Building Information Modeling (BIM)

by Dana K. (Deke) Smith, FAIA - Executive Director, buildingSMART alliance, and Alan Edgar, Chair - National BIM Standard Project Committee

Last updated: 07-24-2008

Introduction

A Building Information Model (Model) is 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 its life cycle from inception onward.

A basic premise of Building Information Modeling is collaboration by different stakeholders at different phases of the life-cycle of a facility to insert, extract, update or modify information in the Model to support and reflect the roles of that stakeholder. The Model is a shared digital representation founded on open standards for interoperability.

Some have identified BIM as dealing with only 3D modeling and visualization. While important and true, this description is limiting. A more useful concept is that a Model should access all pertinent graphic and non-graphic information about a facility as an integrated resource. A primary goal is to eliminate re-gathering or reformatting of facility information; which is wasteful.

Non-value added effort or waste is a significant problem in the construction industry. Much of the waste comes from inaccurate or entrusted information causing the information to have to be re-gathered multiple times throughout the life of the project. This waste has been identified to be 57% in the construction industry by a chart prepared by the Construction Industry Institute and Lean Construction Institute. While waste in the manufacturing sector was identified to be 26%. This 31% variance when plotted against the 2008 design and construction spending projections by Engineering News-Record comes out to nearly $400B annually. This number does not include operations and sustainment, which would jack the number up through the ceiling, as if it were not high enough already. The primary beneficiary is the owner. However, many owners seem to be content to pay the freight of design and construction, whatever the cost and have been rather lethargic to push for change to date. The construction industry, however is seeing benefit to implementing BIM on their own and is pushing forward at a rather rapid rate for this traditionally conservative industry.

BIM standards have many objectives but one of the most important is to improve business function so that collection, use and maintenance of facility information is a part of doing business by the authoritative source and not a separate activity.

The scope of BIM is from the smallest part rolled up to the world or portfolio view, from inception onward in the lifecycle of a facility and includes all stakeholders that need facility information from the designers to the occupants.

Numerous organizations have initiatives underway to develop a National BIM Standard. The following sections provide links and describe the efforts underway to develop a standard for information sharing that will help weave all stakeholders into a common fabric.

While these sections are still under development, click on the following areas to begin your exploration:

  • NIBS BIM Initiatives—contains information on initiatives led by the National Institute of Building Sciences.
  • Industry BIM Initiatives—contains information on industry initiatives from buildingSMART alliance associations to government programs pioneering BIM.
  • BIM Libraries—contains information on reports, guidelines, roadmaps, white papers, articles and BIM tools.