The Basics of BIM: Building Information Modeling Explained

What is BIM modeling?

Building Information Modeling has several definitions, but in the most simple terms, it is the process of creating and managing information for a constructed asset, whether it be a building, bridge, dam, or any of a wide range of structures.  It is a digital representation of the project’s functional properties and characteristics.  It is a comprehensive process for creating, managing, and using the entirety of the data about a specific project.  It provides the architect, designer, or builder with the ability to manage every component—physical properties, graphic look, and functional properties—that goes into a project.

BIM services involve the development of an advanced 3D model for a proposed project and includes all structural, architectural, and mechanical/electrical/plumbing components.

Who invented BIM modeling?

It is probably safe to say that many great minds contributed to the development and now more common usage of BIM modeling.   The concept dates back to the mid-1970s, and the name that pops up most frequently on the topic is Charles Eastman, an American architect and professor who wrote about an interactive process where information about maps, facades, perspectives, and sections are combined in the same document. 

His work was followed over the following two decades by contributions from a number of creative minds both in the U.S. and abroad.  At the same time, computer assisted drawings or CAD was making inroads in the architectural profession, and this allowed multiple drawings to be placed on each other.  

By the early 2000s, the ideas and technologies merged into what is essentially now known as BIM modeling which has developed at a rapid pace with increasingly more sophisticated software, and even including 3D printing!

At the same time, most universities have adapted their engineering and architectural programs to include BIM in their curricula, thus almost guaranteeing that broad-based BIM services are here to stay.

What is the business value of BIM Modeling?

Redshift* by Autodesk cites four strong reasons for using BIM Modeling for a construction project:

  1.  Staying on Budget!  Efficiency so that owners (or whoever is footing the cost of the project) don’t pay for redundant work.  Everyone views and works from the same model.  Revisions or changes can be viewed by all parties, and last-minute changes can be reviewed and approved quickly.
  2. Communication and transparency among all stakeholders in the project is enhanced.   This method allows for rapid communication among all teams involved in the project and fewer misunderstandings, thus keeping the project on schedule.  Being able to visualize everything also reduces the chance that the final product will turn out as planned.
  3. The BIM Model provides the owner with a final digital model that can be used to manage the building throughout its life cycle.  Ongoing maintenance and operations are enhanced by building on the BIM data in place.  When it is time to update or renovate, or even repair after something like storm damage or normal deterioration, the model can be easily modified for its next iteration.
  4. Building Information Modeling helps the owner manage risk by spotting errors or debugging designs on a computer instead of waiting until they end up as part of the finished structure.  It also keeps everyone on target, as the architectural team cannot push off issues on the construction team or vice versa, as everyone is working from the same script.

*Redshift is a newsletter published by Autodesk, a multinational software corporation specializing in products for the architecture, engineering, and construction fields.  Autodesk’s  Revit software is the 3D CAD drafting service used by Brandywine CAD.

What is the cost of BIM Services?

Yes, BIM Services cost more than a blueprint or 2D CAD drawing.  And BIM is not the right tool for every project.  If you are building a small garage or tool shed or doing something like a kitchen remodel, you probably don’t need a tool that is this sophisticated!  But a major building project can certainly benefit from this process.

It is hard to put a specific price or percentage cost on 3D modeling; the front-end costs for the BIM services include more expensive software, more powerful computers, and trained personnel. While those costs might be quantified, they do not take into consideration the benefits of being able to make changes or view options quickly, without re-inputting data or adjusted more than one drawing.  Such  lost time in making design changes are likely to delay the actual completion of the project.  

Be wary of using a cost per square foot for estimating the cost of BIM, as this could be a one-size-fits-all figure that does not contemplate the level of detail of the project. 

The key is to deal with an architect or contractor or project manager—someone who offers BIM consulting services– and who has a range of capabilities and can help you decide the best option for your specific project.

What happens to your BIM Model once the building is finished?

You don’t just chuck your BIM Model in the archive once the ribbon is cut on your new building.  Your BIM Model is an invaluable tool to use in the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the property. Maybe you need to adapt a loading dock to accommodate a new size of delivery truck or add a new wing to the building.  Your BIM is ready for everything from the smallest adjustment to a major renovation. This can be especially helpful in maintaining and updating mechanical systems.

B-CAD has been helping clients in and around Wilmington, Delaware, with a wide range of CAD services for more than 30 years, and providing BIM services for the past 15-plus years. If you are in need of BIM modeling, please contact us to get started.