The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) sector has long been plagued with high costs, slow deliverables, and lack of communication. This, in large part, can be attributed to a lack of efficient collaboration between the parties involved in a project, including architects, contractors, engineers, owners, designers, and facilities managers.

This can be a costly concern. The National Institute of Standards and Testing (NIST) estimates that this lack of interoperability costs building owners $15.8 billion annually - equivalent to a yearly loss of 23 cents per square foot of U.S. property.

Advanced technology like building information modeling (BIM) is changing this by improving both the processes and technology involved in the construction process. BIM is an intelligent, 3D model-based tool that provides users with a digital representation of a facility's physical and functional characteristics. This kind of representation allows for increased insight into the space's planning, design, construction, and management. When implemented correctly, building information models can solve construction's communications concerns and provide a shared knowledge resource that can be used as a reliable basis for decisions during a building's lifecycle.

Here is what you need to know about BIM and the importance of implementing it into your business.

Building Information Modeling: The Basics

What is BIM?

Building information modeling, or BIM, is a building design technology that starts with creating an intelligent 3D model.

The most advanced BIM software systems include a database of all related building information and intelligent data - including construction sequencing, cost, and lifecycle management information - that allows for document management, collaboration, and simulation throughout the lifecycle of a project.

The idea here is simple — if everyone involved can see exactly what a site is going to look like and have all relevant information available in one centralized, actionable repository, it can help the team:

  • Explore design options
  • Create visualizations that help stakeholders understand what the building will look like
  • Develop the design documentation

Modern building information modeling systems do not just provide digital versions of physical plans -- they provide a single source of truth from which all users can view, alter and improve upon those plans for smoother design, construction and operation.

An engineer integrates BIM standards into facility management using software, focused on a computer screen.

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The Importance of Building Information Modeling Today

In many instances, BIM is no longer just a nice-to-have. According to the U.N., the world's population will be 9.7 billion by 2050. In this context, the global AEC industry must be more deliberate and efficient in its construction designs, creating spaces that meet the rising global demand and provide smarter, more efficient construction solutions.

To this end, more governments are mandating the use of building information models for public contracts, and an ever-increasing number of private clients are beginning to take note.

How Does the BIM Process Work?

A building information model can be used throughout a project lifecycle to bring clarity and efficiency into a building's construction:

Planning: BIM software can inform, guide, and simplify project planning by allowing users to use reality capture and real-world data to understand how a building will really look in its natural environment.

Design: The design phase can be the most complex of any construction process, requiring conceptual design, analysis, and extensive documentation. BIM data can provide comprehensive modeling that can organize construction and provide crucial information about a design's performance. It can also inform logistics, simplify scheduling and ensure that all relevant personnel has access to the correct information throughout this process.

Construction: BIM project specifications and shared documents can largely guide and simplify fabrication through this phase.

Operation: When it comes to operations and maintenance, BIM's information-rich models and asset data can support operations, maintenance, refurbishment, extension, and even demolition.

Specific Capabilities: What Can BIM Do?

Determine Building Project Specifications

With a building information model, you can use spec modeling to write, manage and publish your project specification. You can import all relevant documentation from various data sources and personnel, thereby increasing collaboration and getting a more consolidated, accurate view of the complete project spec. Finally, structured templates can help also ensure compliance with corporate styles and previously-determined specifications.

Understand the Site and Design Possibilities

When it comes to a building's environment and existing conditions, a lot can go unnoticed without visualization. You can better understand existing features and surrounding structures using BIM's point clouds, digital photography, and visualization capabilities. You can also use this data to further innovate and/or identify any shortcomings of your existing design.

Easily Manage Your Data

Using BIM's preconfigured data templates and customizable data structure, you can ensure that you meet project requirements and that you can conduct effective analysis. You can also share up-to-date, complete data and documentation with all relevant personnel to optimize construction delivery and streamline facility operations.

Get Comprehensive Building Design and Analysis Information

You can better coordinate design and execution with your team working in one shared environment. Specifically, integrated information models and analysis allow for better engineering, design, and asset performance predictions. This is particularly true if you integrate your BIM with existing tools like an engineering document management system (EDMS).

With Accruent's Meridian, you can enhance document management efficiency, guarantee safety and adherence to regulations, promote extensive collaboration across your company, and gain a unified hub of asset information by leveraging Meridian's specialized and robust EDMS.

Manage Deliverables from One Centralized Location

With BIM's design modeling views, hyperlinks and drawings, you can ensure that drawings are up-to-date, accurately represent your design and that the right people have all the engineering calculations, equipment documentation, and support they need to build and operate.

BIM: Tangible Big-Picture Benefits

More Efficient Project Delivery

Using a building information model, you can generate production drawings and databases for manufacturing purposes. This ultimately allows for increased use of prefabrication and modular construction technology, which can ultimately diminish waste, reduce labor and material costs and help sidestep common issues like:

  • Poor coordination: With BIM, you can better coordinate contractors, designers, architects, and other relevant personnel.
  • Clashes: You can also detect MEP, internal or external clashes before construction begins, thereby reducing delays, last-minute changes, and the amount of rework required.

Better Management of Design Information

The beauty of building information modeling is that you can plan and visualize an upcoming project before you begin construction using 3D visualizations and space-use simulations. This means that all relevant parties can experience a space during preconstruction, reducing delays, construction schedule setbacks, or changes later on.

BIM's "database-first" modeling also allows designers, construction teams, engineers, and architects to access and edit relevant building information using their familiar graphical formats - all within one dataset. This simplifies the editing process and prevents inconsistencies when everyone accesses their own discrete files.

Overall, this visibility and collaboration lead to better productivity, more informed planning, and an increased ability to explore design alternatives. This also can lead to increased asset lifecycle and lower maintenance costs throughout a project lifecycle.

For building owners and operators, this is crucial as they are often left out of critical stages of construction projects causing them to miss important data required for facilities management such as inspection requirements. Learn more about how BIM benefits building owners.

Especially when opening a new facility, proper handover of engineering and BIM data is crucial when it comes to operations and maintenance to track warranties, ensure compliance, manage budgets and more. Learn more about BIM and project handover from Accruent's Rudi Pieters, an expert with over 20 years of experience in engineering document management:

Improved Scheduling

Using building information modeling, AEC organizations can streamline design and documentation processes and quickly update them based on new information, changes, or new site conditions. They can also better plan and communicate schedules.

This can ultimately drastically reduce or eliminate construction schedule setbacks, helping ensure on-time or early project completion.

Clarity Amongst Stakeholders and Involved Parties

Digital building information models allow for better coordination, analysis, data management, and visualization between all relevant parties. This will enable teams to share information, coordinate, plan, and update for complete inside and coordination.

Additionally, cloud capabilities of many BIM systems allow users to update information in real-time no matter where they are. That way, drawings and models can be viewed on-site and on mobile devices, ensuring up-to-date access to project information at any time.

Increased Ability to Renovate and Retrofit Projects

By offering improved collaboration with internal teams and external contractors and increased access to relevant information, building information models can allow experienced team members to work with builders, thereby providing better control and improved design execution.

Additionally, visualizations allow for better aesthetics and optimal construction decisions. This can improve initial construction and allow for better renovations and retrofit projects.

Reduced Cost and Mitigated Risk

One study by McKinsey found that 75% of companies that have adopted BIM reported positive returns on their investments. Specifically, costs can be reduced in the form of:

  • Reductions in tender risk premiums
  • Lower insurance costs
  • Fewer variations
  • Fewer opportunities for claims
  • Reduced wasted and unused materials
  • Reduced labor costs due to better documentation and communication
  • Less outdated information

Safer Construction Sites

BIM software can also help you identify potential hazards and plan your on-site logistics before you begin construction. Additionally, a robust BIM offers visual risk analysis and safety evaluations. This can help avoid physical risks and ensure safety throughout a project's execution.

Increased ROI

Using building information modeling, you can avoid many AEC costs, including:

  • Interoperability costs, including the cost of manual data entry and data duplication
  • Delay costs like lost revenue and idled employees
  • Operation and maintenance costs, like lower staff productivity and the cost of information verification.

You can also experience savings in F.M. with tenant chargebacks and understand what assets you have.

Connection to IoT and Advanced Analytics

Increased IoT Capabilities

By and large, the construction industry is woefully behind in IoT capabilities and advanced analytics. Indeed, while construction sites generate massive amounts of data, the vast majority of that information is not even recorded, let alone measured or analyzed for insight.

Advanced BIM technology can change this and bring IoT capabilities to a construction site. This could lead to many benefits, allowing for more efficient:

  • Equipment monitoring and repair
  • Inventory management and ordering
  • Energy usage
  • Safety protocols
  • Quality assurance policies

Better Analytics

Better digitization and data capture throughout the construction planning, and design process has allowed firms to capture more information than ever before. The insights gained from this data can improve:

  • Efficiency
  • Timeliness and construction progress
  • Risk management
  • Cost
  • Construction planning

Improved Maintenance of Regulations and Standards

Because building information modeling has shown such positive results and ROI, governments around the world have begun to mandate the use of BIM for public infrastructure projects. In the U.K., for example, they mandate BIM level 2 on public projects, and you can see similar mandates In France, Germany, Finland, Spain, and even the U.S.

It is essential for construction companies, engineers, designers, and other relevant personnel to be aware of these regulations and comply.

Watch this on-demand webinar to learn more about how you can use BIM for facilities management.

Is your company located in the UK? Check out how BIM is being mandated in our UK BIM article.