Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a type of intelligent design process that allows for complete three dimensional representation of the physical space and functional characteristics of a facility. These programs facilitate coordination of all trades during the design and construction phases. This is done by moving what used to be coordinated in the field during construction, to being digitally analyzed and coordinated within the respective design consultants’ offices during design.

With BIM, an owner or facility manager can review multiple design scenarios and determine the most beneficial options available for their building. Architects and engineers are able to design using a 3-D BIM process rather than typical 2-D, allowing for greater accuracy in design and constructability. All parties involved in a project have access to a rendered model to see the finished product throughout the design process before construction even begins, allowing the team to visualize, simulate and ultimately improve the performance of a building.

Who is Using BIM and Why?
Estimates suggest that over half of the industry is now using BIM or BIM related tools. Architects and engineers use BIM to help them justify and implement their sustainability goals, while contractors use BIM for coordination and as a reliable cost estimating tool. Providing a progressive approach to design and construction, experience with BIM projects provides design and construction companies with an advantage over their competitors and aids in the design and potential cost saving measures of more complex projects. Owners want to save money, designers want to maximize their energy efficient designs, and contractors want to minimize field changes. BIM provides a winning strategy to accomplish each of these interrelated project goals.

Clash Detection
Some BIM software can provide an important tool for clash detection or interference checking. When a team is working on a BIM project, all parties can combine their design models within one central project model that is updated on a regular and frequent basis. By doing this, the intelligent component of the program can tell the designers where there are conflicts or “clashes.”

“After working on a project in Revit, we feel more comfortable with how the components of our design will fit within our clients’ buildings. Being able to have a weekly clash detection meeting consistently reminds us of the areas that need more attention and allows us to work through any issues before the drawings arrive in the hands of the contractor,” said Mo Ardebili, president of Energy Systems Design. This process can be effective, saving time and money that would have been spent on field changes.

BIM, Energy Modeling and Sustainable Design
The ability to evaluate different types of design practices and sustainable design measures is another important component of Building Information Modeling. For example, changes to various architectural systems can have numerous effects on mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. Three-dimensional modeling creates a comprehensive view into the physical operation of a building. This allows the designers to test out alternative design strategies to attain higher operational efficiency and performance. 3-D modeling of the various building systems can reduce materials usage by highlighting the best and most practical routing and installation methods. A building space can also be maximized and utilized in a more efficient manner. Another important factor in the sustainability of a project is creating a baseline of expectations of how your building should perform after construction is completed. BIM also adds an important value to a building’s site selection and its effect on the environment and its surrounding area by analyzing how it will tie into the existing infrastructure or how its size, shape and orientation will affect the final design.

When considering a new design or renovation of your own facility, BIM is an invaluable tool which allows you to make informed decisions during the design, research and development phases of a project. It has proven to save time and money for the owner, design professionals and contractors, making it a priority in efficient design and construction. In the complex world of the built environment, minimizing headaches by means of thorough design investigation is the key to a successful project. BIM has become a clear leader in this process and should be standard practice in future projects.

Halleh Landon

Halleh Landon is a vice president and electrical engineer at Energy Systems Design, an MPE engineering firm.