If you've ever done a quick Google search on 'what is BIM?', you'll see the many explanations and definitions that exist out there. After being bombarded with large words and long definitions, it seems the common denominator amongst all these various explanations is that they all manage to mention modeling, which is only 1/3 of the concept. This post helps to define BIM by breaking down the three main concepts that will answer the seemingly age old question "what is BIM?".
For starters, BIM stands for Building Information Modeling. If you think about it, this concept really isn't so new after all. People have been building things based on various types of information and using models to prototype their concepts for years. It wasn't until recently that the notion of consolidating the building, the information and the modeling into one accessible platform has become possible thanks to BIM software and cloud technology.
Let's begin defining BIM with its first component, the building. When working with BIM tools and software, you're not only drawing 2D and 3D geometry, you're creating geometry that represents real-life building elements like cladding, glazing and structure.
The great thing about that is you're not leaving out any details that would normally be ignored when you're modeling basic forms. A few clicks on inputs allow you to create things such as wall systems which include the cladding and structure, but also the finer details like sheathing and even vapor/moisture barriers.
The second component is the information, which is ingrained in the DNA of the building elements you're modeling. One of the many helpful things about using BIM software is the fact that your model contains a lot of real-life information such as material strength and even material cost, just to name a few.
All this information can then be used to create generated tables and schedules for things like material cost estimations and inventories. You also have the ability to test your building's performance from energy simulations to structural testing, which brings us to the third component up for discussion.
When it comes to the modeling, you have the ability to create 3D models as well as visualize your concepts in realistic and rendered views. Although this is definitely powerful, the ability to run simulations and analyze your model's performance shouldn't be overlooked.
Another helpful thing about BIM software is that the architect isn't the only one with the ability create and work with 3D models. Now HVAC, plumbing and even electrical work can be modeled once the main building form and shell have been designed. The real kicker is, any changes that need to be made can be done in real time thanks to BIM servers and cloud technology. So in theory not only can changes be managed effectively, communication becomes streamlined and manageable as well.
And finally, you also have the ability to manage construction by setting construction phases in your models and even use animation to simulate the construction process from start to finish. This helps to uncover any unanticipated problems well before any ground is broken, concrete gets poured or even before materials are delivered to the site.
Hopefully this definition, in a software context, makes the concept of BIM easier to digest. If you're ready to put this concept to practice check out the many Autodesk Revit tutorials available to you in the Digital-Tutors library!