While Building Information Modeling (BIM) might sound like a relatively new industry buzzword, the idea for BIM dates back to 1975. Through its evolution over the last 45 years, BIM has gained significant relevance in the construction industry. What’s more, it’s projected to gain even greater dominance in the future.
In this post, we briefly examine what BIM is all about. But more importantly, we explore some of the ever-increasing importance of BIM in the field of civil engineering.
What is BIM?
According to Autodesk, BIM is an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insights and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct and manage buildings and infrastructure.
But when we delve into the nitty-gritty, BIM can be understood in two ways: either as software or as a process.
As software, BIM software helps in creating precise virtual 3D models of structures that show the components in a construction project. This includes obvious features like the building’s geometry and spatial relationship. But more than that, it is also used to gain insight into the materials needed, cost estimates, project schedules, and sustainability. And as the project proceeds, information updated to the system are available in real-time to all the parties involved.
As a process, BIM is focused on optimizing the workflow of the entire team, which includes AEC professionals, as well management. When different departments work cohesively, efficiency is improved while waste is drastically cut down.
What’s more, the centralized availability of information about the construction project makes it possible to give and receive feedback in real-time, thereby ensuring everyone is kept in the loop.
How BIM is Transforming Civil Engineering
Here are some of the ways BIM is helping civil engineers with the design and development of construction projects:
- Visualization and Troubleshooting
To be fair, BIM isn’t the first visualization tool available to civil engineers, but it takes visualization to a whole new level. By creating accurate 3D models, it is possible to tell how the project will look upon completion even before laying a single brick.
But more importantly, these models can be inspected to look for structural faults that may compromise the building in the future. For instance, during the execution of the Eastside Tunnel project, BIM tools were used to generate existing conditions models. And guess what? Over 800 serious issues were uncovered from the model.
Catching potential problems on time improves efficiency in terms of costs, time, and energy.
- Cost Estimation
Costing has always been an integral part of civil engineering right from the earliest civilization. However, providing spot-on cost estimates is a difficult endeavor.
But BIM is up to the task. Since BIM tools create pretty reliable models, cost estimates that are based on these models tend to be quite accurate.
What’s more interesting is that the entire process is automated. What this means is that if the model is updated, the cost estimate for the project gets updated automatically. A veritable time saver!
- Comparing Different Solutions
Any building project can be designed and executed in an infinite number of ways. For sure, some designs, methods, and processes will be better suited than others. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way to compare different options so the best can be chosen? BIM makes that possible. By adjusting building parameters, civil engineers can see the overall impact changes can have on the building.
For instance, by changing the construction decisions in the preliminary design phase of the Istanbul Metropolitan project, the 18-month construction time was reduced to 8.5 months.
- Lifetime Maintenance
BIM isn’t only relevant to the design and execution phase of a project. It is also relevant to the operation and maintenance of the building because it contains all the relevant information associated with it – ranging from materials to cost estimates and more. This makes it possible to track the performance of a building.
- Project Coordination
Every civil engineering project requires hundreds, if not thousands, of professionals that must work hand in hand to attain the final result. As noted earlier, BIM makes it easier to coordinate the different departments involved in a project. What’s more, since information about the project is centrally stored in the cloud, project members can readily access information. All this leads to massive savings in costs and time.
A notable example is the InterCity Sorli-Brumunddal project. BIM workflow was used to cut the traditional construction time by up to 30%.
As you can see, BIM is a game-changer throughout the entire construction industry. It significantly simplifies the design, execution, and maintenance of construction projects. Based on a recent survey, over 82% of respondents said that BIM had improved the overall efficiency of their companies. With several undeniable benefits, BIM is here to stay.
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