This is a guest blog by Roger Liucci
Every building project, no matter how small, comes with many aspects to consider and disciplines to reconcile. Sometimes, that’s the hardest part — having everyone work together without getting in each other’s way. For decades now, architects, engineers, and building contractors have looked for ways to resolve this problem, as well as cut project costs and increase efficiency. Finally, it seems that the solution is here, in the form of BIM.
What Is BIM?
BIM stands for building information modeling, and it can be understood in two ways: as a process and as software. In both cases, BIM helps coordinate all aspects of the building project and allows the team to collaborate. Aside from that, it lets civil engineers troubleshoot the building before it’s even built and explore different options for project completion.
Building information modeling software creates an accurate virtual 3D model of the building that shows all aspects needed for construction. That includes not only the building’s geometry and spatial relationships, but also its cost estimates, materials, project schedules, and sustainability. All this information updates regularly as the project unfolds, so the team members always have the latest details.
On the other hand, as a process, BIM is a paradigm in construction that encourages the whole team to improve their workflow. According to BIM, harmony is the key; all disciplines and aspects will flow together, increasing efficiency and reducing waste.
Similarly, all construction documents are integrated and available to everyone as a single source of truth. That way, team members are always on the same page, and there’s less opportunity for confusion and litigation that take the focus away from the project.
What You Can Use BIM For:
If you’re working in construction, BIM is surely one of the best tools you’ll encounter. But you may be wondering what some of its more specific uses are. Well, let’s take a look at a few common ones:
Visualization and Troubleshooting
Using BIM, you can easily create accurate 3D models of a building in construction. That way, you can see exactly what your project will look like after its completion, as well as spot any potential problems. That allows you to make more informed decisions and necessary changes while you’re still in the project’s early stages.
Cost estimation is by no means a new concept introduced exclusively by BIM. Even before any software existed, people needed to calculate how much money to set aside for a construction project. But the right BIM software can organize complex tasks that previously needed to cross various applications and formats.
BIM’s cost estimating features are quite accurate. When any features of the model change, the estimates will update as well. This process is fully automated, so you don’t have to worry about fixing any numbers by hand.
Exploring Different Solutions
Why wouldn’t you try out different solutions or designs before settling on the perfect one? Of course, in the past, you couldn’t. There was no way to visualize and further explore all possible options. But with the right BIM software, that’s quite easy. All you have to do is alter a few parameters, and your model will change too. The industry describes this as bi-directional associativity. A change in the model anywhere is a change everywhere.
So feel free to explore various solutions for problems you encounter or play around with the design. You might find something that works better than your original plan and cuts the costs down as well!
BIM’s importance doesn’t end once the construction is over. The owner can use the model for the operation and maintenance of the new building. After all, BIM contains all the data about the building, including floor plans, sections, and details as well as materials and costs. Of course, all that can come in handy even years after the building has been completed.
No more browsing through hundreds of files in search of a document you need — BIM puts all the details in one place. When the model is saved in the cloud, it is easily accessible; every team member can look at the model and update it anytime. As soon as the changes are made, all other members can see them and continue working with this new information.
BIM Use on the Rise in Civil Engineering
BIM is taking hold in the design and architectural engineering and construction industry. For instance, civil engineers are contributing to cloud projects such as BIM 360 Docs more and more. This software helps them organize their project documents and coordinate work with other team members. The single source of truth is as valuable to civil engineers as it is to the owner and the design team.
And the trend is unlikely to change anytime soon. According to a study from 2012, we were using BIM even back then! This number is surely higher now, and it will continue to rise unless some other, even more sophisticated model appears.
But are civil engineers happy with this model, or does it leave much to be desired? As it happens, believe that technology improves their project outcomes, and 82% claim that their company is more efficient than ever! Looking at such high numbers, it becomes obvious that BIM is doing something right.
BIM is already taking over the AEC industry, and there’s no doubt it will continue to do so. That comes as no surprise, though — after all, it’s a building information model that increases efficiency and reduces costs and time needed to complete a project. And what more could a civil engineer ask for?
About the Author
Roger Liucci is the senior BIM Specialist at Microsol Resources, an Autodesk Platinum Partner, in their New York office. He is particularly interested in the interaction between design and technology as it relates to construction and cloud computing, where one can work anytime, anywhere, and optimize designs with virtually infinite, mobile cloud computing power.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about the importance of BIM for civil engineering.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute