BIM or « Building Information Modeling » has so many definitions it is almost ridiculous. Some don’t even define BIM as « Building Information Modeling » but rather as « Building Information Model » or « Building Information Management ». Many organizations, software editors and individuals claim to be the « true inventors » or « true initiators » of BIM. Some insist they were the first to know about BIM and know best how to use it.
So what is BIM ?
God forbid, if you seek the answer in Wikipedia, you’ll most probably regret it. It fails to explain this multi-faceted and vast concept and settles for a bland, general and vague definition of what BIM is.
Luckily, BIM is actually something quite simple to grasp if you’re an AEC manufacturer. Most existing BIM ‘explainers’ are directed at architects or at the clients of building projects. In this post however, I’m going to explain what BIM is from the AEC manufacturer’s point of view.
The easiest way to quickly grasp what BIM is, is to first understand what a BIM object is and then understand what this kind of object is good for, and the best way to understand it is:
A BIM object functions as a recipient
And here’s a picture of a glass of water to help you remember it:
The glass itself represents a 3D model or any other kind of what is commonly called « Geometry » which basically means a 2D or 3D shape of SOMETHING
The water inside it represents INFORMATION ABOUT THE SOMETHING
And as you can see, the « water » adopts the shape of the object it is contained in. That is it. Simply put, a BIM object is a 3D geometry that contains information about it’s essence.
Now, if you are an AEC manufacturer all you have to do is imagine one of your products instead of the glass of water shown above. Your product could obviously be described geometrically (i.e – modeled in 3D) and you could probably also say lots of things about that product of yours. Let’s imagine for the sake of the example that your product is an automatic door instead of that glass:
This door has a certain shape, a width, a length, a thickness and several parts – this is its GEOMETRY.
It probably comes in different sizes and proportions to fit different types of openings – this is PARAMETRICAL information.
It also has different materials, (wood, metal, rubber, trans-lucid or transparent glass, plastic etc.) It replies to some norms and standards and is classified under a certain reference or catalog number. It is also manufactured by someone (you) and you have a phone number and an address where you (or your sales / technical force) can be reached. All of this is essential information.
If this automatic door is a BIM object then all of this information (parametric or not) is simply INTEGRATED into the geometry of the 3D object.
You probably understand by now what all of this is good for. The ability to integrate information into a parametric 3D object is a great thing. It allows the architects and any other AEC professionals (quantity surveyors, engineers…) involved in the conception of a building – to conceive a building with hundreds of such intelligent « building blocks ». Each block is « self aware » of what it is and each interacts with all the other elements of said building. For example, this door integrates into a wall somewhere in the project. The wall itself contains information about its thickness, it’s function (supporting or just separation of spaces) insulation, the dimensions of its openings etc. The wall might be « sitting » on a concrete slab covered with tiles of a certain shape and color etc etc. All of these BIM components together make a BIM MODEL and this intelligent BIM model is the basis to what BIM is all about.
Because, as soon as you have a BIM model, you can do many things. First, YOU CAN EDIT it really easily. For example, if you have a staircase in between two concrete slabs and you decide that you want the room’s ceiling to be higher all you have to do is increase the distance between those two slabs of yours, the staircase will respond automatically as it « knows » that it is connecting two floors and the BIM object that is this staircase will add extra stairs to itself and an extra length of railing to go along with it.
Second, this magical BIM model can provide you with tons of useful information that YOU CAN QUERY with a few clicks. In most BIM software you can get a detailed listing or nomenclature about all of the components that make your building. Not only how many square meters or yards it has but also how many doors, windows, chairs, and lamps it contains. This of course is very helpful if you’re an architect or a client.
If you are the person in charge of the maintenance of the building that is going to be built you could easily know how many pots of painting you’d have to purchase and when to refurbish it etc. A good BIM model will ensure EASY MAINTENANCE.
a BIM model is good for many other things as well, an engineer could use the model to make sure there are NO CLASHES that could occur during construction (For example: Part of the underground parking is built where a city sewage pipe passes or an air conditioning tube that goes right through where an electric installation is supposed to be)
This, in sum is all you, as an AEC Manufacturer need to know about BIM. Building information modeling is just that – a method that allows the entire supply chain of a building to better communicate with each other and access information about the thing they build when they need it. It makes life easier on everyone from the architect to the client and it all starts with a little BIM object that you provide the architect. This little BIM object is by far your best salesman as it tells your story, it showcases your competence and you wealth of knowledge and ingenuity.