State-of-the-art use of building information modeling (BIM) today encompasses creating a design intent model (e.g. Revit Architecture), a structural analysis model (e.g. Tekla), an energy performance model (e.g. IES), a constructability and quantity take off model (e.g. Vico), a space program model (e.g. Trelligence), a facilities management model (e.g. Archibus), a coordination model (e.g. Navsiworks), and more.
IPD project teams need to embrace the reality and the associated challenges of managing multiple purpose-built building information models (BIMs).
(As a quick aside, the “the great debate” of April 2003, hosted and moderated by LaiserinLetter editor Jerry Laiserin, speculated on the future role of BIM. Wind the clock forward and the vision of a federated project model has prevailed over the alternate concept of a single building model. It is fascinating to observe that while Bentley was promoting the correct vision in 2003, it has been Autodesk that has promoted the most commercially successful product.)
So much has already been written about the now-proven advantages of using BIM that I do not want to regurgitate them here. Suffice to say that BIM and its close relative, virtual design and construction (VDC), are both essential ingredients to achieving integrated project delivery (IPD). In fact, certain IPD contracts actually dictate that the project team must use BIM.
Instead, I want to offer you a different perspective. Adopting BIM is not just about training your staff on how to use a particular BIM system. Rather it is about transforming your firm’s best practices from being drafting- and document-centric to implementing new and still-to-be-refined model-based design processes. What exactly does this entail ? I think as an industry we are all still working out the full meaning of that question, but there are some key lessons that have already been learned that offer great guidance:
- BIM is not synonymous with IPD – it is only one of 5 Essential Ingredients.
- Two different approaches – either ‘sharing the model’ or ‘exchanging model views’ – are currently being used each with a different set of pros and cons.
- The letter “I” is the most powerful part of BIM - should this information be locked into a proprietary file format ?
- In the world of a federated project model it is important to focus on the purpose-driven exchange of project information between different purpose-built BIMs.
- Virtual building models allow early prototyping and simulation as additional inputs to the design process.
- Integrated project delivery remains a function of people, process and tools.
- Model-based design is not just about geometry, but about arriving at a common understanding of the intersection of disciplines, the interaction of building fabric and systems and the involvement of everyone on the project team.