Last Updated on 25th April 2022

What is BIM and how does it impact the construction industry?

There’s a digital transformation happening in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. Technology is changing the way information is shared, the processes used and the way that things are managed. The process for integrating these technologies into a construction project is BIM. So, what is BIM and how is it impacting the industry?

What is BIM (Building Information Modelling)?

BIM stands for Building Information Modelling. It’s a method of using technology for managing information about construction projects. Using a BIM model, project teams can collaborate, share information and monitor project costs. Digital tools make project management much easier and more streamlined, and avoid the silos often formed when using traditional CAD approaches.

Construction management is complex and requires open communications between design and construction teams. When delays, miscommunication and errors occur, it can have a massive impact on overall project costs. With BIM, project managers can get an immediate overview of an AEC project and any BIM object within that.

Scan to BIM Software

The BIM process starts with capturing data about a space, ready for the construction process to begin. This data forms the foundations of the entire process, facilitating the creation of a digital model.

GeoSLAM Scan to BIM has been designed to make this process simple. Using our ZEB range of handheld laser scanners, you can collect the essential data rapidly (up to 10 times faster than traditional scanners) with little to no disruption. Our Connect software platform then automatically processes that data to create a clean, georeferenced point cloud which can then be imported into BIM software such as Autodesk REVIT.  

With GeoSLAM Connect software, our Change Detection feature allows users to compare multiple point clouds. Any areas that have changed are automatically highlighted, to allow users to identify them easily. Point clouds can also be compared with CAD models, which makes tracking progress on a construction site much more straightforward.

Creating a Common Data Environment (CDE)

Once data has been collected, BIM projects need a common data environment (CDE) to allow everyone working on a project to access data in one place. This is the key to collaboration and communication. Software like Autodesk Revit, Navisworks and PointFuse can be used for this purpose. 

How is BIM used in the construction industry?

BIM has long been a prerequisite for government construction projects. Since 2016, it’s been mandatory to comply with BIM level 2 guidelines for public sector construction projects. But making the shift can be harder for smaller projects.

Nevertheless, as BIM provides the ability to overcome significant challenges in construction it is being more widely adopted across the industry.

Examples of BIM 

So, how is BIM actually used in the real world? Here are some examples:

Chestnut Hill Building Management

After a walk around the existing Chestnut Hill building to plan the route, a field technician used the ZEB Horizon to scan the building’s interior. This allowed accurate details to be captured on the downstairs, basement, 2nd and 3rd floors of the building. The balcony and pool area were captured in this manner too. 

The exterior was captured on foot using the same tools and process, and additional drone capture images were also collected. Data processing was carried out using GeoSLAM Hub. The point cloud data was exported in Autodesk ReCap and then Revit. Here, a complete digital replica of the building was created.

These models are used by the owners and developers of the building as the current source of information. They allow collaboration and communication around building renovations and proposed build details, a true BIM application. 


Read more about how Pointknown uses laser scanning for BIM.

Modelling a Hotel in Southern California

Documenting large and complex buildings can be a challenge, but these are the structures that really benefit from BIM implementation. In preparation for renovations, a BIM model of a 4,500 square foot hotel in Southern California was required. 

Each of the 3 floors, including all 40 suites and the parking garage were captured quickly and efficiently using the ZEB Horizon scanner. This data was processed via GeoSLAM Hub, the Draw BIM software, Autodesk ReCap and Revit. 

The BIM model was created using Revit and the whole process was completed in around 4 days, ready for the architects to begin planning the renovations. 

Read more about BIM hotel modelling with a handheld laser scanning device.

What is BIM Level 2?

BIM Level 2 compliance is required for certain projects as mentioned above. But what does it actually mean? To reach Level 2 BIM, the key is collaboration. It must be possible to exchange information easily between the different parties involved in a project.

In addition, the software used must utilise a common file format, so that information is easy to access and use.

Why is BIM important in construction?

Using Building Information Modelling (BIM) is so important in construction because it’s a holistic process that can improve every aspect of a project. BIM enables design, construction and engineering teams to work together using digital technologies. This usually leads to better outcomes overall. 

Here are some of the reasons BIM is so important in the construction industry today.   

Communication

Communicating with clients and stakeholders is made simpler and this can help decision making about the project as a whole.

First and foremost, the BIM process helps all parties involved in a construction project to communicate easily. Everything is accessible in one place, and using cloud-based software means it can be accessed from anywhere. The design and construction intent is made clear which allows different teams to work in unison. 

Efficiency

With the improved workflow that BIM processes bring, large scale projects are made more efficient. It’s often possible to reduce the life cycle of a project because many aspects are faster and simpler.

Risk Management

A BIM ecosystem can be analysed for hazards and risks before they become problematic. This helps to make construction sites safer places to work.

Cost

BIM allows thorough cost analysis across a project. Reliable estimates for materials, shipping and labour can be made well before the construction stage begins. This can help project managers and teams to reduce costs, by sourcing materials at their best possible price, selecting a more cost-effective material or reducing any unnecessary labour.

Opportunity

As BIM models can help to predict project outcomes, they can open up so many opportunities. It’s possible to view a BIM model using virtual reality which can allow stakeholders, architects and other AEC professionals to see the built environment before it really exists. This allows more scope for innovation as plans can be adjusted before the budget is invested in construction.

Results

Improvements to communications, cost and risk management and maximising opportunities all contribute to better overall results. These modern methods of managing the processes involved often lead to better project outcomes. Whether that’s avoiding risks or delays, cost-saving or simply producing an overall better build.   

Ongoing Facilities Management

The complete, detailed models created using BIM provide so much information about a built asset. These can be useful long after a build is complete. They can help to manage buildings, making them much easier to renovate in future. 

How is BIM changing the construction industry?

This digital transformation really is providing value across the industry. It’s allowing different teams to work together, no matter what their location. It’s helping large scale projects to avoid delays and run more smoothly. Client and stakeholder relationships are improved, cost and time estimates are much more reliable. Find out more about embracing digital technology in construction in our whitepaper.

Those who fail to make the technology investment are likely to fall behind. As more professionals support BIM processes, client expectations will change. In the UK, the government views our construction industry as a strong sector of our economy. To keep this competitive edge, it has set out strategic plans to include BIM in the Digital Built Britain initiative. There’s already a strategy in place for BIM Level 3 and 4, although the exact details have not yet been released.

Over the coming years, BIM (building information modelling) is only likely to be more widely adopted. Pressure on the industry is increasing as the population grows, and BIM processes can help meet these demands. As our CEO, Graham Hunter discussed with Construction Dive, automated processes will help construction succeed. With increased usage and investment what can be achieved is sure to advance, and the industry will transform as a result.

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