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The Impact of Building Information Modeling (BIM) Technology in Construction

Building information modeling (BIM) technology is now everywhere in construction, having become standard practice across several economies, including the U.K., U.S., Germany, France, Canada, and Australia.

The $7.9B global BIM market has become so popular that it’s expected to expand at a nearly 14 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), hitting $15B by 2028.

But why exactly has BIM become such an integral part of major construction projects? We examine that question, and more, below.

What is Building Information Modeling?

For years, the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry has been saddled with insufficient communication and data exchange, slow project deliverables, and higher-than-necessary costs.

That’s largely because collaboration among the various players in a construction project—from architects and designers to engineers—have traditionally not collaborated smoothly or efficiently.

Building owners, however, have a big motivator to fix the issue: Costs. The National Institute of Standards and Testing (NIST) estimates that such a lack of coordination costs building owners nearly $16B every year.

That’s where BIM comes into play. It’s an intelligent 3D modeling tool that serves as a single source of truth and digital representation of a building’s form and function. BIM uses facility data from the planning and design phases to provide increased insight and better decision-making around building maintenance, design, and management.

Unlike digital twin technology, which is still in its relative infancy, BIM has been around in one form or another since the mid 1980s (although it didn’t start to catch on until the early 2000s). Digital twins use BIM data along with construction and operational data sources.

What are the Benefits of BIM?

BIM technology can help building owners and managers improve the following processes:

  • Improve collaboration and coordination: The nature of BIM software allows stakeholders to collaborate in one, centralized platform in real-time, instead of a traditionally siloed and fragmented approach.
  • Reduce construction costs and timelines: By simulating construction processes, contractors can spot problems in the software before they happen in the physical world.
  • Improve site safety and project quality: Similar to the above, contractors can be alerted to potential health and safety issues within BIM software before these issues become a reality.
  • Improve sustainability: BIM software can evaluate the expected environmental impacts building components and systems in advance of construction.
  • Enhance facility management: BIM provides digital records that can be used to improve facility management, including maintenance planning and space management.

BIM is used across many AEC sub industries, including architecture; civil engineering; mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP); and structural engineering.

BIM technology has become so commonplace that its use is mandated by the U.K. government in every government construction project.

What Are BIM Levels?

There are various BIM levels that each projects can achieve, with each successive level representing a more complex set of criteria.

  • Level 0: 2D CAD models, drawings, digital prints, and very little collaboration.
  • Level 1: 2D drawings with some 3D modeling, with a common data environment (CDE) and CAD standards managed to the BS 1192:2007 standard.
  • Level 2: 3D models used by all team members, with building information shared through a common file format such as Industry Foundation Class (IFC) or COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange).
  • Level 3: All team members work from the same 3D model. Level 3 is also known as Open BIM.
  • Level 4: A time element, such as scheduling data, is added to the centralized 3D model.
  • Level 5: Cost estimations, budget analysis, and budget tracking are added to the 3D model.
  • Level 6: Energy consumption data is considered before the building is built.

BIM levels demonstrate the level of maturity of a building’s management—the higher the level, the more sophisticated, efficient, and cost-effective.

BIM Helps Buildings Operate More Cost-Effectively

BIM has become big business in the AEC world, with a fast-growing market and some countries even mandating its use in official government construction projects.

And why not? BIM (especially more advanced BIM levels) improves the coordination and collaboration of a project by ensuring stakeholders work from the same 3D model of a building, use common file formats that can be used by everyone, and can communicate freely in a centralized platform.

This leads to improved project timelines and costs, improved safety and project quality, and even safer construction sites and more efficiently managed buildings.