As a kid (1970) I enjoyed building small plastic model cars. So how did a kid build a complicated car with a hundred or more tiny parts? It was possible because the instructions were three dimensional, presented a sequence of steps and provided additional information when needed.
After graduating from architectural school (1981) I took a job as a draftsman creating drawings that were two-dimensional building plans, sections and elevations. The building was composed of thousands of parts and we (the project team) expected the contractor to take these multiple drawings and figure out how to construct the building. The process of constructing the building was made more complicated because all of the drawings were distributed to hundreds of people (subcontractors) so that they could figure out their specific scope of work. Then at one location (the construction site) they all came together to assemble one huge car (a building).
The AEC (architectural, engineering and construction) industry has asked the question, "there must be a better way to design and communicate the instructions to the contractor on how to construct the building?." This question and process related inefficiencies were highlighted in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, 2004) report entitled "Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry"1. The report noted that "the interoperability problems in the capital facilities industry stem from the highly fragmented nature of the industry; the industry's continued paper based business practices, a lack of standardization, and inconsistent technology adoption among stakeholders."
The "New Service Industry Productivity Measures" published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2004) discusses productivity trends from 1987 through 2003 for the architectural and engineering services. The report states "From 1997 to 2003, output per hour in the architectural services industry grew at a rate of 1.9 percent per year. In the engineering services industry, however, productivity declined 0.2 percent per year, on average, reflecting continued declines in output and productivity after 2000"2. The report highlights that the cost of labor has greatly exceeded the business productivity output per hour.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is both a process (verb, the way a team works together) for design and project construction delivery and a data model (noun, a computer virtual model) that describes the design, construction and operations of a building. BIM permits the project's multidisciplinary participants (civil, structural, architectural, mechanical, electrical, and interior design) to contribute to an integrated virtual model of a building.
BIM for construction accelerates the understanding of the complexity of a building. From the three dimensional data rich model contractors and sub-contractors can navigate through and interrogate the components of the building. The contractor can better understand through visualization the scope of work and context (where the work is located) within the complete building. Clash detection can be preformed between the systems of the building (architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical). The building systems can be coordinated real-time optimizing the building design. Identifying conflicts in the BIM during design saves time and money by avoiding correcting the problems during construction.
BIM supports both the construction planning and construction activity. The contractor's responsibility is to define the sequence of construction (a project schedule). This is a process of material identification, deliver, management and installation. BIM allows the contactor to link the designed building systems with the project schedule to animate the construction sequence to identify problems. The result is a savings of time through optimization of the project schedule.
BIMs are data rich (meaning that information is added to the graphical representation of the components to the building). For example, a three-dimensional door knows the material of which it is made, its color, the key required to open the lock). This embedded information allows the contractor to ask questions of the BIM. The resultant information can be linked to cost estimates, construction resource plans and material procurement schedules.
The graphical component objects of the BIM can be used to automate fabrication of building parts. The BIM can be used as input to manufacturing computers and robots to build components (steel members, heating ventilating and air conditioning ducts, window systems, cabinetry). This allows components to be built off-site (at a controlled fabrication facility) resulting in a more efficient production process and higher quality product.
BIMs support the entire lifecycle (the design, construction and operations) of a building. Information that is created by the architects and engineers is used by the contractor for construction and finally by the building owner for operations and maintenance. This reuse of information improves the quality of information by eliminating errors introduced through entering the same data multiple times. The BIM is a centralized repository of critical building information accessible by all project participants ensuring that business decisions are made from the most accurate source of data.
Today (2008) as a professional I am excited about "BIM" Building Information Modeling and the impact it is having on the AEC industry. The industry is still in the early days of adoption and thus the full impact on creativity and efficiencies are yet to be realized. I reflect back to when I was a kid building model cars and realize that the day has arrived that we now use similar instructions (three dimensional models, presented in a sequence of steps and additional information provided when needed) to design and build world-class architecture.
- Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry
NIST GCR 04-867; August 2004
- New Service Industry Productivity Measures
U.S. Department of Labor
U.S. Bureau of Labor StatisticsReport 993; February 2006
- Bentley Systems, Incorporated provides software for the lifecycle of the world's infrastructure. The company's comprehensive portfolio for the building, plant, civil, and geospatial verticals spans architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) and operations. With revenues now surpassing $400 million annually, and more than 2400 colleagues globally, Bentley is the leading provider of AEC software to the Engineering News-Record Top Design Firms.