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Building Information Modelling (BIM): what is it?


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In the fields of architecture, engineering, and construction, technological advancements have paved the way for transformative tools and methodologies. One such concept that has gained immense popularity is Building Information Modelling (BIM). This digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a building brings a host of benefits which can revolutionise the way projects are planned, designed, constructed, and managed.


This article will give you a quick explanation of what BIM is, as well as taking a look at the benefits and challenges of embracing this technology.



BIM-generated internal utility model in a building.


What is BIM?


Building Information Modelling, BIM, is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a structure. Unlike traditional 2D architectural drawings, BIM comprises a 3D model with data and information about every aspect of a building's lifecycle. In other words, it is a 3D digital model that includes every single detail of a building: layout, wiring, plumbing, etc. From the initial design phase through construction, operation, and maintenance, BIM serves as the central source of information.


In May 2011, the UK BIM mandate was published, detailing that by April 2016 all centrally-procured public projects will require fully collaborative 3D BIM models.


Benefits of BIM

BIM is undoubtedly a useful tool for large, complex buildings with complex services and large teams working on them. There a number of benefits to using BIM in such projects, so let's take a closer look:


Enhanced collaboration

BIM promotes collaboration by providing a shared platform where architects, engineers, contractors, and other stakeholders can work together. This environment facilitates better coordination, reduces conflicts, and improves communication throughout the project lifecycle.


Improved design efficiency

With BIM, design teams can create detailed 3D models that offer a realistic representation of the final structure. This allows stakeholders to visualise the project more accurately, identify potential design flaws early on, and explore different design options before construction begins.



BIM representation of building construction visualisation


Cost and time savings

BIM helps reduce project delays and cost overruns through clash detection and virtual simulations. Potential conflicts and construction issues can be identified and resolved proactively, saving both time and money during the construction phase.


Sustainability and energy efficiency

BIM enables designers to evaluate the environmental impact of their design choices and improve a building's energy efficiency by simulating factors such as daylighting, thermal performance, and HVAC systems.


Lifecycle management

BIM also functions as an asset management tool by integrating data about building components, maintenance schedules, and operational performance. This allows facility managers to optimise maintenance activities, prolong asset lifespan, and ensure the long-term sustainability of the building.



Building Information Model of metal structure. 3D BIM model. The building is of steel columns, beams, connections, etc. 3D rendering.


Challenges of BIM

While BIM is valuable for managing large and complex buildings, it does come with some challenges. These might make it less attractive for smaller or more straightforward buildings.


Initial investment

One challenge BIM faces is the initial investment required for software licenses, hardware, and training. This cost may limit the number of projects that can utilise BIM models.


Training

Using BIM effectively requires specialised knowledge. As the pool of highly skilled and experienced professionals may still be relatively limited, it may be challenging to access qualified people to implement and manage BIM projects. It can be time-consuming for individuals to be trained in the skills needed.


Data security and privacy

BIM involves the creation and sharing of project data, including design plans, specifications, and proprietary information. Ensuring the security and privacy of this data throughout its lifecycle, from creation to disposal, is vital. Cybersecurity threats and data breaches are serious risks to project integrity and client confidentiality.



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Author


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Oscar Hewitt

Oscar was Iconic’s first project management apprentice and is currently studying BSc Construction Management (MRICS) at the University College of Estate Management.

He has taken full responsibility for successfully delivering small programmes of works, including hundreds of small works projects across a retail bank estate. He has also assisted with the fit out of a retail unit and a number of quick service restaurants.

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