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Building Information Management (BIM)

Digital transformation is now underway in the construction industry. For a long time, the industry lagged behind on this front, as well as on research and development, coordinated project planning, and performance management, as McKinsey and others have stressed in numberless reports.[1] BIM has been adopted more and more over the last decade, on the advice of groups like the UK BIM Alliance and the BIM Delivery Group for Scotland who push for the adoption of BIM Level 2.

Their efforts have focused mostly on public sector, though there has been marked interest from retail and transport as well. And for the last few years, it has been commonplace for public sector projects to adopt BIM Level 2 where appropriate. BIM, or Building Information Modelling, means that architects, engineers and construction workers can collaborate using a single 3-D model of a building. That way they can plan, design, and construct the building with a common reference point, and that, in turn, means they can take a whole lifecycle approach to optimising energy efficiency, for example, or reducing carbon emissions.

One of our main concerns as an IoT integrator is to encourage a whole lifecycle approach: in order to optimise building performance during the operational phase, and in order to postpone through future-proofing the demolition date, it is essential to encourage the adoption of digital infrastructure at the design phase. We often use the mantra ‘know the end from the beginning’, and this is really an imperative injunction to plan for net zero compliance, plan to be future-ready through IoT, plan for the changes that we forecast to the carbon tax regime. BIM allows for this. It lets designers apply real-world conditions to the model, test out new materials in simulation, and otherwise ensure compliance with the agreed standards and specifications.[1]

Crucially then, BIM bridges the gap between the construction and operation phases of a building lifecycle. It could also help to mitigate value engineering, or the hemorrhaging effect that occurs when building capabilities are lost to the pursuit of cheaper and cheaper substitutes meant to deliver the same functionality. In practice, value engineering means that subcontractors save money during construction and building owner-operators spend a lot more money due to inefficiencies over the operational life of the building. BIMs not only contain information about height and width but about the properties of components, about cost, time, sustainability, even safety, and this shared knowledge resource forms the basis of informed decision making.[2]

A detailed digital representation of a building could also enable nascent technologies like virtual reality (VR) or more proximate technologies like augmented reality (AR) in building maintenance. Tasks that require too much dexterity to be fully automated could be performed by engineers using headsets; assets could be mapped onto the standard BIM model, and manipulated easily with access to all relevant information. With real time information about asset performance, maintenance procedures would be improved, and building performance would be kept optimal for longer. When we talk about “future proofing”, we are talking in part about the importance of BIM.

In short, the widespread adoption of BIM represents a change in thinking. In an industry where projects traditionally involved separate groups with separate pools of knowledge and mutually incompatible software, BIMs constitute an entirely new, integrated approach where participants collaborate using the same information. As adoption continues to grow, we expect to see continued efficiency gains and value enhancement.

[1] https://damassets.autodesk.net/content/dam/autodesk/www/pdfs/autodesk-ebook-bim-getting-started-guide-bldgs-en.pdfp.5

[2] https://www.letsbuild.com/blog/what-is-bim-what-are-its-benefits-to-the-construction-industry

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