The construction library
Digitalization is expanding everywhere, and the construction industry is no exception. Germany is still not a BIM country. In the industry, the popular opinion on this digital planning process varies from euphoria to skepticism. For many, BIM is just a huge question mark. The FORMLINER FAQs have all the BIM answers you need:
What is BIM?
Building Information Modeling, or BIM for short, is a working method for the construction industry. It is not a software but a process: BIM stands for a way of planning that encompasses and centrally manages all information and virtual models for a construction project from preplanning to dismantling.
The collected construction models work like a library that contains all information about the building. These can be viewed throughout the whole life cycle of the project, and serve as the foundations for any decisions concerning the planning and construction process, facility management and dismantling. It doesn’t just use information directly relevant to the construction, but also general project information: dimensions, quantities, floor plans, 3D models and visualizations, costs and budget, schedule and completion dates, resources, even profit targets for the building – the BIM approach makes all this information available for everyone involved in the project.
Many model elements are intelligent and know their physical attributes. This facilitates a new level of optimization, even if data is changed later on, that can be transferred to new calculations and entered into the relevant module. An example: the number of windows is changed. The architect notes the change in the visual model, and the number of windows automatically changes in the quantity calculations, cost plan and the order list. BIM makes construction projects more transparent, more efficient and more cost-effective.
Is BIM mandatory?
No. The German Ministry for Traffic and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) has, however, come up with a step-by-step plan to facilitate introducing the digital planning, construction and management of buildings. The BMVI has addressed this mostly to public clients and contractors and will follow this plan when implementing their own construction projects.
The first step has already begun and will be completed in 2017. The BMVI defines this time as the preparation phase, which will be dedicated to creating a BIM guide as well as standardization processes and pilot projects. In mid-2017, the advanced pilot phase will begin, during which more and more infrastructure projects will be carried out using the BIM requirements from phase 1. At the end of 2020, phase 1 BIM should have been so widely implemented that it will be used for all infrastructure construction projects.
What will change for planners?
For planners and architects, BIM initially means learning: how are BIM files generated, how is BIM data evaluated, how do you deal with a database available to many parties, how do you exchange information? In practice, working with BIM means a rebalance of work: the central database is set up at the beginning of the project. To this end, lots of data has to be collected at the beginning of the project and entered into the various model levels. This high workload at the beginning actually reduces the workload for permit planning, implementation and specialist planning, as many details can simply be taken from the model.
For planners, BIM means digitally working with large data sets and in coordination with various parties. This method facilitates more efficient processes, but requires a lot of communication and coordination at the beginning.
Isolated solution, 3D or 7D… what?
The roll-out of construction data modeling to all project data and processes as a complete BIM solution is an expensive and complex ideal scenario. Many planning offices are therefore approaching the topic more cautiously, and are opting for “little BIM”, which refers to an “isolated solution” within a company or planning discipline. In this case, some specific disciplines use BIM-capable software solutions in their planning work. Often, this isolated solution is the simple consequence of the fact that not all parties in the planning chain are capable of providing BIM-compliant models and data.
The more participants linking their data, the more multi-dimensional the BIM data: the three-dimensional building model can be expanded by the parameter of time, creating 4D-BIM: the whole construction process can then be visualized, which optimizes time management and logistics. If quantities, construction costs and resources such as construction materials, machines and personnel are also taken into account, this is 5D-BIM. 6D-BIM applies to models that even make the building’s life cycles part of the planning. If aspects of building management, demolition and disposal of materials are considered in advance, this has a positive effect on sustainability. And finally, there’s 7D-BIM, which also encompasses building use and facility management.
A look at these various expansions shows: BIM is possible even for small-scale novices and can be expanded step by step.
What advantages does BIM offer?
Planning construction projects solely using digital means makes all project data available to all parties involved at all times, and therefore facilitates a significant level of process optimization. The study by Roland Berger and the Hypo Vereinsbank bank “Changing Construction – Trends and Potential up to 2020” explains the benefits for individual players: “The client has access to a tool for simpler monitoring of the construction process. Planners can communicate and coordinate more easily during the decision and planning process. Material suppliers can offer new product models and services for the construction industry. BIM allows the contractor to increase their cost security, as quantities and costs can be established based on the model”.
As long as all participants take their role within the digital construction process seriously and actively contribute, BIM can create more transparency for all sides, prevent miscommunications, speed up the planning and construction process, and save money and headaches.
How does BIM save money?
We admit: if you opt for BIM, you will have to pay for it: it often requires high-performance computer hardware, new software and training. The costs can quickly add up to five figures, and can be a challenge especially for smaller planning offices.
But the investment is worth it: because BIM improves work processes and manages data centrally, information only has to be entered once, planning alternatives can be analyzed more quickly, and construction and installation processes can be simulated in advance in detail so there are no surprises on site. The more complex the project, the bigger the potential saving – that’s why people are talking about the BIM-BAM-BOOM effect: more efficient and forward-looking BIM planning has a positive effect on the production and construction phase (Building Assembly Modeling, BAM) and, finally, the operational phase (Building Owner Operator Model BOOM). BIM therefore also offers benefits for clients and investors. Planning and construction errors can be recognized early and avoided, reducing project risks.
What are the challenges?
As varied as the possibilities and benefits are, the current existing insecurities and sources of friction cannot be ignored.
One such problem is to do with fees: it is currently not clear how the additional planning workload should be charged, who this cooperatively entered BIM data belongs to, or who is liable for planning errors.
The compatibility of data sets exchanged among the individual parties involved is still a problem. From the concept to the construction and management, various players create large amounts of information in different data formats, for which interfaces and mutual standards have to be created. That’s why associations such as BuildingSmart International, who are strongly behind the acceptance and expansion of BIM, are developing BIM-compliant data transfer standards like the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) for transferring basic data models.
As already stated, the amount of data required to work with BIM means a high level of communication and cooperation. This point is often seen as an annoying or unnecessarily complicated result of the digital process by BIM skeptics in Germany. This view stems from the fragmented German planning scene, which has established a strong sense of competition over the years. But if you really want to make use of all the benefits that come with BIM, this might require a bit of reconsideration and viewing the digital planning process as a chance for a new, collaborative way of working.