Building information modeling is often associated with building design in 3D, but that is only a small part of what BIM represents. The true value of BIM comes from combining detailed information with virtual geometric models of buildings. This concept goes beyond the three spatial dimensions, and it can include information like project scheduling, cost estimates, actual costs, energy performance, building operation parameters and maintenance data.
BIM originally evolved as a design tool, but it can be used to manage many aspects of construction and building operation. BIM also has applications in business management, given how accurately it describes projects. For example, developers can use advanced building models as part of the documentation when applying for a loan. A digital twin can also be used to market a building among potential buyers and tenants, even before starting construction.
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How BIM Simplifies Communication in Building Projects
Geometric models in 3D are the logical evolution of conventional 2D drawings, and BIM adds many layers of information that enrich the model. However, the advantages of BIM are not only technical:
- A 2D drawing is a very simplified representation of a project, and the information contained is only evident for construction professionals and skilled tradesmen. Individuals from other professional backgrounds may have a harder time analyzing the drawings, especially if they lack construction experience.
- A detailed 3D model is visually identical to the building it represents. This means it can be understood without having a background in the building industry. However, the model can also contain technical information for architects, engineers and contractors. In other words, BIM describes projects more effectively, especially for non-technical audiences.
BIM is not only useful for design and construction management. Since 3D models are easier to understand than 2D drawings, they can be used for all types of meetings - presenting projects to investors, negotiating loans, discussing contracts with law firms, etc.
BIM also includes detailed information that can be accessed directly from models. This is much easier than matching components in 2D drawings with their respective specifications:
- You can visualize the project in first person with virtual reality headgear, and you can “click” on components to display their costs and other properties.
- Navigating information in a virtual environment is more intuitive than using 2D drawings and large bills of quantities in table format.
- A BIM model can contain the same information as a set of 2D drawings and specifications, but making it much easier to visualize.
In existing facilities, BIM is useful to analyze and discuss the implications of building upgrades and renovations. On the other hand, when a building is poorly documented, architects and engineers must set aside enough time for a detailed inspection. There may be unpleasant surprises and change orders even when working with professionals, since buildings have many hidden components.
Visiting a Complete Building Virtually Before Starting Construction
When BIM is combined with virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR), a building that does not exist yet can be visited. This also applies for renovations, where BIM can be used to model an existing building after the modifications. For example, when negotiating with potential investors, a virtual tour of the finished project gives a better impression than sitting down to discuss plans and specifications.
BIM modeling is very useful whenever you need to present a convincing project to external parties. The following are just some examples:
- Presenting fire protection systems in high detail to an insurance company, as part of the negotiation to get better coverage and lower premiums.
- Showing the available commercial spaces or apartments to potential tenants, helping them choose an option that meets their needs.
Engineering departments within companies can also use BIM to discuss projects with internal clients. For example, engineers can present many equipment options or layouts that meet the same requirement. The advantages and limitations of each option can be easily discussed with other departments and the upper management, before spending capital.
In general, BIM demonstrates that the construction professionals in a project are technically capable. This provides confidence on the project, which is beneficial for financing, sales and leasing. BIM also makes communication simpler - 2D plans and specifications can be misinterpreted more easily, causing confusion and mistakes, but a virtual building model is clear.