To BIM, or Not to BIM? (Editor's Window)

31 May, 2007 By: Amy Stankiewicz

That's the question, but what does the acronym stand for anyway? And can it really benefit everyone involved in the design-build-operate arena?

There's nothing like attending back-to-back AEC conferences and speaking with a variety of people to obtain a better understanding of the (often disparate) views on an emerging technology. In this case, I'm referring to last month's BE (Bentley Empowered) user conference and the American Institute of Architects' (AIA) annual convention and the discussions that took place surrounding the concept (or technology, depending on where you sit) of BIM.

What exactly is BIM, and why should firms make the effort to change their workflows to accommodate it? When should they start taking BIM seriously—before their customers demand it or after they've achieved a reasonable amount of success revamping procedures to accommodate greater collaboration with contractors?

What should drive the adoption of a new technology in building design—the capabilities of the technology itself or the growing need to streamline the relationships that comprise the design-build-operate arena? What does BIM stand for? Building information model(ing), building integration modeling or building information management?

Many of these questions can be answered only by taking into account where the responder fits into the process of getting something designed, built and managed. When it comes to architects, Ed Goldberg cites in this issue of Cadalyst that a little more than 16% of firms reported having acquired BIM software, and approximately 10% reported using it for billable work. This is according to a survey of 3,000 firms conducted by AIA last year. Of the firms surveyed that have BIM software, most use it for design development (91%), schematic design (86%) and construction documentation (81%).

"As an analyst, I tend to give the impression that everyone in the industry knows about all the productivity enhancements in the new programs. However, the truth is that many conservative offices just aren't aware of or don't care about them," Goldberg says in this month's "AEC in Focus" column. "That may change, however, as it becomes more and more evident that technologies such as BIM enhance cost-savings and productivity initiatives. Only time will tell."

But what, exactly, is BIM? "A BIM makes use of interoperability among a wide range of information technologies to enable efficiencies," states Sam Bacharach, executive director of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), which is assisting the National BIM Standard Project Committee and the Building Smart Initiative of the International Alliance for Interoperability with the development of a National BIM Standard.

Of course, this definition doesn't detail the back-end efforts that must be exerted to accommodate a 3D design solution. How much time will it take to implement BIM? How much will it cost? Do my customers even care if I use it?

"Only time will tell" what the real definition of BIM is, as well as how the technology will impact all of the players in the field. So stay tuned, and as always, feel free to contact me with your own thoughts on the topic.

Amy Stankiewicz
Editor-In-Chief, Cadalyst

About the Author: Amy Stankiewicz

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