Exploring what BIM really means

sandtoftWhile BIM continues to be a hot topic of discussion, the parameters of those discussions are often incredibly varied. Indeed, everyone seems to have a different opinion as to what BIM actually is – and crucially, what it means for the construction industry. For many it’s a digital software solution, to others it means 3D CAD. However, the reality is that neither of these definitions gives the complete picture, or adequately describes the value that BIM will provide to the entire construction chain. The main differentiator comes down to what you think BIM stands for; Building Information Modelling, Building Information Model or Building Information Management.

All three are essential parts of the wider BIM process – in fact, the PAS and BS Standards both suggest that Building Information Management is the core competence within which the concept of level 2 BIM is based. In short, the competent
handling of information is the core driver for how BIM seeks to reduce wastage and therefore costs within each project.

What is BIM?
So what is BIM if you consider the points above? In a nutshell, it is a framework that enables accurate information to be passed between all elements of the project process to ensure the wastage of time and effort is minimised. It is a structured way of working that enables collaboration from an earlier stage within a project and clearly outlines a client’s requirements before work begins.

This is not new. In fact, the very essence of the BIM process harks back to the 1970’s – an age when computers didn’t exist in the construction world. But considering the age of the idea, why has it suddenly become so important to the future of the construction industry? To give an extremely simplistic answer, BIM needed the technology to catch up with the idea. Even at the point at which the acronym BIM came into use (in a 1992 paper), the notion of providing a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility was not something that seemed within practical reach. However, it was clearly an idea that had incredible implications for the construction industry of the future, and one that would gain serious traction and investment over the coming decades.

The next dimension
The real beauty of BIM – and what makes it so incredibly useful as a design tool – is that it is able to go far beyond the two-dimensions of a drawing. It can augment the three spatial dimensions (width, height and depth) with time and cost, meaning that BIM represents not just geometry but conjures a projected reality. Obviously, from a project planning perspective this is amazingly useful, virtually saving money
and improving performance before construction even starts. Likewise, the model of information created can be shared, amended and updated from the design team to contractor, subcontractor and operator – each able to add their own discipline-specific data to that shared model without anything being lost or overlooked in the process.

As a result, BIM hugely assists with the drive to reduce UK wastage on government projects and will see an estimated œ8.8 billion saved, which can be spent on more projects and further improving our infrastructure for the increases in population we are experiencing on a global level. This will be achieved through level 2 BIM by 2016 for all government projects over œ5 million. Germany and France have just announced that they will require level 2 BIM by 2017. The UK is leading the way in Europe.

3D CAD is not the essential part of BIM; in fact you can re

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