A Place for BIM

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February 06, 2015 Glenn Jowett

Smartphone technology is intimately woven through our lives. Once just for calls and texts, these now augmented devices enhance our lives, enabling us to check the weather, the traffic, pre-order our coffees, board a plane and pay the bills.

Applications, or apps as we know them, fulfil our personal needs in a way that 10 years ago we didn’t imagine would be possible. On that logic, then, it’s predictable that once the construction industry understands the true potential of Building Information Modelling (BIM), it will look back and wonder just how it survived without it.

Fundamental change is required to reduce waste and increase productivity and affordability in New Zealand’s construction sector. Research from AECOM’s annual Blue Book suggests the local construction sector is working within an environment of shifting demographics and limited public funding, and that it must adopt new ways of working to address cost escalation and improve the viability of major infrastructure projects. According to this research, success within these shifts is dependent on the leveraging of, in part, the integration of new technologies such as BIM.


Drafting has evolved over the years, from putting pencil to paper to draw lines representing a two dimensional object, to the use of CAD, the computerisation of the same process. The introduction of three-dimensional CAD allowed designers to create objects in three dimensions, which enabled greater visualisation and understanding of complex geometry. BIM goes one step further, allowing designers to place objects that encompass a wealth of data, from geometric information to location information and finishes. The key technological advance is that BIM allows the leveraging and reuse of structured data throughout the lifecycle of an asset.

BIM exploits the potential in computer-based modelling technologies to create, manage and share structured data about an asset throughout its lifecycle, from inception to refurbishment or demolition. It provides a significant step-change in the ability of design and construction teams to structure and exchange information around shared three dimensional models of a project. This can bring numerous benefits, including improved design coordination, reductions and certainty in design costs, and improved communication throughout the design and construction process.

These data-rich three dimensional models developed by the different design and construction disciplines can simulate projects before they are built. Designs can be developed and tested virtually so performance and cost are optimised.

They can be coordinated so potential problems are either designed out or avoided altogether. Ultimately, the benefits are not only in more efficient and effective design and construction processes, but in better and more certain project outcomes – improved assets that are more fit-for-purpose and meet their brief requirements and design intent. BIM is fundamentally a single source of truth - ensuring clarity, certainty and transparency.

Building information models can link or embed key product or asset data including manufacturer’s product manuals, service information and warranties. This centralises facility/asset information and promotes the effective management of information throughout an asset’s lifecycle.

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