programme and requirements, including a free-to-use set of UK standards and tools that define 'level 2 BIM'. In April 2016, the UK Government published a new central web portal as a point of reference for the industry for BIM Level 2. The work of the BIM Task Group now continues under the stewardship of the Cambridge-based Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB), announced in December 2017 and formally launched in early 2018.
Outside of government, industry adoption of BIM from 2016 has been led by the UK BIM Alliance, formed to champion and enable the implementation of BIM Level 2 by 2020, and to connect and represent organisations, groups and individuals working towards digital transformation of the UK's built environment industry. Established as an independent, not-for-profit, collaboratively-based organisation, the UK BIM Alliance's structure has been developed around an executive team and three core activity areas: engagement, programme and operations (internal support and secretariat functions). In November 2017, the UK BIM Alliance merged with the UK chapter of BuildingSMART.
National Building Specification (NBS) has published research into BIM adoption in the UK. There have now been six annual surveys. The April 2016 survey of 1,000 UK construction professionals revealed that BIM adoption had increased from 13% in 2010 to 54% in 2015.
Several organizations support BIM adoption and implementation in Canada: the Canada BIM Council (CANBIM, founded in 2008), the Institute for BIM in Canada, and buildingSMART Canada (the Canadian chapter of buildingSMART International).
United States of America
The Associated General Contractors of America and US contracting firms have developed various working definitions of BIM that describe it generally as:
- an object-oriented building development tool that utilizes 3-D modeling concepts, information technology and software interoperability to design, construct and operate a building project, as well as communicate its details.
Although the concept of BIM and relevant processes are being explored by contractors, architects and developers alike, the term itself has been questioned and debated with alternatives including Virtual Building Environment (VBE) and virtual design and construction (VDC) also considered. Unlike some countries such as the UK, the US has not adopted a set of national BIM guidelines, allowing different systems to remain in competition.
BIM is seen to be closely related to Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) where the primary motive is to bring the teams together early on in the project. A full implementation of BIM also requires the project teams to collaborate from the inception stage and formulate model sharing and ownership contract documents.
The American Institute of Architects has defined BIM as "a model-based technology linked with a database of project information", and this reflects the general reliance on database technology as the foundation. In the future, structured text documents such as specifications may be able to be searched and linked to regional, national, and international standards.
BIM has the potential to play a vital role in the Nigerian AEC sector. In addition to its potential clarity and transparency, it may help promote standardization across the industry. For instance, Utiome suggests that, in conceptualizing a BIM-based knowledge transfer framework from industrialized economies to urban construction projects in developing nations, generic BIM objects can benefit from rich building information within specification parameters in product libraries, and used for efficient, streamlined design and construction. Similarly, an assessment of the current 'state of the art' by Kori found that medium and large firms were leading the adoption of BIM in the industry. Smaller firms were less advanced with respect to process and policy adherence. There has been little adoption of BIM in the built environment due to construction industry resistance to changes or new ways of doing things. The industry is still working with conventional 2D CAD systems in services and structural designs, although production could be in 3D systems. There is virtually no utilisation of 4D and 5D systems.
BIM Africa Initiative, primarily based in Nigeria, is a non-profit institute advocating the adoption of BIM across Africa. Since 2018, it has been engaging with professionals and the government towards the digital transformation of the built industry. Produced annually by its research and development committee, the African BIM Report gives an overview of BIM adoption across the African continent.
The South African BIM Institute, established in May 2015, aims to enable technical experts to discuss digital construction solutions that can be adopted by professionals working within the construction sector. Its initial task was to promote the SA BIM Protocol.
There are no mandated or national best practice BIM standards or protocols in South Africa. Organisations implement company-specific BIM standards and protocols at best (there are isolated examples of cross-industry alliances).
In February 2016, Infrastructure Australia recommended: "Governments should make the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) mandatory for the design of large-scale complex infrastructure projects. In support of a mandatory rollout, the Australian Government should commission the Australasian Procurement and Construction Council, working with industry, to develop appropriate guidance around the adoption and use of BIM; and common standards and protocols to be applied when using BIM.”
In 2015, many projects in the rebuilding of Christchurch were being assembled in detail on a computer using BIM well before workers set foot on the site. The New Zealand government started a BIM acceleration committee, as part of a productivity partnership with the goal of 20 per cent more efficiency in the construction industry by 2020.
Anticipated future potential
BIM is a relatively new technology in an industry typically slow to adopt change. Yet many early adopters are confident that BIM will grow to play an even more crucial role in building documentation.
Proponents claim that BIM offers:
- Improved visualization
- Improved productivity due to easy retrieval of information
- Increased coordination of construction documents
- Embedding and linking of vital information such as vendors for specific materials, location of details and quantities required for estimation and tendering
- Increased speed of delivery
- Reduced costs
BIM also contains most of the data needed for building performance analysis. The building properties in BIM can be used to automatically create the input file for building performance simulation and save a significant amount of time and effort. Moreover, automation of this process reduce errors and mismatches in the building performance simulation process.
Green Building XML (gbXML) is an emerging schema, a subset of the Building Information Modeling efforts, focused on green building design and operation. gbXML is used as input in several energy simulation engines. With the development of modern computer technology, a large number of building performance simulation tools are available. When choosing which simulation tool to use, the user must consider the tool's accuracy and reliability, considering the building information they have at hand, which will serve as input for the tool. Yezioro, Dong and Leite developed an artificial intelligence approach towards assessing building performance simulation results and found that more detailed simulation tools have the best simulation performance in terms of heating and cooling electricity consumption within 3% of mean absolute error.
- 6D BIM
- BIM Wash
- Design computing
- Digital twin (the physical manifestation instrumented and connected to the model)
- Lean construction
- Macro BIM
- Pre-fire planning
- System information modelling
- Virtual Design and Construction
- Whole Building Design Guide
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