Ask any professional in the building industry what BIM is and, at the very least, he or she will have heard of it and—more likely than not—be using it (71 percent in 2012). Try posing that same question to land development professionals (engineers, owners or even landscape architects), however, and you’ll likely see their eyes glaze over. That shouldn’t be all that surprising; after all, it is building information modeling. While the word “building” can and probably should refer to the entire built environment, the National BIM Standard-United StatesTM definition and the current state of BIM would say it is likely only referring to an actual building or facility.
But when a commercial, industrial or residential site is transformed from its natural or deteriorated state into a developed one, land developers and other professionals are the ones designing and building the other components of that built environment. That includes the civil infrastructure—i.e., transportation (streets, railroads, pedestrian/bike trails), wet utilities (water, sanitary and storm sewer), dry utilities (electrical, communication), terrain (both shape and composition), landscape, traffic control devices, property boundaries, etc. The designs even incorporate non-built information, with topography, tree surveys, wetlands, floodplains and more.
From a modeling perspective, what do we call this civil infrastructure, if not a building information model? The emerging and appropriate term is a civil information model (CIM), which embodies the theoretical principles of BIM, but in the context of civil infrastructure.
While the moniker CIM may be new, its application is not. In fact, some companies have seen as much as 20 percent of their clients requiring CIM software on their projects. Following are several areas in which CIM can be beneficial to land development.