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Background Knowledge: Building Information Modeling Q&A

EXTON (PA)/USA, June 1, 2015 – What is Building information modeling (BIM)? And how is it different from CAD? Andy Smith, Solutions Executive at Bentley systems, talks to bi-ConstructionNews about the benefits of BIM and how it helps to solve problems even before they occur.

bi-ConstructionNews: First of all, what is BIM?

Andy Smith: BIM is most recognizable as a product and collaborative process.

As a product, BIM becomes a Building Information Model – a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. As such it serves as a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility, forming a reliable basis for decisions during the facility’s lifecycle from inception onward. A Building Information Model includes 2D and 3D computer graphics enriched with non-graphic attribute information describing the components of the design. It may be requested as a project contract deliverable, provided during facility handover, and used for operations.

As a collaborative process, BIM becomes Building Information Modeling – a process by which a group of designers, contractors, material suppliers, and facility owners work together, sharing information about the project. Advanced BIM offerings provide a collaborative process featuring an increased depth of information modeling – beyond design visualization to performance simulation, optioneering, and operational immersion – and increased breadth of information mobility, facilitating collaboration among multiple project disciplines from design through construction and operations.

Our Bentley AECOsim Building Designer software for multi-discipline design teams supports BIM as both a product and process. It provides for design visualization, engineering analysis and simulation, built-in clash detection for building systems coordination, and component detailing and reporting for construction and operations.

Andy Smith, Bentley Systems

Andy Smith consults with global design firms,
contractors, and owners who are seeking
improvements in building information
modeling (BIM), project delivery
methods, and lifecycle data
management. | photo: Bentley Systems

What does it tell property managers about their buildings?

Facility managers envision the BIM as a user interface to building engineering systems and assets. By clicking on a 2D drawing or 3D model object, facility personnel can access information about the building component, accelerating their understanding of the facility’s capabilities and requirements. The BIM may include manufacturers’ data, component properties such as size or weight, and engineering analysis information, such as structural loads, electrical capacities, and HVAC load requirements.

Finding constructability issues before its too late

What are the benefits of doing building information modeling for building owners?

The BIM collaboration process facilitates better coordination between design disciplines and contractors, identifying constructability issues earlier in the process and, thereby, reducing the number of change orders.

A BIM process can improve the capture and quality of critical facility information during design and construction for use in operations. A federated BIM can also provide improved documentation and visualization of the project to accelerate the understanding of those that need to make informed capital improvement decisions. Using design review applications, project teams can walk through a design and discuss alternatives in an effort to identify design, construction and operational improvements.

Heating simulations

How can it be used to improve the efficiency of a building?

BIM allows the project team to develop and share a virtual model of the building on which they can perform engineering analysis to improve the quality of design and ultimately the performance of the facility. Engineering analysis includes: structural analysis to optimize structural member sizes, ensuring compliance with local codes while seeking the most cost-effective system; heating and cooling simulations to evaluate building envelope alternatives; mechanical systems and facility use patterns to find the most energy-efficient design; and lighting analysis to evaluate quality of space for worker productivity and arrangement of spaces to support business operational needs. Applications like Bentley’s AECOsim Energy Simulator can be used to evaluate design alternatives.

Building Information Model screenshot

A Building Information Model allows to visualise progress.
Here, different colours indicate different stages. | photo:
Bentley Systems

How does it differ from other technologies used, for example CAD?

CAD – computer-aided design – automates the drafting process. Its popularity resulted from its provision of consistency in drawing quality, regardless of who generated the drawings, and efficiencies in drawing revisions.

BIM – Building Information Modeling – is the next generation of design tools and processes. BIM features capabilities well beyond CAD, providing information-rich models that enable analysis and information visualization. BIM is further enhanced through the use of collaboration solutions such as our software ProjectWise, which can be used to connect distributed project teams and ensure that everyone has the most up-to-date information.

A BIM can serve as an input to a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) solution, but it is neither of these solutions.