BIM. What’s it good for?

March 13, 2017 by Arnaud Thibonnier

I once asked an engineer if she knew what BIM was.

“It’s building a 3D model to produce contract documents more efficiently,” she said. I kept waiting for the rest of the answer, but it never came.

You ask 10 different people that same question and you might have up to 10 different answers. According to Autodesk, BIM is “an intelligent 3D model-based process that equips architecture, engineering, and construction professionals with the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.”

To BIG RED DOG, this means that the information a client can pull from our BIM models is just as important as the contract documents that we can create from that model.

BIM has a lot of benefits, even if some of them aren’t as widely known. Let’s take a moment to look at a few of them.

One of the most obvious reasons to work in BIM is the speed and accuracy it provides for producing construction documents. BIM models are built on elements that have “parameters,” meaning the models will read and react to changes made to other modeled elements. For instance, if a floor-to-floor height changes, all elements using the floor as a reference point will adjust accordingly. A grid might shift plan-east 1’-0”, the steel columns on that grid will move with it, reacting to the modifications in the model. In both cases, the annotative “tags” will move with the model elements as well because they are tied to that element through its Element ID.

Moving a grid line in Revit

Another benefit that has the potential for massive cost savings is clash detection. Clash-detection software like Navisworks or Solibri can analyze a model that includes multiple trades. By clash testing a model before construction begins, any potential errors can be cut off at the pass, saving time and money. For example, finding a penetration interfering with a structural framing member during clash detection can save thousands. This can be done virtually using the BIM models before a single hour is wasted on the job site.

Detecting clashes in Navisworks

BIM also allows for model quantification. By pulling information from our BIM models, contractors can use programs like Navisworks or Assemble to add costs to model elements, providing more accurate bids. This takes the guess work out and increases the hit rate for securing projects.

BIM is evolving, and it’s evolving fast. Revit and Tekla are battling for domination as the go-to industry modeling platform. Solibri, Assemble and software like CostX are stepping into the marketplace, adding even more power to BIM’s already impressive capabilities. At the end, the winners are people like you and me — those who produce BIM models, and clients who want to see their investment effectively realized.

Next time someone asks you what BIM is, what do you think you’ll say?

If your project needs structural engineering, we’ve got the team for you. Check out our structural engineering page and contact us today. We’ve done this before.

Written by Arnaud Thibonnier

Arnaud Thibonnier

Arnaud is the Director of Structural Engineering Services in our Austin office. He received his Bachelor of Science – Architectural Engineering and Master of Science – Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. He is responsible for the design of efficient and effective structural systems for various types of commercial and residential projects, specifically multi-family and mixed use projects. Arnaud has over 10 years’ experience directing various structural evaluation and construction projects. In his free time, he enjoys following college football and spending time with his two dogs.