What is BIM Methodology? BIM Method Advantages & Disadvantages
Construction as a whole is a rather complicated process. It was complicated several hundred years ago, and it is even more complicated now, with so many additional elements that have to be in every new building or project of the modern era. All of these different elements and systems must have proper coordination and communication for the construction project to be created in the first place.
However, collaboration on such a level is extremely complicated and has been one of the construction industry’s biggest issues for decades. This problem is an easy way to generate cost overruns, project delays, and other issues that affect the project results in one way or another.
Since this is a rather long-standing problem, there have been numerous attempts to try and solve it – with BIM methodology being one of the most popular in the field. The main goal of this article is to cover what BIM methodology is, how it works and if it is worth it in the first place.
Building Information Modeling and BIM methodology
BIM is an acronym for “Building Information Modeling,” a process that relies a lot on collaboration between every single participant in the construction project to offer a unified model of the entire project with all of the information embedded into it in a convenient and easy-to-access way.
This kind of collaboration between all of the project participants should be able to solve multiple long-standing issues at once, including coordination between departments, detection of structural conflicts at the design stage, and so on. In turn, solving all of these issues at the early stages of the construction offers a much more streamlined construction process with fewer, if any, delays or budget overruns.
At the same time, some criticism of BIM as a concept needs to be acknowledged. For example, the way BIM processes are structured makes it borderline impossible to share information with subcontractors who have yet to implement the technology in question or refuse to use it. There is also an issue of subcontractors not being involved with the main contractor at the early stages of the project, with commercial selection being performed further into the project’s timeline these days.
BIM methodology, as a separate term, implies that every project participant creates their model of the project, with all of the information relevant to their specific field or specialty. All these models are then combined to form a single unified coordination model that works as the only “source of truth,” so to speak – the only point of reference for each project participant at any project stage.
The BIM methodology also implies that every change a single project participant makes is immediately reflected in the overall state of the project’s centralized model, making coordination and cooperation much easier. The combination of information from different departments gives every object a “meaning” of sorts – factual information about its parameters, purpose, weight, shape, and so on.
This kind of centralized BIM model, where each object has a lot of information added to it, makes it a lot easier to perform various collaboration activities between different project participants, as well as team allocation, management, communication, and other processes.
Advantages and shortcomings of BIM methodology
It is only natural for the BIM methodology to have its benefits and issues – just like any other concept or method. BIM methodology can be extremely beneficial for many reasons, but it is more interesting to see its shortcomings in different circumstances.
It is worth noting that several disadvantages of BIM only exist in cases where the incorrect implementation scenario was chosen, proving once again that thorough research is essential before switching to or adopting any other methodology drastically different from your current one. As such, here are some of the more prominent shortcomings of the BIM methodology:
- Trust and willingness to cooperate. Since collaboration is a big factor of what makes BIM methodology so effective, trust between project participants is basically a requirement. However, many companies find it problematic to trust other players in the field due to how competitive the overall scene usually gets – especially during processes such as commercial agreement, bidding, or project award.
- Investing in software. It’s safe to say that a full-scale BIM integration is an expensive process, and one of the biggest parts of this price is the software itself – combined with powerful systems capable of processing all of your project’s data.
- A commitment of the customer. BIM methodology is a massive advantage for contractors and subcontractors within a project – but it can also be an advantage to the end user, offering an incredibly detailed source of information about the building in question. Suppose the user in question is purposefully ignoring or unaware of those benefits. In that case, it can be considered a waste of the building team’s efforts due to how difficult it can be to create a comprehensive BIM model in the first place.
- Investing in training. Another notable part of why adopting the BIM methodology can be a long and expensive process is training your staff to be capable of working with the BIM software.
At the same time, BIM methodology has its share of advantages that it brings to the table, such as:
- Easy modifications for the project design due to the model always being up-to-date in every single way.
- Easier prefabrication and mass production of various construction elements due to a single source of “truth” for the whole project.
- An extensive source of information about the project for the end user – a disadvantage turned into a benefit if the user in question takes advantage of it.
- More accurate design and easier planning since BIM models can provide the necessary data about the project’s future look on a single screen.
- The ability to view BIM models free of charge due to a lot of software offering “read-only” features with no additional charges is extremely convenient for on-site supervisors, among other examples.
- Little to no rework for the actual construction stage of the project since BIM methodology makes it easy to notice any potential conflicts or clashes at the early stages of said project.
Origins of BIM as a concept
It is fair to say that BIM as a concept gained its popularity fairly recently. However, the idea and the methodology as a whole was conceptualized as early as the 1970s, with RUCAPS often credited as one of the first examples of what would later be known as Building Information Modeling.
While it is true that the first examples of this software type could not follow the aforementioned BIM methodology in its entirety, they have created a great starting point for other systems to build upon by allowing access for multiple different operators to interact with the same 2D or 3D model within the borders of the same software piece.
BIM as we know it was established around the 2000s, and the popularity boost could be associated with the year 2002 – when Autodesk published a dedicated report about BIM as a methodology. This is where several competitors also started providing their early versions of BIM software, giving the topic even more popularity.
How different is a BIM model from a 3D CAD model?
One of the most common assumptions about BIM in general (and specifically BIM models) is that they are just glorified 3D CAD models. This statement is both true and false. The “true” part of this statement refers to the general composition of a model – both a CAD model and a BIM model use graphical representation to showcase the project’s intent as a whole in terms of design and technical details.
This is where the similarities end since one of these two models is much bigger and more meaningful than the other. While it is true that both of these models are graphical representations of the project’s intent told mainly via geometry, the CAD model’s capabilities end with the geometrical representation. The BIM model, on the other hand, uses a variety of information sources from departments and contractors to provide a lot more information about every object in the said model – metadata, relationships between different elements, and even their behavior in an actual building.
This is the biggest difference between these two models, which makes the BIM methodology so efficient in reducing project delays and budget spending.
BIM methodology has gained much popularity in recent years, and there are many reasons for that – including better collaboration, fewer budget overruns, reworks, etc. However, it also has shortcomings, and any company needs to be aware of those potential issues that may arise when adopting the BIM methodology. At the end of the day, BIM as a concept is extremely useful to the modern-world construction industry, and it is not surprising to see it being so popular.