Examining the Role of Building Information Modeling in (Building) Architecture

(Editor’s Note: While A&G deals with IT architecture, there are occasions where emerging technologies are transforming the world of physical architecture, and might deserve some editorial treatment. The following piece about Building Information Modeling, shared below, hits that note.)

By Jeremy Godenzi

Mention the word “architecture,” and many people will think of memorable buildings or public spaces. They may also picture an architect bent over a drawing board or drawing table, designing that building. While architects may have worked like that just a few decades ago, most now spend the majority of their time designing with software.

Just as digital technology has transformed industries like finance and medical technology, it is making its way into architecture and construction. The growing adoption of building information modeling (BIM) technology is only one example. Architects can leverage this technology from the beginning of the design phase to improve overall project management.

What Is BIM, and How is it Used in Construction Project Management?

Building information modeling is the process of generating and managing all information about a specific construction project across its entire lifecycle. The building information model itself is a digital representation of every aspect of the final build asset.

Architects can integrate BIM right at the concept stage of a project, allowing them to show their designs in a digital format rather than a physical model or a drawing. Designs come to life in a virtual environment. Granted, physical models can equally bring architectural designs to life. However, adjusting them to accommodate changes can be time-consuming, and updating a physical model to represent actual project progress is simply not practical.

BIM has become one of the leading drivers of digital transformation in the construction sector. Historically, the industry may have been slow to adopt digital technologies, but companies are starting to recognize and leverage their potential. In 2021, the global market for BIM in construction was valued at $3.3 billion. It is projected to grow strongly over the next few years, reaching over $7.5 billion by 2027.

A global increase in the cost of building materials and continuing supply chain disruptions are two of the drivers behind the growing demand for digital transformation. Their impact will likely be felt for some time, creating opportunities for companies looking to disrupt the status quo by embracing digital technology.

Integrating Building Information Modeling into Project Management

From an architect’s perspective, the advantages of BIM can be leveraged right from the beginning of the design phase. Using technology to create a visual representation of the project both speeds up the creation of initial designs and limits potential errors.

BIM allows architects to show clients fully developed, intricate 3D models within a fraction of the time compared to a traditional approach. The software also highlights potential design errors, allowing them to be rectified long before the project has been approved.

Because BIM-based designs are housed in the cloud, client communication and collaboration with other stakeholders are straightforward. Rather than sending physical drawings from one office to another or moving project data between job sites and management offices, collaborators access the project from where they are.

This kind of access is possible because, when BIM is used, all pertinent information for a construction project is housed in a common data environment (CDE). The simplest way to imagine a CDE is to picture a central data repository that holds both the graphic model of the project and any non-graphical data that may become relevant during the delivery of the project.

As the project progresses through client approvals to the pre-construction phase, there is no need to duplicate information or transmit it to another location at all. Instead, project managers and construction managers simply access the information they need in the existing repository. They benefit from more accurate cost estimations thanks to automating tasks that used to be extremely time-consuming.

Once the project starts to take shape, relevant data can be updated, becoming immediately accessible to all stakeholders. As a result, planned construction schedules are easier to optimize and maintain, resulting in fewer costly delays. Whether project managers need to check supply chain information or update the project implementation plan, they can access everything they need in one central location.

BIM also simplifies documentation throughout the construction process. BIM software gives project managers all the tools they need to keep exact records of risk management and mitigation strategies as well as safety provisions.

Benefits of BIM for Project Management

At each phase of a construction project, building information modeling has benefits for all parties involved. Here are some of the key benefits summarized:

  1. Enhanced collaboration: BIM makes it easier for project members to work together, thanks to everyone having access to all relevant information in the same place.
  2. Decreased potential for error: by keeping critical information in one place, project managers can avoid confusion caused by duplicates or different versions of documents circulating.
  3. Simplified client communication: clients can follow the progress of their project in real time. From the very first drawing, the ability to access a 3D representation of the project makes it easier to ensure the design meets expectations, resulting in satisfied clients.
  4. Faster, more cost-effective, and more accurate project delivery: because of streamlined collaboration and the centralization of all project data, BIM cuts down on project costs, minimizes potential delays, and allows architects and construction companies to deliver higher-quality results faster than traditional methods would allow.

Final Thoughts

Emerging technologies are transforming the construction sector. From architects to project managers and clients, every project stakeholder stands to benefit from integrating BIM into their construction projects. In reality, using building information modeling is becoming less of a choice for leading architects and construction companies. Industry experts predict that BIM technology will be part of the “next normal” in the industry.

The technology will not only change the way architects and project managers approach their work. It also has the potential to transform the client experience and impact the bottom line of every project delivered. BIM is the future of project management.

Godenzi is an Account Executive at Microsol Resources and brings with him a history of building relationships with the architect, contractor, and engineer base.