Building Information Modelling (BIM): Debunking the Myths & Misconceptions
Building information modelling/management (BIM) as a collaborative working concept has been around for a long time now. As a way of integrating and unifying workflows in the construction industry, it is disrupting and revolutionizing the way we live, work, play and communicate.
Since people are naturally resistant to change, there is a lot of uncertainty as to whether to embrace BIM. While a lot of careful considerations need to be made, most anti-BIM advocates have spread a lot of misinformation it. This article will serve to expose the exaggerations and falseness of the existing myths and misconceptions regarding BIM.
What is Building Information Modelling?
Building information management is a more collaborative and automated way of working that encourages the integration of the roles of all the stakeholders in a project. It can be described as an approach that integrates people, technology and processes to create intelligent 3D models with insights and tools for accomplishing work efficiently.
This approach is made possible by the use of software to generate intelligent computer files which can be extracted, exchanged or networked to support decision making regarding a building/facility/infrastructure project. It is useful during planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of any construction project regardless of its scale.
With BIM, all project participants can visualize, what is to be built in a simulated environment to identify potential design, construction and operation issues earlier before the actual construction of the project begins. When any element in the BIM model is changed, the BIM software in use has the capability of automatically updating the model to reflect the change. This way, the model remains consistent and coordinated throughout the entire lifecycle of the project, providing the project teams with up-to-date information to support project-based decision making.
Popular Myths & Misconceptions about BIM
A lot of misinformation is being spread about BIM. As a result of a misunderstanding, downright myths and misconceptions have arisen about what the heck BIM is. To understand it better, we need to look at these popular myths and misconceptions and unearth the outright truth.
BIM is a Software
BIM is not some sort of executable computer files (software). It is both a technology, a process and a collaborative approach/way of working that allows all project participants to access shared information from a single shared database or independent project databases that are networked, encouraging uniformity and consistency of data.
It is not a software but a workflow that promotes interoperability between various stakeholders as they produce, store, retrieve, distribute and exchange project information.
This process however is made supported by the software. Examples of BIM software include Autodesk Revit, Cost X, Masterbill’s QS BIM, ArchiCAD, among others.
BIM is for Big Companies and Projects
Existing literature is rich in BIM implementation case studies that have only highlighted big infrastructure projects being handled by multibillion-dollar companies (Examples: Nanjing International Youth Centre in China, National Library of Sejong City in South Korea etc.). This has made some think that BIM is for such projects.
The truth is regardless of the project size and complexity, it’s the same challenges that we are solving every day; fragmented nature of the industry, multivariate teams working from different locations, issues of information exchange and communications. Since communication is at the centre of construction project delivery, BIM is the backbone as it promises to make it more efficient.
It should be understood that even the small and medium-sized enterprises need to show that they can actively compete with the big ones by embracing revolutionary construction technologies. Every project stands to benefit from the advantages brought in integrating BIM in their workflows.
BIM is just 3D Modelling
BIM is not just about drawing things in 3D. 3D is only a part of the wider BIM process; there is 4D (scheduling), 5D (estimating), 6D (sustainability) and 7D (facility management).
Building information modelling encompasses other information embedded in those models such as quantity takeoff and cost data, construction schedules, fabrication details, energy efficiency and sustainability evaluation data.
The acronym can also be expanded to mean building information management; because it encompasses the whole process of creation, storage, distribution, retrieval, analysis and use of information to improve the overall decision-making process that is involved in the realization of a construction project.
Automated BIM Takeoffs might Replace the QS
5D BIM adds a cost dimension to the BIM models permitting automatic generation of quantity take-offs, cost estimates and measurements directly from the digital model. With the traditional quantity surveying practice, this process is very time-consuming. However, some think that this automation may lead to technological unemployment for the QS with other consultants beginning to take up those duties.
This is not true; because the automation will help the QS to be more competitive and efficient in their work. It will drive more value addition to the whole process. Although quantity extraction can be automated, there is no single technology that can replace the human judgement required to offer professional quantity surveying services.
Contract management, technical and legal advisory services cannot be automated! Even with BIM, the generation of accurate cost estimates will require the QS to develop and feed to the system costing data, prices of materials, transportation costs, percentages for profits and overheads. This data is independently collected, filtered and stored by the QS in their cost databases that need to be networked with the BIM database to aid in 5D estimating.
The truth is BIM is here for the good of every profession. There might be possible reorientations in terms of professional duties, but it can only add value to a profession rather than replacing it.
Building Information Modelling is for Architects
This myth is made popular by the assumption that BIM is all about 3D modelling. As we have seen above, BIM covers from the initial stages of the project (i.e. inception) through construction, operation and facility management. In this view, every person that gets involved in a construction project gets to benefit from BIM.
Therefore, BIM is for architects, engineers, project managers, quantity surveyors, clients, financiers, facility managers, real estate managers, maintenance managers etc.
The Potential Benefits of BIM Implementation
By combining the efforts of people, processes and technologies, BIM ensures value project delivery.
With BIM, as according to protasoftware.com, the streamlined flow of physical information and intelligent data from conceptual design down to construction and facilities management helps in the realization of projects more efficiently, more economically and with increased profitability.
Further, software that supports the BIM methodology has design conflict detection tools embedded in them. This helps prevents errors from creeping in at the various stages of the development of the project.
The use of a single database or a series of networked databases allows free access to information anytime, anywhere on any device. This helps to reduce the risk of mistakes and discrepancies, minimizing abortive costs in construction (i.e. possibility or reworks).
BIM is not marketing hype for 3D modelling. It is a revolutionary way of working that will see the construction industry solve the communication problem that is brought about by its fragmented and multidisciplinary nature.
Although there will be always hesitations as to whether to embrace change, the built environment should evaluate the merits and demerits of BIM to see what potential it holds for the construction industry. With all the noise out there, careful considerations will help us cut through the noise and arrive at the truth about BIM.