Although BIM is more and more popular, many real estate professionals still don’t know what it is as they feel concerned. Is it not only for architect and construction workers? Well, no, it isn’t. We’ll see why developers should look into BIM. It is not just a trend, governments from all around the world are pushing for BIM in public projects, and they won’t stop there. What is BIM anyway?
You could find many definitions on the Internet, here it is in our words: Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a visual database that allows every construction-linked discipline, including some real estate professionals, to centralize data to collaborate more efficiently with each other, by doing so it makes the construction process easier, improves building maintenance, reduces cost, and keeps track of the building state.
Building Information Modeling is often mistaken as an ordinary 3D model, but it is much more than that. Actually, the 3D modeling is just the tip of the iceberg. The main point of this technology is that it makes it easier to gather and share data. It helps design, build, manage and maintain every physical infrastructure in a project such as water, waste, electricity, gas, communication utilities, and so on.
For now, BIM has been mostly used in big public projects such as towers, bridges, and tunnels like the East Side Access which is described as “the largest transportation construction undertaking in the United States, and one of the largest and most complex projects ever embarked upon in New York City.” This level of complexity requires a centralized and effective system to coordinate every step of the construction, but BIM could be used on a smaller scale and still be cost-effective.
Warning! Keep in mind that it wasn't made to help you sell your project but to help you manage it. The quality of the 3D renders may not be good enough for your taste. It is a data-oriented software designed sharing information between everyone who's playing a part in the construction of a project.
However, you'll find these data very helpful. For instance, working on BIM can also be useful for the commercialization phase since a real estate marketing company like Drawbotics can work on IFC data. It is actually pretty usual for a developer who has worked on a BIM model to send us his data in the IFC format. It saves us time since it makes it easier to model the building.
So what kind of data could you find in a BIM model? It is impossible to come up with a comprehensive list, but today it can include 5 types of data.
I hope this title triggered your interest as much as it did for me when I read about this. How can you have more than four dimensions? It is actually pretty simple: it is not about laws of physics anymore. It characterizes which information the software provides. This technology has no limit since it is possible to add as many data as you want. Here are the 5 types of data that are integrated in a model today.
As Dr. Peter Smith, Program Director of the Construction Project Management program in the School of the Built Environment at the University of Technology of Sydney explained in his work in 2014. Today, the most sophisticated BIM can go up to 8D which means that it is a 3D visualization of the project (3D= visual). It facilitates programming and shows the project evolution along with predictions (4D= time). It provides in real time all cost-data, so it is easy to draw an accurate budget (5D= cost).
When you think this model already gives you everything you need, there are three more dimensions: the 6th dimension concerns facilities management (6D= operation), then the model would also provide environmental impact analysis and offer solutions to make it more energy-efficient (7D= Sustainability). The 8th Dimension is about security on the project site: embedded manuals, emergency plans. It prevents security issues, and so on (8D= Safety).
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Let’s step back and see why this software was even created and how you can benefit from this. The concept itself is very old, it started in the 70s’. Its purpose is to propose a solution to the lack of communication between the disciplines to optimize the construction process, and save time and money. At first, it was a simple digital support for building data that would be easily shared. In 1987, ArchiCAD, by Graphisoft, was the first CAD product able to work in 2D and 3D. Since then, BIM softwares have changed a lot, but its core objective remained the same.
To simplify and coordinate work is the essence of BIM. The software divides the construction process into several steps on an accurate timeline. Better organization means better collaboration, better results, and fewer delays. It concerns contractors and architects mostly, but it may benefit developers as well as they have a better understanding of the progress of the project, its budget, and delays.
This is one of the main argument you’ll hear for the promotion of BIM: it helps you track the natural deterioration of materials and prevent costly reparation. It provides the insurance that everything is in order and that maintenance is scheduled for the right moment, so it is cheap and effective.
The times of losing vital documents about some obscure part of a building are over. With BIM, you have access to every piece of information. This is particularly important during the construction phase so that every professional corps can find the data they need to work quickly. Plus, it makes things easy when a new partner arrives ten years after the beginning of the project.
As we said earlier, BIM helps you manage your project to make sure that everything goes smoothly. Good planning means fewer delays and a more accurate timeline. Moreover, this software can provide quick calculations based on hundreds of variables which is very convenient when only a few variables change. You don’t need to get through everything again. For example, it would immediately evaluate how much a delay would cost you so you can quickly adjust your budget.
Thanks to the 3D model, a project can be tested virtually without any cost. Security and stability checks can spot and correct the smallest mistake in no time. Furthermore, the software will help architects design the project to reduce electricity consumption, improve insulation, or even have a better impact on the environment which could be a persuasive sales argument. In the end, the project will stand stronger and be cheaper yet more reliable.
Despite what you may have thought, investing in BIM will save you money. It may seem like a significant investment, but when you add up the five previous points, it is all for the benefit of your wallet.
As you can see in the chart below, most BIM users in transportation infrastructure projects are delighted with their return on investment. Nearly two-thirds had positive ROI.
Perceived ROI on BIM for transportation infrastructure (according to BIM users) Source: Dodge Data & Analytics, 2017
Here it comes, the same old saying: “you have to spend money to make money.” Once again, it is true even though it is hard to invest in something you don’t really know or believe in. The BIM license is not for free, and then you will need time to learn how to use it. However, as the market is booming, it should become more and more affordable and user-friendly. Not to mention the fact, that it will be mandatory at some point so why wait?
On the other hand, this technology is still not widely used which can be a problem when you are working with parties who are not willing to try it out. In this case, the whole BIM concept won’t be as useful as it should. Many BIM models exist today, which one should you choose? This question is more tricky than it sounds because communication between different BIM models won’t always be efficient. When sending data from one model to the next, you may lose some on the way. However, this won’t be the case for long since many countries are looking at ways to define a standard BIM model.
Some countries started to integrate BIM in construction legislation. We’ll go through it further, but first, it is essential to understand what they are talking about. As many models are available on the market, we usually speak of BIM maturity to compare one to another. These levels define the degree of collaboration the software allows. The objective is to get to the third level: a single model that can be used by everyone.
Level 0 BIM symbolizes the absence of collaboration. It means working on 2D CAD draft and exchanging or distributing it via prints or digital prints.
Level 1 BIM is currently the most common one. It means people are using a 3D model for concept work, but they are still doing most of the work on 2D CAD. However there is no direct collaboration as they are working on models separately, and disciplines can share data between them by email.
Level 2 BIM is when all parties are using their own 3D CAD model. It is not necessarily the same one, but they can share data very easily because they are working with the same format that can be integrated into other parties’ model. Today, the IFC format seems to be the most common one. We strongly advise you to use a model that works in IFC format. It is much more convenient, and it will make everything more comfortable for your partners and you.
Level 3 BIM, sometimes called “Open BIM,” is what we want to reach but it doesn’t exist yet. It would be one single 3D CAD shared model on which every party could work and directly add their data. This model would reduce biased or conflicted data issues.
This technology has been proven successful, mainly because it reduces construction costs and its environmental impact. As you can see below, its success is worldwide. Wherever you operate, you may find yourself concerned at some point. Many countries started to push for BIM use in public projects as the first step to its adoption in every construction project.
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The UK is the most advanced country regarding BIM regulation. Since 2016, the government decided that every public construction project will require a Level 2 BIM. Their goal is to reduce their expenses drastically. Using level 2 BIM for every public project is mandatory. It is the only country to have gone that far.
BIM is very popular in the US. The East Side Access in New York is one great example of what can be achieved with this technology. Wisconsin is going even further and mandates BIM in the private sector as well. In 2010, the Badger state became the first state to require all public projects with a budget of $5 million or more and all new projects with a budget above $2.5 million to use BIM.
Finland, Suede, Denmark, and Norway have made significant steps toward the adoption of BIM as standard. It is mandatory for public projects and widely use in private plans. Moreover, BIM is taught at school and IFC format is the only format that can be used in design software. A little bit behind, other European countries are following the BIM trend and legislate for a slow transition to BIM standards.
China’s real estate market is booming. The authorities decided to take some measures to get 100% of contractors using BIM. The government will subsidize wide projects and public projects that are using exclusively 3D modeling BIM instead of paper.
BIM technology is getting better and better every year. Its success is worldwide. It will only take a few years to become mainstream in public projects and a few more to be used in the private sector.
We advise you to use BIM for all your new projects right now, the bigger the project, the more helpful this technology will be, but it should be a cost-effective investment whatever the size of your project. Better communication with your partners will greatly affect your budget. Try to convince your contractors to work on the same model as you or at least to work with a compatible format such as IFC.