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Building Information Modeling (BIM) paves path for District Information Modelling (DIM)


Building Information Projects, though are the best examples of coordination, they tend to stand divided organizationally. Each of the BIM stakeholders will have his own agenda and loyalties. Overall aims of any BIM project are likely to compete with the overall aims of individual stakeholders’ personal desires, or with that of the building construction company or with that of BIM modeling service providers. But it seems the human component is about to change the entire perspective about BIM.

Ask baby boomers and they will describe building design as, hand drawn with pencils, pens, rulers and drawing boards etc. First the personal computers became popular then affordable; but the real scenario changed with the emergence of Computer Aided Design/Drawings – CAD, in the early 1980s.

This transformative evolution was not instantaneous. Apart from other benefits, it reduced the task of design revisions effectively, making it more convenient and faster, ultimately enhancing the productivity and accuracy, on site as well off site for any building or infrastructure construction project.

The CAD era, then evolved into the Building Information Modelling era, fondly known as BIM. This also led to some remarkable technological transformations in the construction industry. It was the inception of convenient clash detections and solutions, reduced human error factors and repetitive activities with help of automated construction scheduling, followed with instantaneous sections and elevations.

The technological advancement of building modelling and simulations software such as Tekla, ANSYS Fluent and ANSYS Mechanical, have made it possible to run all sorts of simulations and calculations on the virtual model through BIM software, apps and plugins, cold bridge as well as thermal analysis, structural analysis, solar and lighting studies, and the one that effects the bottom line – building construction costing and scheduling.

District Information Modelling – DIM

In the near future, the BIM era is likely to make way for District Information Modelling (DIM). To pave the path for others, Europe has undertaken projects involving multi-disciplinary teams from multiple nations with participants from diverse backgrounds including architecture, engineering, philosophy, politics, sociology and geography. These participants or team members come from both, academia and industry background.

The industrial application of DIM is expected to provide increased interoperability across a range of software and stakeholders, digital file formats and professions, knowledge and shared information. This would ultimately empower architects, contractors and supply chain professionals with integrated virtual database for entire streets and districts. This is likely to prove extremely useful in large scale urban refurbishment projects.

Difference between BIM and DIM

BIM is technologically driven, whereas DIM tends to be socially driven. DIM projects are derived to focus on occupant engagement and stakeholders, social constructs, norms and values, team collaboration and project management, interpersonal relationships and communication, and value chains. To reach out to this thought process, DIM projects use brainstorming, focus groups, conducting interviews, circulating questionnaires and  surveys, and conducting workshops. All these participatory research tools are stakeholder oriented. The data obtained, is then utilized to develop digital tools like DIM. All these efforts will ultimately result in increasing the capacity of stakeholders to collaborate and interact more productively in order to reduce waste of resources, while developing energy efficient designs.

Time to move from Smart Buildings to Smart Cities

ICT – information and communications technologies are reportedly the key players against climate change. The teams at Horizon 2020; with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020), are trying to combine real-time sensor data with BIM and GIS models, in an effort to create district models, and to move from Smart buildings to Smart cities.

BIM is expected, and has the potential to provide massive increase in productivity, accuracy of design, error and waste prevention; however, there are always opportunities for betterment. Using BIM alone will not create smart buildings or cities and attain what it is designed for. The term smart building represents modern buildings with superior technologically, equipped with latest gadgets and sensors, hi-tech automation with centralized controls and several other cutting edge components. But all said and done, while managing all these, we tend to forget the main element of any building, the humans.

Let’s not forget that humans design, build and reside in buildings

But if a so called energy efficient building is not performing up to expectations, due to the occupants or the humans inhabiting it – the question that arises is WHY? What may be the possible causes?

  • Training imparted to occupants about the use thermostats, not to use heating/cooling simultaneously, was inadequate?
  • The design brief to the architectural design firm, by the BIM modeling services was unclear?
  • The technologies utilized for designing and developing the building construction project was not user friendly?

The larger a construction project with multiple complexities and more shareholders makes it all the more difficult to obtain a comprehensive all-inclusive design brief. Causes and reasons and clarifications can be numerous, but the outcome remains that the building was not build in a manner that suits how the residents occupy the building. The building was designed and built, where the user needs are not met. These needs, most probably are the ones that, should have been derived thoroughly at the inception stage itself. We agree to the fact that humans are not easily predicted or controlled, which stands true even for the ways we design, build and use our buildings.

Talking of technology, we all have come a long way and now clearly understand that technological visions are future oriented. They don’t tend to consider the social and human conditions to its fullest. This might be the reason why technology, including BIM, does not have answer to questions such as:

  • How do the stakeholders interact with each other?
  • How do the stakeholders interact with the building?
  • Who does what and when?
  • Why do they do it?
  • Who benefits the most and least?
  • Who loses and why?
  • Who wants what out of successfully completed building projects?

Away from the technological sphere with assistance of social science, outside the construction industry is where you may find answers to all these questions.

Developing a social science perspective about building designs can augment technological advances.  Many of you might find it to be essential, as one of the crucial steps in the evolution of architectural CAD drafting and design support process. A few of you may also conclude that it may help the structural steel drafting and detailing. Your expectations from architectural visualization services may change overnight. Even expert building energy modeling services, considering the human element or inputs, might have to hit their drawing boards again to incorporate it in all their energy efficiency strategies. This thought process has the potential to revolutionize the roles and responsibilities of professionals providing BIM architectural services and BIM consulting services.

The key to the entire transformation process is the co-designing and collaboration between designers and users and not only professionals. BIM is a data repository of building components, which aids the DIM initiative. However, we as humans will have to take that next logical step to gain insight in the BIM data to include multiple buildings and most importantly, the human components.

About Author: Gaurang Trivedi is Engineering consultant at TrueCADD. He has applied his engineering expertise across several highly complex and big scale projects, consequently managing to flawlessly deliver as per the client requirements.

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