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Building Information Modelling (BIM) – A quick reference guide to BIM and ROCKWOOL BIM objects for architecture, design, engineering and construction professionals

An introduction to Building Information Modelling and its benefits

Commercial building with reflection

In the architecture, design, engineering and construction communities, project management—from concept and design through to the build phase, completion and operation—can be described a highly complex and challenging feat unto itself.  Its multiple layers, including communication and information sharing with clients and teams, and the sheer number of moving parts can be overwhelming, even to those most experienced. 

The traditional information exchange is cumbersome, at best, and leaves room for miscommunication and inefficiencies that can prove costly.  While the traditional model may be concerted, it is not streamlined.  In fact, it’s often fragmented, and as a result, all relevant parties may not have the same, updated or even complete information to keep the project moving forward on all cylinders.  This can impact workflows, timelines and approvals, plus lead to late-in-process changes, errors, or additional expenses that can add considerably to the project budget.  From a project management perspective, it’s less than ideal. 

Technology continues to be a catalyst for progress and evolution within the architecture, design, engineering and construction communities, and its next, big innovation—Building Information Modelling is poised to revolutionize processes and lead to better buildings and, ultimately, more sustainable cities.  While BIM is only starting to gain acceptance in North America, it’s anticipated that it will one day become an industry gold standard. 

This article will explore why and how it will have a transformative effect and examine the tools and objects that make it an invaluable resource.

What is Building Information Modelling (BIM)?

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Building Information Modelling or BIM is a way of working, a digital process for creating and managing information on a construction project across the project lifecycle. BIM supports the efficient design, delivery and maintenance of infrastructure and buildings.

One of the key outputs of this process is the Building Information Model, which is the digital description of every aspect of the built asset. This model draws on information assembled collaboratively from all teams who work on the project, and it is updated at key stages of the project.

It might include details such as plans, designs, drawings, modelling data, components and component data, performance data, costing, lifecycle info and more.

Various project teams that contribute to the BIM process may include architects, designers, specifiers, energy consultants, structural and HVAC engineers, civil engineers, construction managers, facilities managers, local building officials, etc.  Digital information contributed as part of the BIM process may include specifications, schedules, performance requirements, cost plans, drawings, performance modelling info, and more. 

The collective information and data from the teams that contribute to the Building Information Model exists in singular digital space.  This space is called a Common Data Environment (CDE), and it allows everyone to have shared, real-time access to up-to-date information about the proposed building or structure.  The CDE can be an extranet, a server or a cloud-based system.  The BIM process and its CDE streamlines the sharing of information with all projects teams, resulting in a smoother information exchange and wide range of benefits.

 

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Utilizing BIM as a process to manage a project and to help create a digital Building Information Model enables those who interact with the building to optimize their actions and provide a reliable basis for decisions during a building’s lifecycle from conception to demolition.  It allows for easier and better project coordination and collaboration with stakeholders, more efficient workflows, improved 3D visualizations, access to relevant supporting data, more accurate estimate and projections and better project outcomes.  This results in greater overall efficiencies and management, as well as greater value and potential savings for the asset throughout the life of the building.

What is BIM

  • BIM is a process of data collection and sharing, collaboratively through contributions by project teams, that facilitates the management of a construction project over its lifecycle, supporting efficient design, delivery and maintenance of the building.

What the BIM process creates or enables

  • A Building Information Model – a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility
  • 3D-objects, known as BIM objects, including technical information
  • Enables conflict or clash detection during the design phase to reduce late stage changes or eliminate potential issues involving various components or systems that may impact performance.
  • Modeling: business process for generating building data, such as material quantities, ascertain more accurate cost projections or performance projections.
  • Management: organization & control of the business process

The dimensions of BIM

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BIM dimensions refer to how particular data types are linked to the information model. Each dimension and the data that is added to it gives a broader understanding of the project, like its cost, how it will be delivered, what maintenance is required and so forth.

1D - COLLABORATIVE PROJECT - Documentation: BIM: 

Documentation is the foundation of any project.  Includes contracts and production of all documents and info to ensure the team is aligned with the work flow and management of data to be shared throughout the lifecycle of a project. 

2D - WORK FLOWS AND THE BIP-BIM IMPLEMENT PLAN: 

2D dimension is the earliest form of construction models. It constitutes a simple X-axis and Y-axis. These models are generally made by hand using manual processes or through the use of CAD drawings.  This stage includes the BIM Implementation Plan, also know as the BIM Execution Plan.    

3D – GEOMETRY - THE 3D MODEL (x, y, x axis) AND THE “I” OF INFORMATION (The “Shared Information or “Coordinated” Model) -

3D BIM is the most popular BIM dimension.  3D represents the 3-dimensional geographical structures of a building – that is the X-axis, the Y-axis, and the Z-axis of a building. 3D BIM entails the creation of graphical and non-graphical building information for the sole purpose of sharing it in a common data environment (CDE).  3D models are employed to schematic designs, design development and documentation, construction documentation, and record drawings.  3D BIM enables all the stakeholders to collaborate effectively for modeling and solving typical structural problems. Also, as everything is stored at a central location i.e. the BIM model, it becomes easier to resolve issues at a future stage.

The Benefits of 3D BIM

  • Enhanced 3D visualization of the entire project
  • Streamlined communication and sharing of design expectations; greater transparency
  • Easy collaboration between multiple teams irrespective of their area of expertise
  • Reduced instances of rework and revisions due to complete transparency from the beginning
  • With all info and data stored at a central location (the BIM model), it becomes easier to identify and resolve issues

4D – TIME ELEMENT or SCHEDULING DATA - PLANNING AND CHECKING CONFLICTS WHICH DELAY CONSTRUCTION.

Introduction of the dimension of time in the planning of a construction project.  Specific software for temporal planning, constructability and help for the detection of interferences and inconsistencies. This dimension includes 3D + Timeline + Scheduling + Duration.  As the project progresses, this detailed data is added to the components that are being built. 4D BIM is a tool for planning of activities on site. It can help in early conflict detection by seamlessly managing information related to site status and visualizing the impact of changes undertaken during the entire lifecycle.

The Benefits of 4D BIM

  • Enhanced site planning, including the schedule of all the construction phases
  • Improves understanding of how the project will evolve and stages of completion
  • Allows for better sequencing of the project and various processes and installations
  • Seamless coordination among architects, contractors and on-site teams.
  • Improves collaboration among stakeholders with clear deadlines
  • Reduces communication errors; reduces unnecessary or costly delays

5D - MEASUREMENTS, BUDGETS – This dimension includes 4D + Cost Estimation + Budget + Analysis. 

Reflects up-to-date methods for obtaining realistic budgets for a construction project. Interoperation between existing budget software and the BIM model. This model forecasts or predicts projects costs, which are updated as the project progresses.  The 5D approach allows cost reports to be modified at any time.  Therefore, cost arising from unforeseen circumstances or changes in design or other modifications can be reflected and adjusted for very quickly.

The Benefits of 5D BIM

  • Cost visualization; improved cost reporting and communication with client/owner/developer
  • Track impact on budget as a result of changes in scope, material, manpower or equipment requirements. With 5D BIM, one can easily extract the costs associated with a scenario and can factor in changes along the way.
  • Modifications can be made at any time with quick cost analysis for faster decision-making
  • Helps teams understand costs as it pertains to different parts of the project and identify efficiencies more readily

6D – SUSTAINABILITY – This dimension includes 5D + ENERGY EFFICIENCY + SUSTAINABILITY. 

Link the BIM model with the integration of environmental parameters. Link the BIM model with energy modelling and sustainability data.  This helps with energy estimates at the early design phases and modifications to optimize for efficiency.  6D BIM allows detailed analysis on the impact of a decision on economic and operational aspects over the entire building lifecycle.  Greater understanding of energy consumption and sustainability profiles enables better operational management of the building or structure after handover. 6D BIM technology takes the industry a step beyond the conventional approach that just focuses primarily on upfront costs associated with a project. It allows planning for long-term costs associated with operation and efficiency of an asset.

The Benefits of 6D BIM

  • Better understanding of impact of building on the environment
  • Better projection of energy consumption and costs
  • Can optimize for more efficient energy performance
  • Begins to account for economic and operational aspects of the project
  • Sustainable element and materials tracking
  • LEED Tracking or alignment with performance objectives (Passive House, Net Zero, Living Building, etc.)

7D – FACILITY MANAGEMENT – This dimension includes 6D + INFRASTRUCTURE AND REAL ESTATE MANAGEMENT + FACILITY AND ASSET MANAGEMENT Information.

The real beneficiary of a BIM model and its use in management throughout the completion of the infrastructure or construction. 7D BIM helps to monitor the management of the facility or asset right from the design stage to the demolition stage. The dimension is used to track important asset data such as its status, maintenance/operation manuals, warranty information, technical specifications.  It may provide information about a component’s manufacturer, installation date, maintenance schedule, configuration details for best performance, energy requirements and decommissioning information. 

The Benefits of 7D BIM

  • It makes the changing of building parts and general repair of a building/project throughout its entire cycle a very easy task.
  • Sets out maintenance process or schedules that must be followed. Helps facility managers understand the lifecycle of various building components and systems.
  • Ensures that all components of a project stays in its best shape from day 1 to the day of demolition of a structure.
  • Can help to maximize building longevity through effective planning, maintenance, repairs, operation, etc.

 

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8D, 9D, 10D and Beyond – Even deeper level of detail is the objective of 8D and beyond. 

This might include such elements as a link to the implementation of a building/asset’s health and safety plan to aid in health, safety and accident prevention from the construction phase through to facility management and decommissioning. Advanced BIM might account for real, as-built levels of detail and reflect greater digitalization and visualization of the project through innovative tools for 3D modelling such as laser scans, drones, AI/augmented/virtual reality.  BIM holds the potential to revolutionize the building industry and the built environment, but it first depends on greater adoption, inputs, standardization, and development. 

BIM and the architecture, design, engineering and construction communities

BIM is not a new concept. In fact, BIM has been in development since the late 70s and technologies such as Revit and ArchiCAD that began in the 80s are now 30 – 40 years old.  Industry awareness of BIM is strong, and the adoption of BIM has been increasing across North America and around the globe.  Statistics show that adoption rates have risen exponentially over the last decade or so. In some parts of the U.S., BIM is now required for publicly-funded projects over a certain value threshold. In Canada, the Department of National Defense (DND) began adopting BIM in a significant way a number of years ago.

Industry support of BIM adoption, implementation and standardization

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Canada

Several organizations support BIM Development adoption and implementation in Canada: the Canada BIM Council (CanBIM), the Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC) and buildingSMART Canada (the Canadian chapter of buildingSMART International).

Founded in December 2008, CANBIM is a consensus- and committee-driven organization for BIM in Canada developed by business leaders to standardize the use of models in architecture, engineering and construction. CanBIM has close to 100 architectural, engineering, contracting and trade firms, and is managed by industry volunteers, hosting events across Canada. Members fund and direct the priorities and activities through eight discipline focused committees.

The mission of the IBC is: “to lead and facilitate the coordinated use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) in the design, construction and management of the Canadian built environment.” Its founding partner organizations represent specific industry sectors with keen interest in seeing BIM implemented in a way, and at a pace, that enables the primary stakeholders to understand their roles and responsibilities and to assess their capacity to participate in this process.

buildingSMART Canada, the Canadian chapter of buildingSMART International, works in partnership with all Canadian Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owner and Operator (AECOO) community stakeholders including Canadian associations of architects, engineers, specification writers, contractors as well as public and private owners, government and industry. It creates standards and supports programmes and tools to ensure that Canada will be successful in its movement towards a better built environment supported through open and internationally compatible standards for BIM.

In Canada, the efforts made in recent years are notable, not only to encourage the adoption of BIM in the AEC (Architecture Engineering Construction) sector, but also and above all to approve targeted national policies. There is increased activity and collaboration with respect to BIM by industry, government and the academic sectors.  Promotion of BIM by various levels of government at the procurement level is starting to increase, albeit change has been a slow process.  Progress has been evident among Quebec and Alberta’s provincial governments who have taken concrete steps with respect to BIM recognizing that it could help reduce the cost of designing, building, maintaining and operating public infrastructure.  It’s been more common for public-private partnership RFPs to include BIM requirements.  Early adopters of BIM and increasing uptake continue to fuel further adoption as the desire to remain competitive is a key motivator.  Less fragmentation and greater collaboration exist among industry organizations invested in advocating for and driving BIM implementation, collaboration and standardization.  The academic community has also been involved in actively working to digitalize construction, strengthening the framework for BIM adoption by instilling the next generation of industry professionals with the required knowledge and skills.  This has been seen at institutions such as University of Alberta, l'École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) de Montréal and Carleton University.  There is a strong consensus that BIM will play an important part in the future of the AECOO industry in Canada.  How that happens and what it will look like is still to be determined. 

 

United States

In the United States, the Associated General Contractors of America and US contracting firms are also working to promote the BIM adoption and explore relevant processes.  To date, the U.S. has not adopted a set of national BIM guidelines, allowing different and competitive systems to remain in place.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a significant stakeholder in the future of BIM and the development of BIM standards.  It has defined BIM as "a model-based technology linked with a database of project information", and this reflects the general reliance on database technology as the foundation.

The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) has also taken on a leadership role in BIM.  NIBS is a non-profit organization that represents the collective interests of technical associations and construction companies. It is invested in addressing roadblocks and identifying solutions to drive the adoption of BIM in the USA. 

NIBS had spearheaded the development of BIM standards, specifically The National BIM Standards – United States (NBIMS-US™) v3 in 2015, through its project committee Building Smart Alliance, a council of building professionals from academia, government, for-profit and construction-related associations.  It aims to “provide consensus-based standards through referencing existing standards, documenting information exchanges and delivering best business practices for the entire built environment.”  It states that “with open BIM standards, we can build detailed models then deliver accurate products that can be used during commissioning and operation to ensure facility functionality throughout the life of the facility and to deliver high performance, carbon neutral, and net zero energy based facilities”

The National BIM Standards – United States (NBIMS-US™) v3 points the following possibilities with BIM:

  • a 5% reduction of the final construction costs
  • a 5% increase of speed for project completion
  • a 25% increase of AEC sector’s productivity
  • a 25% decrease of manpower use

The document underlines how AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) companies are obtaining a remarkable increase in return on investment thanks to the adoption of BIM. Therefore, BIM is considered an indispensable methodology for achieving innovation in the constructions processes.  The guide is available as a free PDF at nationalbimstandard.org.

A National BIM Guide for Owners was released in 2017 and can be downloaded upon request. Training resources are available through the Associated General Contractors of America’s BIM Education Program and BIM certification track. Learn more at agc.org

The US General Services Administration (GSA) through the Public Building Services (PBS) formulated the National 3D-4D-BIM Program way back in 2003, publishing some guidelines for the construction industry. This program established policy mandating BIM adoption for all Public Buildings Service projects.

The GSA is now exploring the adoption of BIM throughout the complete project life cycle, with the following guidelines available:

  • series 1 – 3D/4D BIM overview
  • series 2 – spatial program validation
  • series 3 – 3D laser scanning
  • series 4 – 4D phasing
  • series 5 – energy performance and operations
  • series 6 – circulation and security validation
  • series 7 – building element
  • series 8 – facility management

Overall, in North America, debate continues and there has yet to be clear consensus on how best to implement BIM, develop processes and standards as well as drive adoption. However, the digitalization of construction processes in the United States has evolved and will continue to evolve as the industry recognizes the need for and moves towards a collaborative approach to progress. 

The benefits of BIM

BIM benefits all players in the building project including designers, planners, owners, estimators, suppliers, fabricators, contractors, project managers, end users, investors and building operators.

The BIM process offers numerous benefits at each stage of the building process, some of which might include1:

Pre-construction benefits for owners

  • Concept, feasibility and design benefits with accurate cost estimation
  • Increased building performance and quality

Design benefits

  • Earlier and more accurate visualizations
  • Automatic low-level corrections when changes are made to design
  • Generate accurate and consistent 2D drawings at any stage
  • Earlier collaboration of multiple design disciplines
  • Easily check against the design intent
  • Extract cost estimates during the design stage
  • Improve energy efficiency and sustainability

Construction and fabrication benefits

  • Synchronize design and construction planning
  • Improved time estimation and better time management
  • Discover design errors and omissions before construction (clash detection)
  • React quickly to design or site problems
  • Use design model as a basis for fabricated components
  • Better implementation and lean construction techniques
  • Synchronize procurement with design and construction

Post-construction benefits

  • Better manage and operate facilities
  • Integrate with facility operation and management systems

1BIM Handbook - A Guide to Building Information Modeling for Owners, Managers, Designers, Engineers, and Contractors. Pages 16 - 21.  Authors: Chuck Eastman, Paul Teicholz, Rafael Sacks, Kathleen Liston.

Additional benefits of the BIM process might also include:

  • A greater understanding of customer requirements from the outset, so teams can deliver accurately on client needs, rather than what they think the client wants.
  • Better collaboration among all teams, including the owner/client
  • Expertise from the supply chain engaged from the beginning for the process.
  • Access to information up to 25 per cent faster, vastly improving efficiency, saving time, reducing timelines and potentially costs.
  • Better cost control/predictability
  • Faster approval cycles
  • Improved safety
  • Reducing or potentially eliminating the need for as-built data, as designs can be completed more accurately prior to construction
  • Minimize errors and avoid waste of time and money
  • Project teams able to better support the business outcomes of its customers through goal-oriented designs
  • Contributing to customer success rather than basic customer satisfaction
  • Better designed and constructed buildings that provide better performance, durability and resilience and better value, as well as a more responsible process that balances project objectives with those that contribute to a more progressive built environment that respects people and the planet.

What is a BIM object?

The Building Information Model is comprised of individual building components or, in some cases, groups of building components such as a wall system.  Each component or system within the 3D Building Information Model is known as a BIM object.  When you explore or click on a different part or component of the 3D representation, you’re able to access information about it.  

A BIM object is a combination of many things:

  • Information content that defines a product
  • Product properties, such as thermal performance
  • Geometry representing the product’s physical characteristics
  • Visualization data giving the object a recognizable appearance
  • Functional data, such as detection zones, that enables the object to be positioned and behave in the same manner as the product itself

BIM object file types; where and how they are used

There are many ways in which data can be managed in a BIM workflow, and as a result there are a number of different file formats that can be used.

Typically, users work with specialist software, such as Orion (structural engineers), Vectorworks (mechanical engineers), Autodesk Civil 3D (civil engineers), etc. Having a sound knowledge of the data and file formats used helps make informed decisions when choosing software packages, and agreeing protocols for collaboration.

File formats are either proprietary or non-proprietary.

Non-proprietary file formats

Proprietary file formats are those that are only readable by their own and other permitted software. This use of proprietary formats may hamper interoperability if project team members are using different types of software.

Non-proprietary file formats

Non-proprietary file formats are vendor-neutral which means they can be read and edited by any type of software. Often these are open source, with international collaboration for their development. 

File Formats available for ROCKWOOL BIM Objects

RVT – This is Autodesk’s proprietary format for Revit files. These can vary significantly in size depending on the level of development. They can only be opened in Autodesk’s Revit BIM program. 

IFC - The most common non-proprietary format for BIM is the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) which is a standard, open and neutral data file format for sharing/transfer of BIM data among different BIM software applications. The files are arguably the most information-rich BIM files.  A number of programs (some of which are also certified by buildingSMART) can open IFC files, including Revit, Navisworks, Edificius, Allplan and BricsCAD, etc.  

ROCKWOOL BIM Objects and Resources

ROCKWOOL BIM objects can be found via ROCKWOOL’s BIM Solutions Finder (bim.rockwool.com), which allows logged-in users to view downloaded models and to search for BIM objects by product type or building element. 

ROCKWOOL BIM objects are also available through the popular industry resource BIMobject.com  Link: https://www.bimobject.com/en-us/product?freetext=rockwool 

When it comes to ROCKWOOL insulation products and corresponding BIM objects, a wide and relevant data set is available and may include:

  • Mechanical properties as compressive strength, density, elasticity, dimensional stability, etc.
  • Thermal properties as thermal conductivity and resistance, emissivity, vapor resistivity, etc.
  • Acoustic rating and fire rating, flammability rating

Additional product information that may be of interest to BIM users (although not currently included in ROCKWOOL BIM objects) may include:  

  • Certifications as green guide rating, ozone depletion potential, global warming potential
  • Laboratory tests
  • Installation date, life cycle phase, service life duration, service life type
  • Model reference and label
  • Manufacturer, production date, serial number
  • Information on Sustainability
  • Cost
  •  

Data “written” in BIM object files

Data not directly extracted from external document by software

Example of other relevant product (BIM object) data:

  • Manufacturer
  • Material
  • Density
  • Vapor resistivity
  • Acoustic rating
  • Fire rating
  • Data for EPD

PDF files can be attached to the model for additional information, such as:

  • acoustic testing and declaration labels, etc.

BIM – A future-friendly solution for better buildings and a more progressive built environment

The nature of the industry is changing as BIM-based building design and construction grows and intersects with new technologies, new delivery methods and new business models. The degree of collaboration, the kind of information flows, the risk-management scenarios and the alternate project delivery approaches—including modular and pre-fabricated construction—are all reflective of this change. To survive, firms must strategically position their use of technology, starting with BIM.  Not only is it the only way to remain competitive in an industry that embraces a more advanced, integrated and streamlined approach, BIM is simply superior over more traditional processes.  It empowers teams with greater information, faster, and contributes to better outcomes all around – for project teams, for owners/clients, facility operators/managers, end users and the environment.

ROCKWOOL supports BIM, especially as it delivers on goal-oriented design and complements ROCKWOOL’s own efforts toward helping achieve more durable, resilient, safe, efficient and sustainable buildings that benefit people and the planet.