All together now

For the uninitiated, BIM (Building Information Modelling) is an innovative approach to the design construction and management of buildings; wherein high quality and accurate project design scope, schedule and cost information is continuously and immediately available.

In the most simplistic terms, it’s a collaborative way of working – a process, supported by technology that is fast gaining traction in the UK construction industry, whereby the smart use of information during a project ensures a successful outcome.

Central to the BIM process is a 3D building information model, with information that is shared in an exploitable data format between different systems. Before BIM, information was exchanged via typically 2D documents (hard copy or digital), a process fraught with potential for error, friction or data loss.

Building information models detail geometry, properties and spatial and functional relationships between building components. Greater visibility and stakeholder interoperability all lead to improved efficiencies and reduced errors with designs being able to be built virtually – as many times as required – before reaching site.


Horizon timber frame BIM


The big idea is that working from a co-ordinated model, tested and built in a virtual environment for compliance and unanticipated issues, negates the potential for complications during construction.

High quality digital information leads to easily transferred and shared knowledge. The upsides?  According to Paul Flounders, Wolf Systems’ Business Development Manager, they’re numerous. “BIM is making everything from design accuracy, cost certainty and sustainability, to energy efficiency, supply chain integration and asset management a reality for progressive businesses that have seized the BIM opportunity.”


How BIM began

“The concept of BIM has existed for many years but up until around three years ago, few people in our industry had heard of it, let alone knew what it stood for,” explains Paul.

Early building modelling research and implementation began back in the 70’s; Charles Eastman, Architect trained, Professor of BIM at Georgia Technical School of Architecture, wrote of ‘the use of computers instead of drawings in building design’ in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects , March ’75; however the term BIM wasn’t actually coined until 2002 by Autodesk’s® Phil Bernstein.

“It’s a concept that’s here to stay,” Paul continues. “While uptake of BIM has been varied throughout the world, government initiatives to adopt BIM as part of the procurement process are on the increase. Here in the UK, government construction strategy requires 3D BIM on all projects by 2016 and this includes projects procured by both central and local government departments.”


“BIM embeds key product and asset data and a 3 dimensional computer model that can be used for effective management of information throughout a project lifecycle – from earliest concept through to operation. It has been described as a game-changing ICT and cultural process for the construction sector. A number of countries globally are starting to realise the opportunities it brings and are now investing in developing their own capability.”



“And it’s not just UK government that’s getting behind BIM,” Paul continues. “Major organisations throughout the industry are also commenting on BIM adoption and its benefits, as are many construction industry institutions, including CIC, RIBA, RICS, CPA, NHBC and BSI.”


BIM benefits

“BIM is not so much about new technology, but the methodology for managing the exploitation of information throughout a project’s lifespan, from early feasibility studies, right through to design, construction, operation and eventually, demolition.

“The BIM process improves the efficiency of organising the distribution of information at each crucial stage:  For instance, thanks to a 3D building information model, building element clashes can be resolved back in the design stage, rather than cause downtime at the construction stage on site.

“Using BIM technology enables quicker and less costly design changes, than with traditional design tools,” Paul explains, “ultimately projects can be delivered faster, safety risks reduced, waste minimised and ‘first time fits’ relied upon, because any interface issues can be identified and resolved well in advance of construction.”


Horizon timber frame


What BIM technologies are out there?

While a number of BIM technologies are available, according to Paul, Autodesk products are generally acknowledged to account for the largest market share.

“Revit® – Autodesk’s flagship BIM design and documentation technology – is currently the leading software platform for most UK BIM practitioners,” he points out. “And, taking inspiration from its name, I’d go so far as to say that BIM adoption is clearly ‘revving’ up.  An increasing number of BIM practitioners require that their supply chains be engaged in the process and as momentum continues to build, I think future adoption will be inevitable.”


BIM – why join in?

Paul considers that the numerous benefits derived through BIM, through the collaboration of project stakeholders, will ultimately lead to added value derived through the process.

“‘Do or die’ is perhaps a somewhat strong expression, but I’m confident that those resistant to or unwilling to adapt to the changes occurring in collaborative building design will get left behind those who take the leap of faith and embrace BIM now.

“It’s not just a passing fad or a ‘flash in the pan’ trend.  I truly believe that the technological enhancements and benefits delivered through the BIM way of working bring real opportunity for our industry to move forward.”


Top 10 BIM Benefits

 1. Better outcomes through collaboration

All stakeholders – from the customer to different design disciplines, contractors and suppliers - work with a single, shared 3D model. From the inception of a project right through to decommissioning, all parties are communicating and focused on attaining best value.


  2. Greater performance

Offering speed and accuracy, BIM enables the development of more effective, efficient and sustainable design solutions. One change to the 3D model results in automatic changes to plans, elevations, schedules and details.


 3. More predictability

BIM enables project teams to virtually ‘build’ prior to physical construction. This means that designs can be modified and the procurement of materials, equipment and workforces planned in advance, so the desired outcome can be attained.


 4. Time savings & reduced wastage

By agreeing designs early on and eliminating late changes, avoiding clashes on-site , constantly checking design integrity and using data to control construction equipment, significant time savings can accrue throughout a project and wastage be reduced through precision in materials ordering and more efficient materials handling.


 5. Accurate costing

Costs can be calculated based on very accurate measurements, helping in the understanding of cost impacts. The model can be stripped down by components, quantity and materials.


 6. Integrated supply chain

The direct links created through BIM all serve to reduce time and costs.


 7. Health & Safety made easier

Appraisals can be conducted prior to site works beginning, ensuring safer on-site working. Increased use of off-site manufacture also reduces H&S risks.


 8. Greater sustainability

BIM supports key aspects of sustainable design and ‘green’ certification, and may open up new building characteristics such as embodied energy and complete lifecycle costing for evaluation.


 9. Long term asset management

Operational and maintenance costs account for the vast majority of building ownership costs. BIM projects benefit from tools for long term enhancement of a building’s performance.


 10. Continual improvement

Information can be fed back in about performance of processes and equipment on an ongoing basis. This helps drive improvements on later builds. 


 Look out for details about Wolf System’s Horizon software – the UK’s first timber frame tool built on Autodesk’s® Revit® - in our next e-news.


Can’t wait and want a demo? Please go to the Horizon software page in our website.

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