To BIM or Not To BIM?

There is a lot of talk about BIM at the moment, so what is it and what will it do to help us?

BIMFirst – what does BIM mean? In short, BIM (Building Information Modelling) is the process of designing and building collaboratively, using coherent computer models rather than separate flat drawings.

The BIM Task group states that "The UK Government has embarked with industry on a four year programme for sector modernisation with the key objective of: reducing capital cost and the carbon burden from the construction and operation of the built environment by 20%.  Central to these ambitions is the adoption of information rich Building Information Modelling (BIM) technologies, process and collaborative behaviors that will unlock new more efficient ways of working at all stages of the project life-cycle"

When I refer to flat drawings I mean the old way of having plans on site are fast disappearing. We are now working with 4D models instead of printed drawings but they won't disappear just yet. The 4D modelling allows an architect to specify data about the building and physically create a full (to scale) dimensional model which shows where faults are or identifies structural deficiencies. As you can imagine doing things this way allows the designer to iron out issues before the contractor puts a spade in the ground; there are obvious advantages to this including saving time while on site 'fixing' design issues.

The main advantage is of course a more streamlined approach to the work thus saving time, money and resource - which facilitates better planning management. Additionally, having other parties involved in the design while still 'on the board' means that everyone has input and greater understanding of the required works and standards. There is nothing worse than looking at a plan and not having a clue what the designer has intended. A very experienced builder once said to me 'if only the architect knew how big a brick was it would save me a lot of time trying to construct the building'.

Collaborative Working

As we know collaborative working requires all parties to have a better understanding of each other, the goals of the project, the parameters and the resources available. Collaborative working is nothing new to the team at Ai Solutions, we have been working together with our partners, customers and suppliers for years. However for many within the construction industry working together is not something they are used to at all.

In the old days, many local authorities also went about their daily tasks but in a 'silo approach', not wanting to share information or work together with their suppliers or contractors. However this approach was quite the 'norm' in fact it was born from many years of segregated working activities which are, for historical reasons, taking time to change.

BIM is a good strategy, it's about the sharing of information between the all interested parties. It uses a COBie file to organise the information, this file can then be shared with all parties. The parties can be located anywhere but the aim is to support them so that people, tools, and tasks can effectively share this information throughout the building lifecycle, thus eliminating data redundancy, data re-entry, data loss, miscommunication, and translation errors. Sounds wonderful doesn't it? 

Software providers and the like, need to make sure that their systems support and/or read the COBie file in order to collaborate in the design and build process. Now many may say that BIM does not apply to them, it's Building Information Modelling and they are not involved in the construction or design of buildings. Not so, BIM refers to any design work that requires the construction of an entity. This could be a road, a culvert, a bridge, housing, flats, shops etc.


Any construction professional interested in improving the efficiency of their business should look towards BIM as their model. BIM facilitates detailed information and analysis much earlier in the building process to improve decision making and reduce downstream changes[1] and there are several case studies that can validate this. The BIM concept envisages virtual construction of a facility prior to its actual physical construction, in order to reduce uncertainty, improve safety, work out problems, and simulate and analyze potential impacts. Sub-contractors from every trade can input critical information into the model before beginning construction, with opportunities to pre-fabricate or pre-assemble some systems off-site. Waste can be minimised on-site and products delivered on a just-in-time basis rather than being stock-piled on-site[2].

So why isn't BIM in full flow yet? In some organisations it already is! In particular Government projects are more likely to have BIM as one of their pre-requisites, at the end of the day the advantages are many for all involved parties. We believe that this is the next logical step in design and building management. For further reading see 'BIM - Building Information Modelling' or for more information you can visit the BIM Task group web site which includes regular updates and is looking to raise awareness of the BIM programme and the BIM requirements.


[1] Manning R, Messner J (2008)

To BIM or Not To BIM?
written by , Sales & Marketing Director, February 2014