Broadly speaking, BIM is something of an umbrella term that relates to both the methods employed to design using digital modelling, and the way in which collective data, inherent with any construction project, is formatted and shared. Its purpose is to ensure that the whole life management of the facility, from its initial design all the way through to its eventual decommission or demolition, is made as efficient and cost effective as possible. In truth BIM is as much a road map as it is a design tool.
Working in line with BIM from the outset of a project, a 3D representation of the finished structure is created. This is so accurate it can be used to prove all aspects of construction and long term performance before so much as a shovel hits the ground. The virtual finished product is called a BIM model and is made up of all the components that will be used in its physical construction. If it’s a regular building, a school or office block for example, that will include all the usual things you’d expect like bricks, doors & windows, thermal insulation, steelwork, pipework, HVAC, plant & switch gear, sanitary ware, luminaires, controls, ceilings, furniture, floor coverings and even the paint on the walls – the list is almost endless. These individual items are called BIM objects and can be likened to the pieces of a jigsaw; of limited use on their own, but collectively and interactively a very powerful resource for all connected with a project to interrogate, manipulate and share.
Each BIM object is a multifaceted bundle of data comprising 2D and 3D representations of the product, dimensional information including any additional clearances that may be required during install or to operate safely and correctly, performance & technical data and the manufacturer’s details. Some of this information is delivered in CAD form, Revit being adopted in the UK as the platform of choice, with additional supporting documentation utilising PDF and Excel formats as required. This standardisation of product information across the board means that architects, building consultants, main contractors, sub-contractors, end users, clients etc. are all working with the same information, laid out in exactly the same way and using the same software. The result, in theory at least, being unrestricted collaboration between all disciplines and a joined up decision making process that’s more informed than ever before.