The African Building Platform


What Really is BIM?

Sofonias Solomon
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Building information modeling (BIM) is recognized as digital innovation for the built environment. It is often misled and associated just with using digital tools (BIM is not software), instead, it is a methodology that includes technology, processes, and policies. It is obvious that the construction industry is very slow in adopting innovation i.e. drawings were the only means of communication. That is still the case.

With the introduction of computers, a new approach to design began in the 1950s, far away from the construction sector by Patrick J. Hanratty, computer-aided design (CAD). This was indeed a big revolution at the time for it became the end of manual drafting. But it just allowed me to do the same things(draw) digitally. Already in the 1960 3d representations began in the manufacturing and film industries. Nowadays the use of CAD in the Architecture, Engineering, construction, and Operations (AECO) sector is everywhere. In Ethiopia, it found its way in the 1990s too.

In 1974 Charles Eastman put the foundations of what we now call Building information modeling (BIM) in his paper called Building Description System (BDS): CAD was not enough, there was a need of having a 3D object-based modeling linked to a database. This allowed us to represent objects by Paraments (Hight width), rules (constraints, modifications), and attributes (material thermal performance, cost….). Charles Eastman has been recognized as the “father of BIM” for his contribution to the digitization of construction.

Building information modeling (BIM) in the industry, they vary from country to country and organization to organization even in the same area, however, the two main sources on the terminology of BIM are the “BIM Dictionary” by BIM Excellence Initiative (BIMe Initiative) and the International Standardization Committee (ISO).in addition BuildingSMART has developed a Data Dictionary (BSDD).

The BIM Dictionary defines BIM as a “set of technologies, processes, and policies enabling multiple stakeholders to collaboratively design, construct and operate a Facility in virtual space”. In addition, it is mentioned that as a term, [01] “the term BIM continues to evolve over the years and is thus best understood as an ‘expression of digital innovation’ across the construction industry and the overall Built Environment” What is relevant is that BIM is not just a set of tools (technologies), but it includes also processes and policies. Those three aspects are called “BIM Fields”. and each of those includes specific players. All those fields should be well understood and implemented to be proficient in BIM.

The most recent one is included in the ISO 19650-1 [7] as the “use of a shared digital representation of a built asset (e.g. buildings, bridges, roads, process plants) to facilitate design, construction and operation processes to form a reliable basis for decisions”. For the latest definitions, it is advised to consult the ISO Online Browsing Platform.

When a building or infrastructure is represented in 3D geometry, it is often called a “3D model” or
“geometrical model”. But just having a 3D model is not enough for having a BIM-based project. When object-based technology is used and the 3D geometry is associated with a Database, we get a Building information model, or simply a model.

Usually, each discipline is modeled in a separate way (e.g. architectural; structural; mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP); and landscape) using shared coordinates. Thus, different disciplines can be developed by different specialists, but they are coordinated and synchronized. When change happens in a model belonging to a different discipline, it can be visualized by others in real time.
The industry mainly uses the term “BIM model” to refer to 3D parametric representations. However, the reader should be careful in using this term with ISO 19650 series, as that term is not defined (instead it is an information model) and it can lead to misinterpretation, especially in contractual documentation. Therefore, it is advised to always include a glossary and specify each term to avoid confusion.

There is a lot to say about BIM and over the last few years ample resources can be found Online. yet as this is a developing field and many parties are developing their own interpretations, it’s advised to get the latest information on the development of the topic.

Well, one might ask what are the advantages of BIM, the above descriptions may give you a glimpse but let’s add more.

• Maximized efficiency
• Reduce Costs and Wastage
• Better Insight into the Project
• Communication and Collaboration
• Less Risk and Wastage
• Better End Results
• And more…

And depending on how you use it, to what potential the return differs. That is why it is advised to learn the concepts and have a strategy to adopt BIM. If we don’t use it properly or at least to achieve a certain goal it might not be as fruitful as told. There are a few websites that can be a good place to start your journey, to name a few, ISO, BuilingSMART, BIM Excellence, BIM dictionary, Autodesk official page, UK BIM framework BIMSingapore, etc. This is not a comprehensive list but it can help you understand the basic concepts and how BIM is getting to become industry standard all over the world.

In Ethiopia, the Ethiopian standardization agency (ESA)is working towards formulating standards with annexes and amendments that will make it suitable to practice, at the time of this article the ESA is undergoing discussions with stakeholders, association representatives, and other parties to finalize the formulation process.

In the meantime, as the changes of Industry 4.0 are evolving in the AEC industry, we are presented with unique opportunities to bring about positive change in our industry. Ethiopia’s construction industry, from building to infrastructure has so much room to grow as compared to the advancements seen in the AEC industry around the world. One can argue that it might give us a latecomer advantage: true. BIM is a system that is still under development, some countries have worked on it for more than a decade to create a standardized system. The research and development of all these countries give us a starting point for the system of our industry.
Lastly, the opportunities in BIM are vast. As stated above most traditional systems in practice here are bound to change, and now is the time for those in the industry to take charge of this transformation. For reference, you can find a well-organized list of BIM model uses on the BIMe initiative website, it lists 200+ use cases, and more than 80% are not even present In our industry, it is evident that with the mega projects coming and private developers getting massive projects, the need for these will manifest sooner than expected. On a final note, technology will give us an advantage but one needs to innovate the way we do business as well, to disrupt the market. [02] “The development of innovative technology alone will not transform or disrupt an industry. Instead, disruption occurs when an innovative technology is paired with the development of a new and transformative business model”. From designers to contractors to programmers or entrepreneurs, let this be a challenge.

[1] BIMe Initiative.: Building information modeling (BIM). In: BIM Dictionary. http://BIMdictionary.com/building- information-modeling/

[2] Chesbrough, H., Rosenbloom, R.S.: The role of the business model in capturing value from innovation: Evidence from Xerox Corporation’s technology spin-off Companies

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© February, 2024 Ketema Journal

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