Let’s be honest, anything that demands an acronym is often hard to understand, annoying and exclusive in nature. BIM (Building Information Modeling) is no different. I’m not going to lie to you in the very first paragraph- BIM, if you’re not using or trained in it, is initially a hard concept to grasp. And I can tell you now that after reading this post you may still not have any idea of what it is (worst possible scenario).
Perseverance is key when it comes to BIM. I know you’re wanting to know ‘the answer’ already and you’re probably already thinking you’ve persevered long enough (past the first paragraph) so you better be getting it soon. You’re not. The answer to this question is not easily given, or even effectively answered half the time for that matter (especially to those whom don’t understand the need/needs this way of thinking/ modeling/ monitoring tool/software/mindset fulfills for so many professionals across the AEC industry). There lies no singular ‘correct’ answer (I’m sure many will argue with me on this) as it seems everyone has a slightly different opinion and understanding when it comes to “What is BIM?.
It takes only a few seconds to google the phrase “What is BIM”. Bringing back around 13,100,000 search results it seems everyone has an opinion, and I’m no exception. The problem is how do you know where to look? After sifting through screeds of information and onto the 6th page of google results you’re feeling overwhelmed, under-educated and in need of an early lunch break no doubt. You’re not alone. As BIM adoption increases, so to do the levels of anxiety of those who are left on google’s 6th search page still scratching their heads.
The fact is (and if you’ve done any reading at all, you will already know) that BIM is in (and I say it will be for some time) a period of growth and increased adoption industry wide. With reports from McGraw Hill stating that usage and adoption has risen from 28% of companies using BIM in 2007, to 49% in 2009 and finally last year (2012) saw a staggering 71% adoption industry wide. Not to mention there was a shift in the ‘balance of BIM’, as contractors become the main drivers of the technology in 2012.
Previously seen as a tool for Architects and designers, more and more contractors are demanding BIM usage on projects to ensure smooth management of the construction process. Virtual models allow for clash detection and accurate cost and time planning before ground breaks meaning a smoother process for all involved.
Firstly I want to outline why in fact there are so many different ideas, theories and understandings of the term BIM. I feel that if we cover this it will give you a solid basis to assess any future information you receive on the topic. I’m not wanting to equip you with a ‘one off answer’ here, I want to get you thinking critically about BIM in a holistic sense, and in order to do that I need to draw light on the different functions it plays to the different professionals who use it.
Chart courtesy of CIC Research program and Penn State
As you can see, as pictured in the chart, BIM has many uses across various stages of the design/build process- some rely highly on BIM technologies or processes and form the primary uses, where as other tasks are secondary in nature. This chart shows the large scope that BIM maintains across the AEC industry, as it performs numerous, varied tasks for a broad spectrum of AEC professionals. This is why there are so many opinions as to what BIM ‘actually’ means. I think the most important concept to grasp is that BIM is a flexible, broad ‘way of doing and thinking’ centered around modeling software that increases control and minimizes risk; yet all that use it will have a personalized definition of what it is to them. This is due to its flexible nature and ability to fulfill a broad range of tasks.
So I guess this leaves us all wondering, what is BIM? And rightly so. BIM is generically speaking, centered and weighted on a technology. Without which it’s existence would be impossible. Yet (and as we have heard many a time I’m sure) ‘it’s more than just a technology. What does that even mean?!
Well, to me BIM (Building Information Modeling) is just that. Firstly, Building; you can build virtual models via 3d software platforms (this is when you will start hearing things like Revit, ArchiCAD and Vectorworks) which lead to built environments. Secondly, Information; you can increase the amount of information available to you using BIM. It can be stored and embedded in a virtual model, allowing for simulation of the environment, cost analysis and much more. Lastly we have Modeling, I like to think of modeling as the holistic nature of BIM, it is the combination of building and testing virtually to ensure maximum efficiency with minimum cost and time. This is probably the most basic way I have ever heard BIM explained but if you are looking for something more in depth take a look here.
I simply want to try and keep this explanation as simple as possible- because to be honest, BIM is not basic. It is the product of advanced software, highly trained and skilled individuals and years of industry development. But for the purpose of this post I don’t want to dwell on that too much. There are plenty of articles out there, some of which are lengthy, hard to understand and misleading but below are a couple worth having a look at…or else you can continue reading.
C. Here -Recommended
Hello if you’re returning (I’m sure you’re now well schooled in BIM), if you never left- make sure you have a look at the articles above later on!
To keep momentum up I’m going to suggest you watch the following videos. They will help to explain what BIM is, and of course I have given you a few to look at because no definition is the same (yeah yeah) and I want you come start drawing your own conclusions- how will BIM effect you? How can you harness it’s power? Start to think critically about these questions while watching.
V.4 (This video is purely to show you how terrible some information can be, do your homework, read around, get an idea, and draw your own conclusions!)
So after watching this selection of videos, you should feel a bit more informed as to what BIM actually is, and how much it can actually do. I hope you took the time to think about what it can do for you, how you can leverage your business off it and how it will impact your existing offer. Whether you’re an Architect or a product manufacturer, BIM will help play a key role in successful business. My message to you would be when starting to do some research into BIM and what it can do for you (aimed towards Product Manufacturers), don’t get tied up in the huge amount of information that’s out there. You will probably never understand fully the extent of BIM- and it’s not your job to, focus on the basics and don’t get too hung up on the fact that you feel like you don’t entirely ‘get it’. You probably won’t for some time. But the longer you wait to implement strategy that works to address and incorporate BIM, the further ahead your competition will be, and the harder you will find it to catch up. Don’t get held back because you are scared of the unknown- many people and companies are in the same boat. With some research and planning you can create a successful plan to implement BIM into your current initiatives, out-scouring at the beginning of this process can help to minimize stress and anxiety around this transitory phase as well as equipping existing internal staff with further knowledge and training.
I hope you feel as though you’re one step closer to ‘BIM enlightenment’ after reading this- remember it’s a process of understanding rather than a simple one off answer. Don’t be deterred by this, move forward or be left behind.