What is BIM?

Lately, in the construction industry, you hear a lot about BIM. But what is it really about? 

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a process that involves the creation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of a building. This process generates a digital model that allows decision-makers to share information and resources at every stage, from early concept, to design, to construction, to life cycle and eventual demolition of the building or infrastructure. 

BIM uses advanced computer systems that integrate three-dimensional geometry of the construction with databases capable of holding large amounts of information on the project and on the operating conditions. 

At design stage it allows designers, owners and end-users to work together to optimize the project and to test its performance and functionality on a virtual prototype. 

During the construction phase it allows technicians, contractors and suppliers to integrate complex components and dramatically reduce waste and risk of errors. 

During the building or infrastructure life cycle, it provides end-users with real-time information on available services and allows maintainers accurate assessments on the state of the exercise. 

In a BIM model, each element has its own “identity”, each object (wall, window etc.) is associated with several properties such as materials, construction type, dimensions, relationships and constraints with other elements, costs, processing times, maintenance etc. This information can be utilized, updated and modified by all operators involved in the construction process. 

Ultimately, the BIM model is a virtual prototype of the building that enables more informed decision about the construction but also about the final performance of the building, including those related to energy efficiency. 

Indeed, BIM enables end-users, before the construction phase, to display the entire system of the building, evaluate possible options about the sustainability proposals and validate designs according to assessment systems and continuously changing regulations. 

In the strategic planning document “Construction 2025” the UK Government set itself the target, through the mandatory adoption of the BIM process for all public procurement from 2016, of a 33% reduction in the initial cost of construction and the whole-life cost of built assets, of a 50% reduction in the overall time, from inception to completion, for new-build and refurbished asset, and of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment. 

According to the DBB program (Digital Built Britain), “Over the next decade this technology will combine with the internet of things (providing sensors and other information), advanced data analytics and the digital economy to enable us to plan new infrastructure more effectively, build it at lower cost and operate and maintain it more efficiently. Above all, it will enable citizens to make better use of the infrastructure we already have.” 

According to Patrick MacLeamy, CEO of HOK Architects, one of the largest architectural firms in the world, “BIM is the first truly global digital construction technology and will soon be deployed in every country in the world.” 

It is a turning point and, for that, it presents many difficulties but also great opportunities. 

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