WHAT IS BIM?
I’m sure we’ve all run into it before – the BIM conversation. ‘Hey, we have a chance to bid on this contract – but it says we need to be able to provide a ‘BIM’ model. Can we do that?
‘Our designers can create 3D riser details on their plans’, or, ‘Our designers can export 3D piping models from AutoCAD – that’s BIM, right?’
‘What exactly is ‘BIM?’
To start, ‘BIM’ is an acronym, which stands for ‘Building Information Modeling’. While there is no single, accepted definition of BIM, various organizations have created their own.
In this module, we’ll look at two of the leading definitions.
ISO 19650:2019 defines BIM as
‘Use of a shared digital representation of a built asset to facilitate design, construction and operation processes to form a reliable basis for decisions.’
Autodesk, the maker of various design software programs, defines BIM as
‘The holistic process of creating and managing information for a built asset. Based on an intelligent model and enabled by a cloud platform, BIM integrates structured, multi-disciplinary data to produce a digital representation of an asset across its life cycle, from planning and design to construction and operations.’
Now that we’ve looked at some of the official definitions, let’s create a simplified definition of our own – one that can adequately be used in the fire protection industry to easily identify, and demystify the concept of BIM to people who may have never heard the term, or people who have heard the term, but are unsure exactly what it means. Additionally, we want to be well-versed in what BIM really is, to avoid a concept referred to as ‘BIM-washing’. That’s when companies or individuals overstate their credentials and abilities, and falsely claim to be ‘BIM experts’.
We’ll start with the general use of the term ‘Building Information Modeling’, and then become more specific and define what ‘a Building Information Model’ is.
The broad term ‘Building Information Modeling’ is not a noun, but rather a verb. It is the action of creating Building Information Models. It is not limited to one piece of software, nor is it limited to one file type. There are many different software programs that are capable of authoring Building Information models, and by extension, many different types of files. Building Information Modeling involves significantly more than creating a three-dimensional design model. It also involves detailing, clash detection and co-ordination, reality capture and file-sharing platforms.
The specific term – ‘Building Information Model’ is a noun. This refers to a digital representation of a real-world object. A Building Information Model contains not only spatial information – the physical extents of the object displayed graphically – it also contains a significant amount of information about the object. Things like, Who made it? What material is it made from? What are its physical properties? How much does it cost per unit? Are there areas or situations where it’s not allowed to be? As you can see, a true Building Information Model is quite a bit more valuable and data-rich than simply a 3D model.
In summary, if we were to create a simple definition of BIM that could be widely used by all proponents in the Fire Protection industry, from consulting firms to installation contractors, it would be something like this:
We can call it ‘The MeyerFire University definition of BIM’:
‘Building information modeling is the process of using specialized computer software to create digital representations of real-world objects, with the ability to imbue those models with important, descriptive data and the ability to integrate the model seamlessly with all other project stakeholders.’
We can dissect the above definition into three points:
For most of us in the fire protection industry, the above definition should be sufficient to describe the concept of BIM. There are a couple reasons why it is important for fire protection companies to understand the definition of BIM.
1 - BIM requirements are becoming more commonplace in contracts. Without understanding exactly what you are contractually required to provide, it is impossible to accurately price the work.
2 - As I touched on earlier in this module, the concept of ‘BIM-washing’ is becoming increasingly more pervasive in the industry. If you yourself don’t understand what ‘BIM’ is, how can you be sure that the company or individual you are thinking of hiring can provide ‘BIM’ services like they claim?
I hope this module has provided a bit more clarity as to what exactly ‘BIM’ is.
I’m Steve Frederick, this is MeyerFire University.
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