“BIM (building information modeling) is a process change, not just a design tool,” said Robert Middlebrooks, industry programs manager for Autodesk during the recent annual Mechanical Contractors Association of America convention held in Palm Desert, CA.
BIM refers to a repository of all information generated, maintained and shared by building team members on a project. The chief advantage of BIM is that it allows a greater degree of collaboration among designers; mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractors; and building owners. Most of BIM’s potential benefits come from members of the construction team sharing the same building model - or different views of the same model, Middlebrooks said.
“We’re all playing in the same sandbox,” he told MCAA members. “I know many of you are frustrated with design professionals; you have trouble getting designs from them. We’ve got to get away from that. We’d have fewer problems if we share more information. These are new ways to do that.”
BIM offers design engineers and contractors much more than computer-aided design programs, he said. Among other BIM benefits are the abilities: to create, visualize and document a building design; to predict performance, appearance and cost; and to deliver the project faster as well as more economically and environmentally feasible.
“BIM is a digital design tool to start with and then provides documentation,” Middlebrooks said. “CAD is the other way around.”
According to Middlebrooks, BIM’s origins can be traced to 2004 when the Construction Users Round Table published a white paper that encouraged collaboration among building team members to increase productivity. Among the goals highlighted were: owner leadership, where building owners become more involved in the construction process; an integrated project structure; open information sharing, where team members trust each other; and virtual building models.