Can a BIMmer Help You?

Static on an AM or FM radio station is never a pleasant thing to hear. There are some things that come through, and other things that drop out. It can be nerve-racking to have to listen to a channel that isn’t ‘quite’ tuned in. In Architecture, the same type of static used to occur often prior to the advent of tools such as BIM.

As an Architect, one of the problems that has been most difficult to overcome has been that often, clients are not trained to be able to understand the floor plans, sections, and elevations of the work that will be completed for their house, building or tenant improvement. This inability is frustrating because the client is spending a lot of money on something that they may or may not be able to understand. Until recently, the only way for the Architect to be able to surpass the problems that this lack has caused is through meticulously spending hours on the creation of perspective drawings which would ‘place’ the client into a single rendered image of the building. This process could take hours, and was still limited by the skill of the architect in being able to communicate the information, until recently.

BIM allows the Architect the opportunity to not only instantaneously show a client the nature of his or her design. It also facilitates the Architect’s capabilities of being able to coordinate vast sums of information with those of other professionals, automatically generates take-off lists helpful in completing budgets, and greatly diminishes the possibility of errors in the generating of construction documents. For ‘green’ building, simulating climatic and environmental effects gives an added relevance to BIM.

So, what is BIM? BIM is an acronym that stands for Building Information Modeling. First, we start with the term ‘Building’ – we use the term building related to architecture, but the term can be a bit limiting, because the use of BIM can be for more than buildings. Essentially, anything that can be built can be designed using BIM. The ‘Information’ part of the acronym refers to any part of the building that may be constructed or relevant to the building’s realization, from materials to textures to a variety of features, including costs and website locations. Each aspect of any element that is in a building can be included. ‘Modeling’ refers to the creation of a prototype in three dimensions. Now, if we combine each of the terms, we can arrive at an understanding of the nature of what BIM is.

Essentially, it is the construction of a building virtually in the computer in such a way that any aspect of the building can be readily observed and changed in a way that corresponds to reality; since this is happening in real time in a computer, one has the advantage of being able to make lists, charts, and analyses of the building prior to it being built so that its function in a variety of simulated environments can be determined and assessed. If a material is used, it can be cataloged and added to an inventory list so that an almost instantaneous budget can be created and its use in the creation of the building assessed.

The implications for the use of this tool are enormous, as we will see in future articles. But here is a primary point of interest for the designer and his client – the client can easily see the product in three dimensions, and if changes need to be made in any view at any time, those changes are instantaneously coordinated with other views all at the same time.

The building model created in the process is actually a visualization of a database that contains each of the parts of a building. Therefore, as any part is added, its effects on the rest of the database can be known and shared. As you can imagine, this increases the possibility of creativity on the part of the client and the architect, because more combinations of alternatives can be communicated to the client at a greater speed and with an ease of communication that, has not been equaled. Collaboration is only one of the effects of BIM. As we proceed, even more benefits will become evident.

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