Building Information Modeling or Building Information Management (BIM) is a broad terminology used to describe the process of creating and managing electronic information throughout the life cycle of a project. Project managers use certain technologies to develop a digital narrative for all the project steps, which typically includes 3D models with detailed information. Other useful information such as end-product, project execution, and handover information is also included in this description.  

Essentially, this holistic process is the foundation of digital transformation in three key industries: architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC). Real estate developers, manufacturers of building materials, and other professionals involved in the construction industry also employ BIM principles in their projects. 

Furthermore, data obtained from this process is helpful in the operation and management of buildings which in turn help municipal leaders, governments, and property managers to make wise decisions. To emphasize, the “I” in BIM means information must be shared among the concerned parties, and it is not merely stored for record-keeping but also utilized to inform decisions. 

Common Data Environment (CDE) 

The CDE is a shared digital space where data is gathered and is accessible to relevant stakeholders. It collects, manages, and circulates documentation for the project team, including graphical and non-graphical data. 

There are two primary information environments at play: supply-side (delivery team) and employer information environment (receipt and approval of project data). Ownership of the data remains with its originator, and models developed by other members stay separate and have distinct authorship.  

Change is inevitable in projects, and sometimes, people can leave a project, thus triggering ownership queries. In such a scenario, a license is issued to allow the client to use data in separate models for the intended purpose without deviating from this agreement. The client will then grant a sub-license to the project team to access models developed by other stakeholders. 

According to the CIC BIM protocol, the client of a said project should appoint an information manager to run the CDE overseeing all activities so protocols are adhered to, and there is no data breach. The CDE is helpful throughout all stages of a building’s life cycle from start to finish and during renovation. 

Status Levels within CDE 

There are four areas of information within the CDE as data progresses from one stage to the next: 

  1. Work in progress (WIP) – this area contains information yet to be validated and approved. 
  1. Shared area – this area has information that is checked, appraised, and approved for sharing with other entities. 
  1. Published – this area contains data that is accepted by the client or other appointed entity such as the constructor 
  1. Archive – this area stores a continuous record of progress throughout the project lifecycle and related transactions.  

What are the Benefits of CBE? 

Many benefits come with having a common digital environment, as follows: 

  1. The originator maintains the right to information and only they can modify it 
  1. Collaboration saves time and expenses in producing data 
  1. You can generate multiple documents by combining different variations of files. 

Innovation of BIM Levels  

The use of BIM is now mandated to ascertain the planning, design, and construction of buildings is a collaborative process with a high-efficiency rating. This process applies various dimensions for modeling geometry, and these dimensions have been changing as technology advances. Different building projects may require different levels of BIM, and every level has some stipulated criteria, and they infer a certain level of maturity.   

The shift from drawing boards led to the introduction of 2D systems then 3D packages, and this advancement continued until the present 6D systems. These levels are used to determine the effectiveness of managing and sharing information throughout a project’s life cycle.  

After the inception of 2D systems, it became apparent that visualizing the dimensions and requirements of buildings was not plausible. This dilemma paved the way for 3D renderings, which were accomplished using computer-aided design (CAD). Below is a summary of these BIM levels and their respective differences: 

BIM Level 0  

This level of BIM means not working collaboratively with teams. For instance, engineers or architects using 2D CAD and digital prints are deemed to be at level 0 because technology has evolved to advanced levels. The construction industry has adopted new technologies but not all professionals have suitable BIM training, and not all projects are mandated to employ BIM in their contract guidelines. 

BIM 2nd Dimension  

This level of BIM usually involves using 3D CAD for concept development and but still using an older level – 2D – for developing production information.  CAD standards adhere to the standards of BS 1192:2007, and a common data environment (CDE) helps distribute information.  

Level I is not very collaborative, and not every stakeholder shares and manages data autonomously. The main difference between level 1 and level 2 is that the latter fosters collaboration among concerned professionals. Some countries like France and the UK have mandated BIM Level 2 for every publicly tendered project.  

At this BIM level, members use 3D CAD models, and information about the building design is distributed through a collective file format like COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange). CAD software must have the capacity to export shared information to this collective format. Level 2 BIM helps firms become more efficient, saving on time, expenses, and more importantly, avoiding mistakes that would necessitate a rework.  

BIM 3rd Dimension  

As BIM levels advance, collaboration among teams deepens. Level 3 has everyone using one project model instead of stakeholders using their preferred 3D models. This model is centralized, and members have the right to access and make changes as deemed necessary, hence the name Open BIM.  

Since everyone is required to use the same model, level 3 has extra protection to prevent clashes as such an event would be catastrophic for the project. Apart from adding value at every stage, level 3 BIM comes with several advantages that make it so popular. 3D visualization is more enhanced, and it promotes seamless collaboration among teams in the same industry and beyond.  

Furthermore, communication is simple, and teams can better understand the proposed designs. When everyone is on the same page, there are fewer revisions, so the project moves to the next stage seamlessly.   

BIM 4th Dimension 

Time has become a new consideration factor with BIM level 4. There is a need to determine and explain how much time is allocated for each project stage to avoid unnecessary delays. If project teams can access this information, they can synchronize activities well enough to meet stipulated deadlines. 

BIM 5th Dimension 

This level has three added factors to the information model: cost estimates, budget tracking, and budget tracking. Project managers appreciate working at this level of BIM because they can keep tabs on expenditures from the beginning to the project’s end.  

What Lies Beyond 5D BIM? 

The global construction industry is keen to harness the immense potential of technology to elevate this trade, enhance savings on expenses and energy, and bring efficiency even after projects are complete. That said, there are already developments of BIM well beyond the 5D level to reach 6D and 7D BIM. 

BIM 6th Dimension (Integrated BIM) 

BIM 6th Dimension is also referred to as integrated BIM because it comprises high-level data that can be used in operations management well after the structure is finished. At this level, there is data for computing the energy consumption of a building before breaking ground.  

Knowing the estimated energy costs beforehand helps factor them into the overall budget, not just the upfront expenses. Therefore, level 6 BIM helps teams make precise extrapolation of energy consumption and erect sustainable buildings in line with the country’s sustainability goals.  

What are the Advantages of 6D BIM? 

There are several advantages of embracing the BIM 6th Dimension, as follows: 

  1. Structures have less energy usage and therefore save on utility bills 
  1. There is a detailed analysis of decisions throughout the project  
  1. Quicker and more precise decision making in the design process 
  1. More streamlined operations of a building once it is complete  

BIM 7th Dimension  

The 7th level of BIM pertains to how property owners and managers run the facility. This dimension keeps tabs on vital data like status, maintenance manuals, technical guidelines, warranty information, and such.  

This information is collated in one part of the information model to be used as a reference point in the future as the need arises. It will improve service delivery as the project unfolds and after that, say if the building was to be demolished later. 

What are the Advantages of 7D BIM? 

There are several advantages of utilizing the BIM 7th Dimension, as follows: 

  1. Augmented asset and building management from design to flattening phases 
  1. Easy repairs and replacement of worn-out parts over the lifetime of a structure 
  1. A simplified maintenance process for contractors and subcontractors 

Conclusion  

Looking at the above developments of Building Information Modeling, it is evident that advancing to the newest dimension is vital to the success of a construction project. Every new dimension comes with its unique capabilities that play an essential role in the success of a project from start to finish.  

Therefore, project teams must embrace these dimensions as they are rolled out and implement them until they are well-versed. It is expected that even more advancements will come after 7D to solve an unforeseen problem or streamline a process in the project life cycle. 

Management Solutions recognizes that Building Information Modeling is the future of the Construction and Project Controls industries. We are continuing to hire individuals that have a background in BIM while giving current staff the opportunity to add to their skill sets by exploring the functionality and capabilities of BIM software, participating in formalized training, and working through “mock” projects. This allows Management Solutions to continue to utilize the advanced technology to better serve our clients while staying at the forefront of the industry.