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4 BIM Enhancing Trends

Artificial intelligence, digital twins, building energy modeling and cloud technology are enabling greater design and construction efficiencies with Building Information Modeling.

Significantly boosting project design and construction efficiencies by leveraging the expertise of the full building team, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a game-changing technology.  

Global BIM adoption shot up from 11% of construction company utilization in 2011, to 73% in 2019, as recorded in the U.K.-based global technology platform NBS’ 2020 10th Annual BIM report.

Unlike traditional CAD design, each design element no longer exists in a two-dimensional vacuum and can be properly considered within the context of the full building design. With BIM, this means conflicts like an air duct running through a structural column can be identified and resolved early on in the design phase.

As the project takes shape, changes are updated in real-time, and easily coordinated across project teams.

Supporting the adoption of BIM are a number of technologies bringing its application and abilities to whole new levels.

Artificial Intelligence

This advanced technology studies design details and applies this intelligence to project designs. For example, AI is used for task automation, recognition of design intent and auto-completion of repetitive tasks.

Provided with a dataset of “rules,” an AI engine within BIM can create accurate models and floor plans. If a design parameter changes, AI will adjust all other variables within the full design and workflow.

The technology assists with automatically classifying BIM elements, auto-completion of connection details and model and drawing clean-up. 

As articulated by BIM Today Digital Content Editor Lydia Bamford, “AI is a particularly useful tool because it allows construction processes to become more streamlined by reducing the cost, time and risk of the project lifecycle by exploring all available avenues and processes of a construction project.”

The technology’s level of accuracy and ability to anticipate outcomes also mitigates construction risks and enhances safety.

Digital Twins

Powered by AI, digital twins are defined as virtual models designed to reflect a physical object accurately. This highly advanced technology is considered the new rage in the world of BIM.

A physical object or design is outfitted with sensors, drones and other digital technologies. This data is then used to create an exact digital replica, i.e., a twin, which can then be used to run simulations and gather data on improving performance.

As the hyper-accurate virtual model continues to gain intelligence through advanced analytics, machine-learning algorithms and AI, when it comes time to build, project teams can save costs and time with more accurate designs.

Building Energy Modeling 

Another way BIM is being used to optimize designs is by exporting the models directly into energy modeling software, where parameters like window-to-wall ratios, building forms and construction types can be evaluated. 

Advancements in BIM technology support these direct exports and eliminate the extra, time-consuming process of performing area takeoffs and geometric modeling before running the energy software.

Performing simulations on different design parameters helps the project team fine-tune the design based upon a pre-determined set of values such as thermal performance, daylighting levels, energy costs, life cycle costs and carbon emissions. 

Taking this a step further, digital sensors and smart meters can record actual performance data once a building is up and running. The building’s HVAC systems can be properly calibrated for enhanced performance by feeding this information into the original BIM model.

Cloud Technology

To store BIM models and all this amazing technology, cloud providers offer a central portal where project collaboration and coordination can occur in real-time. With access to cloud-stored databases and analytics, architects, engineers, contractors and sub-contractors can work anywhere, anytime to revise, mark up, and update designs.

The result is better communication, enhanced productivity and fewer mistakes as all team members access the same working model.

More Technology

In the next few years, BIM is anticipated to continue growing at quite the pace. A recent report from the global market research firm Technavio Research projected year-over-year growth of 18.36% through 2026, with the North American market contributing to 40% of that growth. Inevitably, technologies bound up with BIM are also anticipated to expand, not to mention new technological developments likely around the bend.

About the author

Barbara Horwitz-Bennett is a seasoned architectural journalist, covering the design and construction industry for the past 20+ years. She writes for numerous industry magazines and creates content for AEC firms and product manufacturers.