BIM is the future of construction. The abbreviation stands for building information modeling, a concept that has been around since the 1970s, but has gained traction rapidly over the past decade due to new advances in IT. BIM is not a piece of software, but a comprehensive work approach that digitally links up all parties involved in the planning and development of a construction project or the operation of a building. This methodological approach is based on 3-D models that not only depict the geometric data of all the components of the building, but also the timelines and cost estimates for construction, and data related to energy supply, lighting, fire protection, and facility management. It also takes into account data concerning a potential future dismantling of the building.
Building Information Modeling
Faster, better, cheaper?
BIM is all the rage. The new design methodology is set to revolutionize the building industry. But does BIM mean that the future has arrived? Three experts weigh in.
Analyses on energy management
Thomas Liesenfeld is Director of Innovation Management at the Siemens Building Technologies Division:
“Today, BIM sells mainly on the strength of its clash detection functionality. State-of-the-art BIM platforms ensure that collisions of pipes and cable routes are detected long before they occur on the construction site. With integral planning, they can be avoided at an early stage. To be prepared for a future with BIM, years ago we at Siemens began supplying BIM-compatible data with all our products, such as CO2 sensors, valves, and switches, allowing them to be integrated with maximum ease into the increasingly complex digital pre-planning stage. In the future, there will be more and more meaningful BIM data for use at all stages of a construction project. That will lead to a network effect that makes BIM increasingly affordable as well as more effective. We are therefore especially interested in cloud-based cooperation platforms such as bim+ by Allplan or Autocad360 by Autodesk, where all specialists can work together on a construction project and feed the system with all of the data required for energy- or security-related analyses. I believe that more and more simulations will be developed for these platforms in the future, allowing questions about energy usage or fire protection to be resolved at an early stage using the virtual model. At some point, we will be able to equip the building model with virtual controllers, sensors, and field devices. That means we won’t just develop it on the computer, but test it and have the customer approve it too. Once the actual building is in place, ideally, all you’ll have to do is upload the software that allows it to begin operations.”
Jakob Przybylo is Head of BIM at Allplan GmbH, a subsidiary of the Nemetschek Group, which sells one of the most incisive pioneering software systems for CAD and BIM:
“Essentially, BIM has undergone a whole new dynamic in just the past three years. Germany already has great potential for the advancement of BIM. We have leading international BIM experts and standards to match. This is favorable for the introduction of the BIM approach. The term ‘BIM’ is still used in a broad variety of ways. As a methodology, it requires intense communication and cooperation between all parties. If you want to work effectively with BIM, you have to face up to some fundamental questions. What is the goal, and who benefits from added value generated elsewhere if the decision is made to plan a building using BIM? Who will be in charge within a team and help it generate a workable BIM model? Here’s a thought worth considering: There will never be a single BIM to serve as a panacea for every construction project. Rather, for each endeavor, you’ll need to define precisely what targets you want to achieve with each of the parties involved. In this way, you can establish from the get-go which data the architect or planner needs to reach these goals and thus optimize the building. Only then can BIM deliver the desired efficiency boost. To this end, it’s extremely important to ensure that data processed by diverse parties can be openly exchanged, edited, and checked within the workflow. This requires digital cooperation platforms such as bim+, which guarantee just those kinds of open standards and thus facilitate cooperative collaboration during construction.”
"We need more BIM specialists"
Dr. Arno Schlüter is a lecturer and researcher at ETH Zurich. He has been working with BIM for over ten years:
“At the moment for many users BIM means above all additional effort and cost. It will only be a success when companies adapt their workflows towards actually enhancing quality, reducing errors, and thus lowering costs. Researchers have now abandoned the vision of a single unified BIM model that covers all bases. We expect that instead there will be a kind of software ecosystem in which smaller, customized applications extract data from diverse models and make them available for other models or calculations. These information flows must be facilitated through compatible data and open cooperation models. One fundamental problem is that working on a new building often means starting from scratch. Buildings are built as ‘prototypes’, the constellation of companies and partners involved changes with each project – which makes it difficult to introduce and transfer knowledge gained from previous construction projects in a systematic way. On the other hand, BIM is a great reservoir for learning: You can learn to compare BIM data from the planning phase with the completed building and use the insights thus gained for your next project. But before this can happen, a certain level of BIM know-how within the construction process is required. You may have partners collaborating on a construction project who are very experienced in BIM, but that won’t help you much in your next project if only two out of five people in your new team can work with BIM. So, in the future, a critical mass of BIM experts will have to emerge in the construction process if it is to become a widespread reality.”