Business Information Modelling (BIM): What is it and what part does it play in our industry?

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been around for a long time in the US, and in recent years it’s made its way into the mainstream building services industry here in the UK – but what is BIM? Why has it become so important to client and tendering practices within the sector, and how is it helping to advance digital engineering?


77% of construction and engineering companies believe that BIM is the future and the Government are requiring that fully collaborative 3D BIM be a minimum by the end of 2016


What is Business Information Modelling (BIM)?

In a nutshell, Business Information Modelling is changing the way buildings and wider infrastructure are planned and developed. From design through to execution and maintenance, advanced BIM solutions take raw data and turn it into valuable, actionable information that can help deliver value during every stage of the construction process. With advanced planning, BIM can predict potential outcomes of various processes during development. This foresight makes construction safer and more reliable.

The UK Government has set four construction strategy targets for 2025, and BIM is expected to play an integral part in meeting those targets. The targets are:

  • 33% reduction in construction costs and lifespan maintenance
  • 50% reduction in  overall time, from inception to completion
  • 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment
  • 50% reduction in trade gap between exports and imports for materials

A survey of over 900 construction and engineering companies found that the number of businesses using BIM had increased from 31% in 2011 to 48% in 2015, ensuring that the Government is well on track to achieving its objectives.


How does Business Information Modelling (BIM) work?

Business Information Modelling bridges the gap between traditional 2 dimensional drawing and 3 dimensional modelling. Of course, 3D modelling has been around for a number of years and isn’t new to CAD, but BIM is different because it uses data sets to create a virtual mock-up of an entire project, including elevation drawings and other complex tasks.

What really sets BIM apart from existing methods, is that any changes that are made to these drawings can be easily integrated back into the 3D model without the need for further editing, saving a lot of time and resource. As well as saving time, this enables potential problems with designs to be identified quickly and reduces the margin for error.


What are the benefits of Business Information Modelling over traditional drawings?

Simply put, BIM allows for more information to be held within a virtual model than any drawing or CAD system could offer. For example, a simple CAD drawing may hold basic measurements for a wall, whereas BIM could include information such as fire rating, energy efficiency rating and more. This consolidation of information is invaluable to the construction process and helps to streamline entire developments. It also helps to paint a fuller and more accurate picture for potential investors and stakeholders.

Consider BIM a living, breathing virtual mockup of a project. Changing just one piece of information and then feeding it back into the model will identify its impact on a much wider scale, leading to better decision making with less manpower. This leads to better results and reduced costs.

BIM is becoming integral to CAFM systems to ensure asset control and updates from PPM are controlled and handled smoothly. It also helps to empower both clients and contractors, giving them a 360 degree view of functionality and full site awareness.


Summary – is the industry ready for BIM?

There’s no denying that BIM has some major advantages when it comes to the building services and construction sector, but research has shown that part of the industry is still unclear precisely what BIM is and how it might benefit them. The Government have recently made BIM level 2 mandatory across all public sector projects in the UK, and some predict it’s only a matter of time before BIM because a new standard in our industry, bringing traditional methods into a digital age of construction.