March 19, 2007
The Use of BIM
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News
The Use of BIM
by Susan Smith

The term “building information modeling (BIM)” defines a technology that contains information about a building from concept, design and construction through operations and management. The use of BIM spans the entire AEC process. Some projects will use BIM in very early schematic design and others will wait until construction. There are no hard and fast rules.

At BDP, all team members are in house, so architects and engineers, structural engineers, and mechanical engineers use the same software and BIM model which is available to them at all times. In some cases, the BIM model is led by structural engineers under the direction of the architects, according to architect director Keith Papa.

Because there can be so many decision makers involved in the creation and use of a BIM, there is a need to strengthen relationships between owners, architects, engineers and contractors on projects. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has been spearheading the development of a new BIM standard—the new buildingSMART Alliance which will operate within the independent nonprofit National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). We will hear more about this later, but basically the new public/private initiative expands on goals of the North American Chapter of the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAINA), whose Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs) have initiated open standards for national and international links among industry players, and will serve developers and users of BIM in helping to form a more cooperative relationship between players.

A real challenge is, does BIM get the job done? Does it meet the needs of users? Many vendors would have the public believe that BIM is used in an enormous number of occasions (Revit, for example, has grown to 190,000 seats. There are 500,000 AutoCAD Architecture seats (formerly Architectural Desktop), also considered a BIM, although it could easily be used solely for 2D CAD). It is difficult for vendors to qualify where BIM is being used and where it isn’t, except on the bigger projects that win awards and gain a lot of attention. Part of the reason for this is that A/E firms already have numerous seats of a 2D CAD software in place, with users who have upgraded to 3D but are not necessarily using BIM.

One colleague said that of all the architectural projects he consults on, only a very small percentage use a BIM, but many are interested in it.

Some AEC firms say the definition of BIM is a “little slippery.” Many firms create models, but not necessarily BIM models. HOK, which has hundreds of projects going on at the same time, estimates that perhaps 10% of their projects are full BIM projects.

Some of the confusion lies in the fact that 3D is a big part of a BIM model, but not the only factor in a BIM model. “BIM is about ¾ 3D model, and the other ¼ is additional information,” Mario Guttman, firmware CAD director, HOK, pointed out. “We’re tracking more detailed identification of things that are in the BIM model such as what they are and what they cost, etc.”

Certainly, reading the new product feature list from one of the vendors can get you thinking that it’s all very simple. Those toiling away in the trenches know that it’s not all easy, no matter what the marketing literature says. “Some people would give you the impression that you would build a BIM model, push a button and get an energy analysis. That’s not really true. Architecture is a complicated art that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to simple answers,” said Guttman.

BIM and Sustainable Design

Although it was not originally intended for sustainable design, BIM is now being seen as a useful tool to analyze energy use and resource consumption. The idea is, that if firms can understand energy use and resource consumption early on in the design process they have a better chance to change them before the construction phase.

The growing awareness of sustainable design has generated both economic and social pressure in the building industry, in which BIM can be a worthy participant. Granted, excellent examples of sustainable designs were created before BIM was invented, so it will take some time to quantify how much time is saved by using BIM, how much more accurate the model is than those models relied on in the past, and in what ways BIM might be superior to past methods. It will also take some time to gather in the data on how many projects are using a full BIM model for the execution of their projects, as opposed to using only a part of a BIM model, and how well any of these processes are working for them. Many vendors are working on this research right now.

Over the next few weeks, look forward to more on this topic. Readers are also invited to contribute their opinions and experiences.


BDP and its French partner Groupe6 are together launching a new international healthcare brand BDP Groupe6 in order to offer their unique combined knowledge of best practice in international healthcare design.

BDP Groupe6 represents Europe’s largest collaboration of health care building designers with projects valued at over �3000m currently in design and construction. They intend within a five year period to extend their already significant operations building on the success of domestic markets which are unlikely to maintain their current levels of activity.


Created to spearhead technical, political, and financial support for advanced digital technology in the real property industry—from concept, design and construction through operations and management—the new buildingSMART Alliance will operate within the independent nonprofit National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). The new public/private initiative expands on goals of the North American Chapter of the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAINA), whose Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs) have initiated open standards for national and international links among industry players, and will serve developers and users of Building Information Models (BIMs), the digital tools that are increasingly helping to share highly accurate information throughout a facility’s life cycle.


AVEVA Group plc has been voted 'Company of The Year' at the 'PLC Awards' in London. The awards, created 21 years ago by PricewaterhouseCoopers, are designed to reward excellence. Entrants must be listed on the London Stock Exchange, but not be constituents of the FTSE 100 index. AVEVA was nominated by an expert panel of fund managers and research analysts from many of the UK's most respected financial institutions. Management, strategy, growth prospects, financing and shareholder returns were assessed by the panel in making nominations. AVEVA was voted winner by readers of The Financial Times from across the globe and by the panel.

New Offices

BST Global, the leading global provider of enterprise business performance management solutions for architectural, engineering and environmental consulting firms and other project driven organizations, today announced the opening of a new office in the United Kingdom. The UK office will act as BST Global's base of operations for serving clients in the region. BST Global's diverse list of leading European architecture and engineering clients includes ENVIRON, ERM Group, Foster + Partners, and Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo.

New Products

Mindscape Asia Pacific  has released TurboSketch, an innovative plug-in of modeling software for Macintosh and PC.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.


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