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Andy Smith
Andy Smith
Andy Smith is an AIA Solutions Executive at the Bentley Systems, Incorporated. Andy consults with global design firms, contractors, and owners who are seeking improvements in building information modeling (BIM), project delivery methods, and lifecycle data management. He is an active member of the … More »

Building Information Modeling Q+A

July 12th, 2014 by Andy Smith
  1. What is BIM?

BIM is most recognizable as a product and collaborative process.

As a product, BIM becomes a Building Information Model – 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 the facility’s lifecycle from inception onward[1]. A Building Information Model includes 2D and 3D computer graphics enriched with non-graphic attribute information describing the components of the design. It may be requested as a project contract deliverable, provided during facility handover, and used for operations.

As a collaborative process, BIM becomes Building Information Modeling – a process by which a group of designers, contractors, material suppliers, and facility owners work together, sharing information about the project. Advanced BIM offerings provide a collaborative process featuring an increased depth of information modeling – beyond design visualization to performance simulation, optioneering, and operational immersion – and increased breadth of information mobility, facilitating collaboration among multiple project disciplines from design through construction and operations.

Bentley’s AECOsim Building Designer software for multi-discipline design teams supports BIM as both a product and process. It provides for design visualization, engineering analysis and simulation, built-in clash detection for building systems coordination, and component detailing and reporting for construction and operations.


  1. What does it tell building owners/property managers about their buildings?

Owners are always looking to improve the quality of data captured at the end of a project for reuse in operations. The Construction Operations Building information exchange (COBie)[2] has defined a scope of data to be captured. Facility managers envision the BIM as a user interface to building engineering systems and assets. By clicking on a 2D drawing or 3D model object, facility personnel can access information about the building component, accelerating their understanding of the facility’s capabilities and requirements. The BIM may include manufacturers’ data, component properties such as size or weight, and engineering analysis information, such as structural loads, electrical capacities, and HVAC load requirements. Published BIMs can be used by facility managers with applications like Bentley’s Navigator Mobile and Field Supervisor to provide access to trusted facility information in the field. BIM objects can be linked to operational manuals, warranties and other related facility documents.

  1. What are the benefits of doing building information modeling for building owners?

The BIM collaboration process facilitates better coordination between design disciplines and contractors, identifying constructability issues earlier in the process and, thereby, reducing the number of change orders. A BIM process can improve the capture and quality of critical facility information during design and construction for use in operations. A federated BIM can also provide improved documentation and visualization of the project to accelerate the understanding of those that need to make informed capital improvement decisions. Using design review applications like Bentley Navigator, project teams can walk through a design and discuss alternatives in an effort to identify design, construction and operational improvements.

  1. How can it be used to improve the efficiency of a building?

BIM allows the project team to develop and share a virtual model of the building on which they can perform engineering analysis to improve the quality of design and ultimately the performance of the facility. Engineering analysis includes: structural analysis to optimize structural member sizes, ensuring compliance with local codes while seeking the most cost-effective system; heating and cooling simulations to evaluate building envelope alternatives; mechanical systems and facility use patterns to find the most energy-efficient design; and lighting analysis to evaluate quality of space for worker productivity and arrangement of spaces to support business operational needs. Applications like Bentley’s AECOsim Energy Simulator can be used to evaluate design alternatives.

  1. Can it reduce the costs of building operation? How so?

BIM alone will not reduce the cost of building operations, but it can provide insight into the building systems and assets. BIM as a process can help improve the quality of design and building performance, with the potential to lower operational costs. BIM as a digital representation of a facility – by serving as a more informative type of user manual for the building – can accelerate the operations team’s understanding of the facility, providing them with better information to optimize the use of building systems and assets.

  1. How does it differ from other technologies used?

CAD – computer-aided design – automates the drafting process. Its popularity resulted from its provision of consistency in drawing quality (regardless of who generated the drawings) and efficiencies in drawing revisions. BIM – Building Information Modeling – is the next generation of design tools and process. BIM features capabilities well beyond CAD, providing information-rich models that enable analysis and information visualization. BIM is further enhanced through the use of collaboration solutions such as Bentley’s ProjectWise, which can be used to connect distributed project teams and ensure that everyone has the most up-to-date information. A BIM can serve as an input to a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) solution, but it is neither of these solutions.

  1. Project example

Cancer Treatment Centre for Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

London, United Kingdom

The Cancer Treatment Centre project transformed a large clinical hospital building into one that projects the feel of a smaller, non-clinical facility. Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners achieved this by breaking up the 14 stories into three “care villages” – a chemotherapy village, a radiotherapy village, and a one-stop village for outpatients. As the firm’s first integrated BIM project, it successfully improved collaboration and reduced risk.

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners used MicroStation and AECOsim Building Designer on this GBP 160 million project in London, United Kingdom. The interoperability of Bentley software allowed for the accurate integration of various models and drawings in different file formats to successfully collaborate with stakeholders using third-party software.

Image 1 Bentely Andy Smith

image 3 photo bottom Right pic 50percentimage 2 color ink drawing top right 50percent

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