How BIM unleashed the power of Façade Design- Part 1.
A while back, during a meeting with a renowned architect from Africa, I was trying to help him understand the need to integrate BIM (Building Information Modeling) in the design process, in order to speed and simplify things. However, the response I got was way different than expected, telling me that for the past years, billions of sqm were constructed using pencil, paper and fax machines, so why bother change to 3D now. In my opinion, time is running out for those dinosaurs as the facade industry moves forward. In this post, we will try to define the benefit in shifting to a three-dimensional design and data information modelling approach, from a facade expert view. The first part 1 of this blog will include an attempt to understand what is BIM, while in Part 2 we will attempt to pinpoint the utilization of BIM in Facade Engineering.
The road to BIM
Everyone thinks BIM is a thing of the 21st century, but this is a mistaken theory. Back in 1962, Douglas Engelbart composed a paper in which he described an engineer entering data into a building plan, and afterwards watching the structure becoming a reality. That pretty much describes BIM in its fundamental idea. However it wasn’t until the 1980’s, when CAD software was introduced to engineers, that BIM started becoming a reality. Electronic drawings with dynamic layering were easier to be produced and distributed to industry professionals, carrying more information than handmade ever could. Later on, in 1990’s, the newly introduced objects in CAD software, led to a bigger evolution, as they were carrying nongraphical data about a part of the building apart from graphics. Combined with the rise of the internet and the fast data sharing, many forward-thinking designers started to work in a digital world. Remote project management and collaboration was a fact, but one vital part of the equation was missing: storing and managing building information as databases and not only graphics. The next evolution of CAD history includes information-centric software which was created to fill in this gap. Building information modeling solutions can capture, manage, and present data in a simple way, allowing project teams to make any necessary changes that can be logically propagated and managed automatically throughout the project’s life cycle. This is the core feature of BIM.
Definition of BIM
The whole idea behind BIM is quite simple, but yet a bit too complex to have a single definition. For example, if we look out for some of the CAD software leaders, we will find out that each one has a different point of view. Therefore, not all BIM definitions are the same. Autodesk, this gigantic CAD solutions firm, defines BIM as an intelligent model-based process, giving too much value to the information that is included and the ease of how this information is circulated. On the other hand, Graphisoft, the maker of the first BIM software, believes that the 3D self-model is the most crucial part. There is also a third approach by Bentley, which focus mostly on the process behind BIM, which must provide smooth cooperation between all parties.
With three different approaches, it can be difficult for users to dig down to the true definition of BIM. To fully unpack what BIM really is, we need to underline what BIM is not:
- BIM is not just a tool for architects, but it can be used by the whole AEC industry. Actually, the first people who started doing 3D models and analyses were the structural engineers.
- BIM is not a CAD replacement with some extra features, but a detailed 3D model with numerous layers of metadata within a collaborative workflow. When you look in a BIM object, you only see the tip of the iceberg.
- BIM does not come in box, although you can only use it through specific software packages. BIM is all about a giant leap forward that the design team has to make in order to change old habits and workflows.
Wrapping it up, let’s try to understand the real meaning of BIM, by defining its components:
- B is for Building, but does not mean your building. On one hand, there is “building” that etymologically means structure, and the word “building” which originates from the verb “build”. When we talk about BIM, we refer to the latter, the procedure of a team building something together.
- I is for Information, which is the differentiator feature that makes BIM smart. With so much information available these days, BIM keeps all the embedded data updated and provides a way to have store everything in one place so it’s easy to keep track of it.
- M is for Modelling, a live process that allows the design team to apply unlimited trial and error scenarios virtually, until reaching the desired result. When finished, this model represents in smaller-scale, the standard for the actual real building project.
BIM in Facade Industry
BIM is both a best-practice process and a 3D modeling tool in the facade industry. By using it, facade engineers can create a shared facade model, allowing architects and engineers to work closely together on a project from anywhere in the world. Contemporary facades are designed with complex geometries and have very challenging structural analysis needs. Having a full set of information about every detail into one place and at a workable format, BIM facilitates virtual analysis during the facade design phase to find the best answer to any problem. Just in its beginning, BIM provides easier building envelope design and efficient coordination between team members.
Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn more details about how BIM helps facade engineers to make the right decisions faster, through a case study.