Building Information Modeling: Projects Simplified

Ben O'DellSteel Industry

In the process of construction, it is important for all project parties to have an understanding of the project as a whole, the building phases in which the project will be completed, and the pieces necessary to complete each phase. In order to achieve this, more and more architecture firms, engineering firms, fabrication companies and construction companies are implementing Building Information Modeling (BIM) into their method for operation. But what exactly is BIM? How does it work? And how is it important?

What is Building Information Modeling?

Building Information Modeling (BIM) allows every party involved in the construction of any project to view a 3D model of the final project as well as the individual pieces used for the construction. To state it simply, BIM can show you the building (or any other kind of project ranging from roads to marine architecture) and also the nuts, bolts, tools, beams, platforms and every single piece involved in the construction process.
Tekla, one industry provider of Building Information Modeling, describes BIM as, “one or more accurate virtual models of a building are constructed digitally. . . When completed, these computer-generated models contain precise geometry and data needed to support the construction, fabrication, and procurement activities through which the building is realized.” (Tekla).

When asked to explain BIM in layman’s terms, Jose Gonzalez, Draftsman and Project Manager at Huntington Steel & Supply, said, BIM is “ . . . like building with legos. You have a vision and you start stacking. . . If someone says ‘I need to know how you did that’ I can show them every piece as well as the final project.”

With this type of 3 Dimensional digital prototype, you can not only view the entire finished project from all sides and angles, but also the specific dimensions of each object involved in your construction. In this way, prime precision, accuracy, and completeness of project are achieved.

How Does Building Information Modeling Work?

This is a complex question, so to explain it in simpler terms, it his helpful to look at each letter of “B.I.M.”

B - Building

The “B” in BIM stands for “building” as we have previously covered. However, when it comes to this software, building should not be understood as a physical building, but rather should be thought of in the sense of its verb “to build.” BIM is a tool that is used for constructing the pieces of a project, not simply for visualizing what a structure will look like on its opening day.

I - Information

The “I” in “BIM” stands for information. This gets to the beginnings of how this software actually works. Every project begins with a client. This client who owns land and wants to build something goes to an architecture firm. There, the architect and the client discuss the use, vision and details of the project. Once the project details are solidified, the architect enters all the information into the BIM software.

From there, the project is delivered in BIM format to a structural engineering firm which analyzes the soundness of the structure. The structural engineer will enter his/her information and any necessary changes into the software to ensure a solid final structure.

After the structural engineering firm has done its job, the project will then be delivered to all necessary contractors who will look at the practical implications of the virtual project and look for potential problems or clashes in how the project will eventually come together. If necessary, the contractors may also enter their information into the software.

BIM also allows for information such as pricing, performance ratings and projected lifetime of a structure to be entered so that all project parties understand what is happening on all levels of a project at all times.

What is also useful about BIM is the fact that any member of this process can view and make changes to the model as necessary at any point from anywhere.

M - Modeling

The “M” in “BIM” stands for “modeling.” Once all the information has been entered, the software has created a virtual prototype of the final structure which can be manipulated to view only certain parts from its skeleton all the way down to its literal nuts and bolts.

What are the Practical Customer Benefits to BIM?

Errors and Optimization

Architects, engineers, contractors, fabricators and erectors who use BIM are best equipped to yield flawless projects. With 3D modeling, every piece, big and small, can be seen from all sides and angles. BIM increases cost-effectiveness for both the fabricator and customer in catching errors, analyzing them and solving them before there are any physical pieces that come together. Alternative solutions to the current skeleton of the project are also explored to maximize efficiency of product and cut waste. BIM can also be used to develop phases for the project which can be fabricated by priority of erection so that optimum construction speed is achieved.

Coordination and Model Sharing

BIM also allows for increased collaboration and communication between all project parties. At any point from anywhere in the world, the whole project model and any piece of it can be seen by the architect, structural engineer, draftsman, project manager, fabricators and erectors so that everything comes together smoothly and the workers on site have all the pieces needed to complete the project with both precision and efficiency.


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Not only do the erectors have what the pieces that they need on time because of BIM, but BIM also allows for 3D sequencing and erection visualization. This increases efficiency and eliminates any installation hold-ups.

To sum it up. . .

In terms of construction, Building Information Modeling is the best option for the highest level of overall quality, efficiency and a communication of a project, and vital to the modern construction process.