What is BIM?

What does the acronym BIM stand for would be a good start. You’ll probably have seen the terms Building Information Modelling or Building Information of Management banded about. Both terms are correct – interchangeable and also inextricably linked. Consequentially, you could say that BIM is a process managing the information about a project throughout its life-cycle via a 3D model.

Here’s a few technical definitions for you; BIM is information modelling and information management in a team environment. All team members should be working to the same standards as one another. [NBS]

It describes the process of designing a building collaboratively using one coherent system of computer models rather than as separate sets of drawings. [http://www.wsp-pb.com/]

What BIM isn’t

The BIM Task Group states that “…significant improvement in cost, value and carbon performance can be achieved through the use of open sharable asset information.” We’d agree with that. They continue;

  • It’s not just 3D CAD
  • It’s not just a new technology application
  • Nor is it next generation, it’s here and now!

BIM is essentially value creating collaboration through the entire life-cycle of an asset, underpinned by the creation, collation and exchange of shared 3D models and intelligent, structured data attached to them.

Who’s asking?

Again we’d agree with all of the above from the BIM Task Group. However, where we differ – and call us anti-establishment if you want – is that we don’t believe that most small to medium building firms will practically see any benefit from BIM Level 2. Which prescribes software interoperability and outputs of data to IFC or COBie format spreadsheets. Heck, most people don’t even know what these acronyms mean, let alone why they’d need them. (IFC means industry foundation classes – not insulated concrete form work in this context…and COBie (if you’re interested!) means Construction Operations Building Information Exchange.)

We think it is important to distinguish BIM as being slightly different depending on your sector of the building industry.

If you are a large engineering firm developing road or rail that’s one thing, if you’re building an airport or school again there might be need, but what about if you’re a building firm developing a site of houses? Or a home extender? Are their benefits for these users? And are they being scared off BIM by BIM wash and the desire for BIM software “to be IFC compliant” which ultimately they won’t benefit from?

Our view is IFC compliant BIM is more relevant where you have a multi-disciplinary professional team all working on large projects (hospitals, roads etc.). All wanting to use their favoured software platforms such as Revit, ArchiCAD, Conquest, NavisWorks and Solibri CostX. Each of these packages are excellent systems, but require expert use on a daily basis to master them. They are also quite expensive! There are also downsides however as many of these packages do not communicate properly between each other. Critical data is often lost in the journey between the various packages – interoperability not functioning as it is meant to.

The Benefits of BIM

We whole heartedly agree there are massive benefits to be had from BIM – even for small building firms and there are plenty of reports on the benefits of BIM (we’d recommend you take a read of 4 ways to reduce construction costs through using BIM). Benefits include improved efficiency, the sharing of information, lower costs and faster project delivery. Not to mention, the opportunity to combine the efforts of team members and 3rd parties.

BIM collaboration and the connectedness of the project team

Most benefits of BIM are down to the seamless flow of information between plan, 3D model, specification, cost and build program data. BuildingWorks by Integro Construction Software does this in one continuous process. No data re-entry, no mistakes, no time wasted, no faff.

Additionally, as you draw your construction project using BuildingWorks simple CAD tools, the estimated cost builds live on screen – simultaneously showing you the cost of the materials, the labour involved, rates, energy performance and much more. This culminates in a 3D model, a full Bill of Quantities, New Rules of Measurement and detailed costings. There are no imports or exports. It’s all there. Users can choose from thousands of products, each one rich in information. They can interrogate the drawing and estimate to swap elements in and out to show you the impact on cost and performance in an instant.

Furthermore, the “Shareable” pack & go files mean you can send your BuildingWorks files to colleagues for review and amends if they have BuildingWorks. Moreover, you can also save to the cloud including Dropbox, Microsoft One Drive so you or team members can access BuildingWorks files from anywhere and collaborate with you on them e.g. to review the plan and the specification, or to enter subcontract or supplier quotes…or for the site manager to review the Gantt chart…or for the health and safety officer to see what stage the build program is at. Taking into considerations, what needs actioning health and safety wise – what risks, what COSHH are needed and so forth.

A question of interoperability

Is BuildingWorks “OpenBIM”? No. From all the work we have done over the past 7 years developing BuildingWorks our opinion has slowly concluded that no software system seems to pass sensible, coherent project data beyond dimensions. Besides, it’s a great idea that the architect should specify product and systems on the drawing but 2 things prevent this working. 1) the product data from manufacturers is just not available to the market en masse, and 2) incomplete data is passed between software that is “interoperable”. That’s to say, it just doesn’t work in practice. On the other hand,BuildingWorks  contains over 15,000 fully costed 2D/3D building material components, complete with full dimensions and thermal performance. Each of these components flows seamlessly between the different modules of the system. From design to estimate, to Bill of Quantities to COSHH for example.

Moreover, there are lots export options from BuildingWorks. For instance, for your estimate data and BoQ to PDF / XLS /XLSX / CSV / RTF (Word) / HTML / MHT / TXT / Image (BMP/JPEG) / XPS, same with plans (DWG/DXF/PDF/JPEGS) and the build program which can be saved to a MS Project file. This is a practical exchange of project information…and even better, if you’re really “on it”, all parties can have a copy of BuildingWorks to view and make amends – this is proprietary or closed BIM at its best.

The final output

Moreover, a building firm will typically give their client the as built plans, the specification, the glazing certificate, the electrical and plumbing certificates…and their EPC…the health and safety file…but who would want an advanced COBie spreadsheet naming the individual plug sockets within an extension, new-build or loft? Are residential customers asking for it? We think not.

Is BuildingWorks BIM?

So, when people ask is BuildingWorks BIM? We answer certainly yes as it manages complex project data (geometric/cost/specification/thermal performance and building program data). But no it doesn’t give you a COBie spreadsheet or IFC. Finally, we’d ask the question “who’s asking for it?” Software Developer Steven Mulgrew of BuildingWorks says “Data is only useful if it helps you solve a problem and dare we say it, level 2 BIM doesn’t solve problems for SME building firms.”

Do take a look at an example COBie file here. Happy reading.