How Structural Engineering Can Benefit from Building Information Modeling (BIM)


The architecture, engineering, and construction sector constantly seek to be more productive, to work faster, more economically and with a higher quality.

This includes structural engineers, who are natural problem-solvers and interested in new ways of applying technology to their work processes to be more productive. One of the methodologies available for achieving this today is building information modeling (BIM).

The need to understand how Structural Engineering can benefit for BIM

The future of BIM is both exciting and challenging. The way that infrastructure projects are designed and constructed is constantly changing, and BIM is emerging as an innovative way to cope with such change. Even though it is a relatively new methodology, an increasing number of structural design professionals, including structural engineers, understand the potential benefits that it offers.

A 2013 report by Cesar Augusto Hunt from Utah State University, “The Benefits of Using Building Information Modeling in Structural Engineering” examines and highlights how structural engineering can benefit from BIM.

The report describes how lessons have been learned from other industries, such as car manufacturing and other complex engineering processes, particularly about pre-construction phases. In the 1980s design teams switched their methodology and started using 2D CAD techniques to change the way they worked, and now BIM has the potential to do that again.

The central feature that BIM provides is the ability to integrate intelligent objects in a digital model.  Intelligent objects contain data relating to specific components, from geometric characteristics to non-graphical information and component interactions. Structural BIM includes all the aspects related to the structure of a specific project.

Many consider BIM to be a second evolution of CAD and believe it offers multiple benefits for structural engineers throughout a project lifecycle. These are described here.

The benefits of BIM for Structural Engineers

Around the world, structural engineers appreciate the value of BIM and most using it are in favor of it.  Core benefits include the following: enhanced productivity, coordination, and visualization.

1. Productivity

  • Construction documents can be automatically generated when using a digital model, reducing the time required for structural detailing.
  • BIM also reduces the need to make extensive checks and assists in error-tracking in structural construction documentation, reducing duplication or omission.
  • The process of preparing a project for structural analysis becomes more efficient, as all data can be directly transferred from a digital model to structural analysis software.

2. Coordination

  • BIM serves as a platform for presenting structural analysis and design in an easy and shareable way, keeping all structural analysis and design information together.
  • A single digital model is used for both structural analysis and documentation, which assists in improving coordination between structural analysis and design and increasing project consistency. 
  • Improved coordination can enhance interoperability between team members’ software, allowing design team members, including structural engineers, to manage a project collaboratively and effectively.
  • Design results stored in a digital model become easily available for structural detailing processes.
  • Structures that are heavily dependent on scheduling and offsite prefabrication processes benefit widely from BIM.
  • Steel and precast concrete elements can be easily coordinated with BIM, improving delivery, installation, and handling, and reducing on-site storage requirements.

3. Visualization

  • The ability to simulate and check different structural scenarios through BIM assists with structural analysis and decision-making. BIM provides good project insight, enhances understanding and facilitates problem-solving and idea-creation processes.
  • Visualizations can be used to clearly present structural design ideas and help teams communicate their design intent.

Despite the numerous benefits of BIM, the principal challenge lies in trying to make the most out of all that it has to offer to structural engineers through improved productivity, coordination, or visualization. This being said BIM will continue to transform the construction industry, with structural engineering firms increasingly recognizing its multiple benefits.

This information has been brought to you by global BIM services provider IndiaCADworks.

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