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BIM is like…

Finith Jernigan’s book, BIG BIM little bim started with the following story. His metaphors continue are a good way to understand the concepts behind building information modeling.

…little bim is like computing [circa 1987] before the internet. Networks [LANs] were not in widespread use.

Using tax software as an example, you improve how you prepare your return and simplify the computations. You depend on software that you have loaded on your machine. You do not really know whether the databases included are up to date. You probably do not even know that there are databases behind what you see. You load new versions of the software as they are sent to you. You share files with your accountant via sneakernet or paper. You print out and mail your return.

In the design and construction context you replace FlatCAD with Revit/Archicad/Bentley/etc… on your personal computer. You leverage your work product, but the improvements are largely internal to you and your projects. In this mode, bim is really just regular computer-aided-drafting on steroids. You model your project. Perhaps you run simulation software, but you run it locally. You get all the benefits of real 3D CADD and then some. This is the mode where most people start to become virtual building proficient and what most people understand as BIM today. In this mode, people worry about what software they should use.

…little bim is also like computing [circa 1996] connected to a good local network and starting to transition to full internet connectivity.

Taking the tax software example one step further, you now have centralized files from last year and you share the tax schedules with your accountant, so that more eyes are available to pick up mistakes. Your accountant takes your data and checks it for you. You either print out and mail your return or try e-filing.

In the design and construction context you are now beginning to do more collaboration. Now you can share information within a larger context. Data still comes to the network in a package, but more information is centralized and shared among your closely connected associates. You are still closely linked to software and the data embedded in these tools. If you are the architect, ideally your engineers are on the same network. You begin to to do real conflict checking, cost modeling and process simulation. You have many of the benefits, but it is still mostly an internal, project-by-project oriented exercise that gives big benefits. This is the mode where most of the people talking about BIM now are working toward. In this mode, people worry about what software they should use and are just beginning to figure out that they really need to change how they do business.

BIG BIM is like the personal computer once it is fully networked and fully integrated with the internet and has become a Web3.0 appliance.

Finishing the tax software example, you are now accessing your tax information in a central database that someone else maintains. When Congress passes a new law, it is integrated immediately. You now have immediate access to the latest versions of everything. When you try to input illegal or illogical information you know it immediately. You add your information; standardized processes verify it and it is integrated with the central repository, where the system reacts in standardized ways, depending on the need.

In the design and construction context, you are working globally. You no longer work in isolation from anything or anyone. You integrate data from everywhere to understand what you are doing in a big world context. No longer  is your building’s context limited to the surrounding buildings or the neighborhood. Your client’s business requirements directly affect your design. Now you know how a design decision affects the bottom lines of the designer, the fabricator and the owner, before they are memorialized. You know how the direction that you are taking impacts on the environment and other resources. When you analyze your design, your results are repeatable and much more accurate since you are working with real-world information—not assumptions, guesses or opinions. You set constraints to control your work. Unworkable options are eliminated before you spend time on unproductive tasks.

Data and information are king. With BIG BIM your data is fed from a central repository that archives everything. The repository links information that once could not be linked. The data in the repository is sharable, interoperable and grows over time to encompass everything about an asset (as opposed to a building or a road or any other individual thing.) The data is invaluable. You can create or manipulate the data using an almost unlimited set of tools. It is truly sustainable and makes our world a better, more efficient place to live, work and play. Everything from Google Earth™ to spreadsheets to modeling software can be used by anyone that wants to interact with our world.

It is true democracy.

The acronym BIM (Building Information Modeling) was coined in early 2002 to describe virtual design, construction, and facilities management. BIM processes revolve around virtual models that make it possible to share information throughout the entire building industry. These virtual models are embedded with data which, when shared among design team members, greatly reduces errors and improves facilities. BIM offers owners the ability to become more efficient and effective by linking their business processes with their facilities. The federal government has predicted savings of over $15.8 billion annually from integrated processes. Projects today save 5-12% when BIM is properly used.

We live and work in an information-rich world. A world where many of our closely held beliefs are challenged every day. A world where we must do more and better with less. There are ways to capitalize on these changes. An integrated approach to the built environment using Building Information Modeling (BIM) is one of them.