Whether they’ve been asked to explain BIM the concept or BIM the technology, the industry experts usually start breaking down this complex solution by breaking down its simple acronym first. In it, B stands for Building, I is for Information, while M highlights the Modeling aspect of BIM.
But you wouldn’t be reading a software guide for a technology you know nothing about.
You being here means that BIM the concept has already piqued your interest enough to make you want to consider procuring a suitable BIM the technology solution for your AEC organization. If so, you’ve come to the right place. If not, don’t worry, we’ll cover the basics nevertheless.
Here’s everything you need to know about what BIM software is and how to choose one.
BIM Concept 101
Building information modeling, more commonly referred to as BIM, is a collaborative method of working which is based on the generation and exchange of data and information between the various project parties.
BIM allows everyone to plan more efficiently, create more precise designs, complete their work faster, and manage the infrastructure in a better way.
What Is BIM Software?
Essentially, BIM the concept is designed as a set of practices that can help you improve every aspect of any AEC project, from design to construction to management. Its purpose is twofold – it builds not only visually appealing 3D models but also layers upon layers of important metadata.
BIM technology allows you to do all this from a centralized platform.
BIM software is, therefore, more than just a design tool.
It too relies on Information and Modeling in order to make Building better but easier. To achieve that, BIM software combines 3D modeling software and information management tools. Modeling is only one part of this solution. If that was all BIM could do, it would have been just a fancy CAD.
So in order to explain what BIM software is, we must define what it is not.
BIM software is not CAD software, nor is it an enhanced version of it.
The Information part of BIM software is its key differentiator, as it allows AEC professionals to interact, collaborate, and render the aforementioned metadata within a modeling workflow. That way, architects, engineers, and constructors can work on the project simultaneously.
BIM is a concept that allows these professionals to consolidate different layers of information used for designing, constructing, and operating various building systems. Putting these pieces together in BIM software provides them with a holistic view of the project – a single “master” model.
As such, BIM software supports a multidiscipline collaborative design.
Feature-wise, it includes the following:
Tools for Architectural Design
To help architects build high-quality models with ease, BIM software includes tools for conceptual sketching, all-around architectural modeling, and 3D design visualization, as well as real-time analysis.
Tools for Structural Engineering
Solutions for structural engineering and fabrication are also included, from physical and analytical modeling to reinforcement detailing in 3D designs to structural documentation and bidirectional linking.
Tools for MEP Engineering
BIM software’s MEP engineering toolkit comes with convenient features for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical professionals to help them design, fabricate document, and model complex MEP systems.
Tools for Construction
BIM software provides constructors with an in-depth augmented view of the design intent models, but also with tools for quick and user-friendly construction modeling, coordination, and fabrication.
With BIM software, all these professionals from multiple disciplines can share and save their work to the same centrally managed project, exchange model information, and also collaborate in real-time.
BIM software takes the best parts of 3D modeling solutions and integrates them with tools for metadata management and collaborative features in order to help all AEC professionals, not only architects, create complex building projects from inception to realization and beyond.
In fewer words, BIM software encompasses the entire lifecycle of an AEC project.
How to Choose BIM Software?
But how do you choose the right BIM software for your needs?
Do you focus on specific features and custom-tailor your BIM solution to your AEC requirements? Do you leave anything out or do you need all of the aforementioned BIM functionalities? What if you don’t have in-house experts from all AEC disciplines? Do you start small and scale later?
This is a good moment to introduce BIM maturity levels.
BIM the concept revolves around the collaboration between a number of AEC professionals during a project’s lifecycle, and BIM maturity system serves to classify 4 different levels of their involvement in the project, and with that, the number of dimensions used in the process, from 3D to 8D:
- 3D (visual) – project visualization
- 4D (time) – planning and scheduling construction activities
- 5D (cost) – estimating budget and tracking costs
- 6D (operation) – operation and facility maintenance from construction to completion
- 7D (sustainability) – estimating and reducing energy consumption
- 8D (safety) – drawing emergency plans and preventing safety issues.
At the outdated BIM Level 0, the collaborative workflow practically doesn’t exist – this maturity level is essentially equated with 2D. BIM Level 1 introduces partial collaboration and allows the exchange of 2D and 3D information via an online CDE (Common Data Environment) repository.
In addition to 2D and 3D, BIM Level 3 adds 4D and 5D information, thus enabling AEC professionals from various disciplines to share common file formats and integrate their work into a unified model. However advanced, this is still not a “master” model that modern BIM aims to achieve.
The “master” model includes the remaining three dimensions as well and uses cloud computing to ensure seamless exchange, integration, and unification between different AEC disciplines. This is BIM Level 3, which is also known as Open BIM, iBIM, or the Holy Grail of the BIM concept.
In choosing BIM software, you’ll be choosing between Levels 1, 2 and 3.
Anything less than that doesn’t match the modern-day standard of BIM the concept.
The usual considerations of IT procurement, such are user experience and cost-effectiveness, won’t help you choose the best BIM software solution, and here’s why. Regardless of the level you choose, most BIM solutions are highly sophisticated, user-friendly, and beneficial to your budget.
These are the questions you need to ask instead:
- Which exchange formats are supported by BIM software?
- Which AEC features and tools does the solution include?
- How many people can work on a project at the same time?
- How many dimensions and maturity levels does it support?
Depending on your specific requirements and procurement budget, the answers to these questions should help you determine the best BIM software for your needs. By definition, it must include tools for digital construction and information management, so don’t settle for anything less.
How to train employees to use BIM software
While communicating your needs to a BIM provider, it’s not a bad idea to ask them one more question – whether or not they provide a training program for new users. If the solution you’ve chosen is any good, it won’t be very hard to master. But BIM is still a complex concept.
The problem is, you cannot use software BIM without concept BIM.
You’ll still need to set up standards for the workflows, objects, and templates you’ll be using in your projects. Without everyone from the team on the same page, you won’t be able to achieve the quick, efficient, and frictionless multidisciplinary collaboration that was promised.
That said, you should have discipline-specific content libraries with model templates set up before the training begins. This will make the system onboarding much easier, help your team get used to the new system quicker, and reduce the number of resources you’ll spend during training.
As for the actual training, continual learning is key.
Professional associations, such as the Association of General Contractors of America, National Association of Homebuilders, and American Institute of Constructors can help you discover many authorized providers of continual education for BIM the concept and BIM the technology.
eLearning programs are the best option for your AEC professionals, as they improve retention rates while reducing training times to a minimum. Bing designed with employed professionals in mind, webinars and online courses allow highly personalized and self-paced learning as well.
But when it comes to your BIM software specifics, nobody can train your staff better than the people who’ve built the tools. Because of this, available training programs and responsive technical support should be very high on your list of priorities when choosing your first BIM solution.
Why you should use BIM software?
Here are the top reasons why you need to embrace BIM software now:
1. Capture reality
While you may not care what everything looks like for an upcoming project, you should know that your job is going to be much easier if you can capture reality sooner than later. In fact, BIM software can help you make changes to a design or a plan as soon as you notice that there is an issue with what you already have in place.
2. Keep things simple
So many construction projects require duplicate drawings and revisions, but when you utilize BIM software, you can avoid many of those issues. Instead of revising drawings, or creating brand-new ones, you can simply make the changes within the software in a few minutes and be ready to continue on with the project.
3. Keep control at all times
Lost paperwork can wreak havoc on any project and that is why BIM software can be quite helpful. Most of the software has autosave features, as well as a way to look at the history of the project, so everyone can see when changes and additions were created.
4. Collaborate better than ever before
It is much easier, and better, to collaborate with others on a project using BIM software instead of paper drawings. One of the reasons is that everyone does not need to be in the same room during the collaboration process. You can also share changes and markups immediately with others.
5. Visualize everything and simulate when needed
Being able to visualize how everything is going to look inside a building or a home is key to a successful build, as you can notice errors before the work even begins.
6. Resolve conflicts immediately
As you can probably see, BIM software is perfect for detecting issues long before the work begins. This is especially true when it comes to electrical areas and ductwork being placed close to beams. If you can see all these items using the software program, then you will be able to make changes before the trouble begins. Plus, you won’t have a room or two completely wired, and all the ductwork run, only to find out that it is all going to need to be redone since it interferes with a beam or something else.
7. Create an easy to follow step by step plan
Most BIM software will allow you to create a step by step plan for the entire construction process, which will save you time and money.
8. Have your plans wherever you are
Almost every BIM software program is cloud-based so that you can access your plans no matter where you are. If you have a meeting halfway across town instead of in your office, you can easily access the information there.
What’s the best BIM software?
The best BIM software is the one that serves your project objectives well.
The best BIM software ensures effortless collaboration.
It integrates with your existing applications seamlessly and it doesn’t require you to turn your existing workflows upside down but improves the good practices you’ve already established by bringing everyone to the same, centralized platform for designing, building, and managing.
The best BIM software ensures effortless collaboration.
By integrating 3D modeling software with information management, it empowers your team to efficiently and effectively manage different parts of the same projects and make better decisions throughout the project lifecycle. With that, it yields the following benefits:
- Improved multidisciplinary coordination.
- Increased productivity and efficiency.
- Improved time management and faster delivery.
- Reduced risk of delays, errors, and information loss.
- Maximized quality of project deliverables.
- Reduced project costs and higher ROI.
Now that you’ve learned the basics of BIM the concept, understanding the subtle differences in available BIM technology shouldn’t be so hard. Define your requirements and set your objective first. That, along with thorough research, will help you choose the best BIM software for your needs.