Building Information Modeling, or simply BIM, has evolved in just a few years from an intimidating technology monster and insider tip to an indispensable technology in many places. It is probably the most important new technology in the construction industry. The benefits are clear – through an interactive, smart 3D model, architects, planners, technicians, and all other granted professionals can access and see a project and all its facets.
The American construction software company Procore calls this “a virtual sandpit” – endless possibilities for construction. Because many levels work on a model at the same time, problems can often be identified before the construction process starts and mistakes can be avoided. All in all, time is saved and a better overall view is maintained – because if someone makes changes in the model, they are automatically adopted for all and in real-time.
BIM is now used not only in buildings but also increasingly in road construction, rail construction, bridge construction, and civil engineering. A further increase is therefore likely. For example, in Spain BIM methodology is already mandatory for public building tenders.
1. The digital twin
Digital twins are virtual copies of real structures that link BIM to real data. The data is transmitted by networked sensors in the structure, for example, a building, or its surroundings. Architects and urban planners, for example, can closely monitor the performance of an existing building but also can test new construction concepts and technologies before major investments have to be made.
The fact that digital twins are becoming increasingly popular is particularly evident in Great Britain, where the state-supported Digital Framework Task Group launched the project in December to create a twin for the country’s entire infrastructure. The Task Group is a project of the Centre for Digital Built Britain, a consortium of ministries and the University of Cambridge.
2. Everything works better with the Cloud
BIM works even without the cloud, but with the cloud, everything works better – this is how cloud computing can be imagined as the basis for BIM Level 3, also known as iBIM, i.e. integrated building information modeling. It creates a browser-based BIM environment that allows access by multiple people in multiple locations and in real-time. The dependence on the power of a normal PC is eliminated. Anyone with access can also intervene in a project via smartphone or tablet and the data is synchronized in real-time. With such obvious advantages, it is not surprising that more and more BIM users are moving their projects into the cloud – a trend that will certainly continue in 2020.
3. GIS and BIM – the great brotherhood
Geoinformation systems and BIM are two fundamentally different things – but they can also be best friends to the liking of the construction industry. 2019 is the year in which the merger of GIS and BIM becomes the big, important innovation in the market. There is no more holistic way to present constructions, infrastructure projects, and entire regions. If spatial details are fed into BIM projects, construction projects can be viewed in a much larger context – in the context of their immediate surroundings and infrastructure, even the whole neighborhood or city. Factors such as topography, demographics, solar potential and noise pollution can be taken into account and determine where a house is built and how it is aligned – even what building materials are used.
The expectations of such cooperation are high – the software company Autodesk and Esri, manufacturers of geoinformation systems, recently joined forces. Users of the Autodesk Infraworks platform can already import data about roads and lines from Esri.