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Building Information Modeling FTW: Top 10 Benefits of BIM

By Matt Ball, Aug 14, 2014

Article first appeared in Line//Shape//Space
Reprinted here with permission

The move from 2D drawings to 3D models is well underway and gaining steam in the architectural, engineering, and construction industry, thanks to tangible bottom-line returns from streamlined workflows.

The model-based approach increases efficiency within individual organizations, and truly shines during coordinated project delivery. Following are the top 10 benefits of building information modeling that speak to efficiencies all along the project lifecycle.

  1. Capturing Reality. The wealth of information that’s easily accessible about project sites has expanded greatly with better mapping tools and images of Earth. Today, project starts include aerial imagery and digital elevation, along with laser scans of existing infrastructure, accurately capturing reality and greatly streamlining project preparations. All this input gets compiled and shared in a model in a way that paper couldn’t capture.
  2. Streamlined Workflows. With a shared model, there’s less need for redraws and far less duplication of drawings for the different requirements of building disciplines. The model contains much more information than a drawing set, allowing each discipline to annotate and connect their intelligence to the project. BIM drawing tools are faster than 2D drawing tools, and each object is connected to a database. The database aids such steps as the number and size of windows for quantity takeoffs that are updated automatically as the model evolves. The quick computerized counting of components alone has been a great labor and money saver.
  3. Version Control. The digital model-based workflow involves such aids as autosave and connections to project history so that users can be certain they’ve captured their time spent working on the model. The connection to the history of the model’s evolution avoids disastrous disappearances or corruption of files that can make blood boil and impinge productivity.
  4. Improved Collaboration. Sharing models is infinitely easier than drawing sets as there are a lot of functions that are possible only through a digital workflow. Much of this added project-management functionality is now being delivered through the cloud, such as Autodesk’s BIM 360 solutions. Here, there are tools for different disciplines to share their complex project models and to coordinate integration and review among their peers. Review and markup steps ensure that everyone has had input on the evolution of the design, and that they are all ready to execute when the concept is finalized and moves forward in construction.
  5. Rules-Based Simulation. There are an increasing number of simulation tools that allow designers to visualize such things as the sun throughout the seasons or to quantify and calculate building energy performance. The intelligence of the software to apply rules that are based on physics and best practices provides a complement for the engineer and other experts. The software is able to do so much more of the analysis and modeling to achieve peak performance, condensing knowledge and rules into a service that can run with the click of a button.
  6. Conflict Resolution. The BIM toolset helps automate clash detection of such elements as electrical conduit or ductwork that run into a beam. By modeling all of these things first, clashes are discovered early, and costly on-site clashes are reduced. The model also ensures the perfect fit of elements that are manufactured off-site, allowing for these components to be easily bolted into place rather than created on-site.
  7. Streamlined Sequencing. With a model and an accurate set of sub-models for each step along a project’s construction, the next step is a coordinated sequencing of steps, materials, and crews for quick and efficient construction. The model facilitates the coordination of steps and processes, delivering a predictable path to the expected outcome, complete with animations.
  8. Detailed Documents. The model is a great end point for a lot of knowledge transfer, but there’s also a need to share a traditional plan, section, and elevation, as well as other reports. These added sheets are easily automated and customized rather than a time-consuming drafting effort.
  9. Perfect Presentation. With all of the design being done on a capture and alteration of existing reality, the model is the ultimate communication tool to convey the project scope, steps, and outcome. The fact that the design is all in 3D also means that there are fewer steps to render impressive views and fly-throughs that can be used to sell commercial space or to gain necessary regulatory approvals.
  10. Portable Information. The added benefit of a model that’s tied to a database is that you have a great deal of intelligence at your fingertips. Combining this capability with the cloud, as with Autodesk’s BIM 360 Field solution, means that you have access to the model and project details from anywhere on any device.

About the Author

Matt Ball is a Denver-based writer, editor, and tinkerer with a passion for the efficiencies gained through digital technologies.

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