With efficiency and cost-effectiveness dominant issues in the construction industry, the rise of building information modelling (BIM) is seen as an important tool in achieving these aims. BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information relating to a facility, both physical and functional. Computer-aided design (CAD) has been a tool for building designers for many years. However, BIM attempts to gather information relating to design, functionality and life span in forms that can be shared by the participants in the project. In this way, designers, contractors and suppliers can have a current view of the progress of the building project and have an influence on the design and specification prior to and during execution. 3D representation is a key element of BIM. However, this can be widened to 4D, which includes time frames, and 5D, which additionally comprises cost management.

BIM Level 2, which is mandatory in a number of countries including the UK for public procurement contracts, requires each member of the design team to develop building information in a collaborative 3D environment that may also include data relating to costs or modelling, but created in separate discipline models. Information should be transferable to all of the project’s participants. BIM Level 3 aims for full collaboration between all disciplines by means of using a single, shared project model held in a centralised repository. All parties will be able to access and modify that same model with the benefit being that it removes the final layer of conflicting information.

BIM has been implemented worldwide in many advanced economies, with the US, Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, Brazil, Canada, Australia and New Zealand recording significant take-up, in part owing to governments making it mandatory for public projects. This widespread adoption of BIM is reflected in the results of a recent survey by GlobalData. A total of 54% of respondents stated that they had already invested and planned to invest more, while a further 19% stated they had not invested but planned to do so in the next two years.

Aside from the mandatory nature of BIM usage on public projects in some countries, the widespread adoption of BIM technology within construction in recent years is also owing to efficiency gains. For example, designing a project through 3D models as opposed to traditional methods allows the engineer or architect to run computer simulations of the proposed design, allowing for the identification of errors in design that may not have previously been realised until the construction had begun. Using BIM technology allows for construction defects to be minimised, reducing costs while improving the efficiency of the construction process.

The ability to accurately assess the design prior to construction impacts not only the design process but also improves overall project management and client satisfaction. For instance, clients can now view digitally rendered illustrations of a proposed construction without having to meet architects in person, as 3D representations are generally much more accessible for clients than 2D representations and technical drawings. This means that clients can ask for changes and modifications without having to be talked through the design, increasing the efficiency of the design process, as well as the likelihood of the client’s satisfaction with the end product. As large scale construction projects continue to increase in size and complexity, the importance of BIM technology will only increase.