Building Information Modeling or BIM is no longer a new concept. Every now and then, it gets integrated with a new technology, further strengthening its role in unifying different aspects of the construction process and subsequently, the management of the asset created. Some of the technologies that BIM has been successfully integrated with are GIS, IoT, AR/VR, Artificial Intelligence, and 3D printing. These integrations have enhanced the capabilities of BIM, as well as each other, in multiple ways.
BIM is a process of generating digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of buildings and their management supported by various tools and technologies. It provides the project delivery team with a 3D visualization of the look and feel of the building that has to be constructed. Earlier, building construction primarily depended upon 2D technical drawing techniques (plans, elevations, sections, etc.), but BIM extends this to beyond 3D, augmenting the three primary spatial dimensions (width, height, and depth) with time as the fourth dimension (4D), cost as the fifth (5D), sustainability as the sixth (6D), and facility management as the seventh (7D) dimension. BIM is already the tool of choice for countless architects, engineers, and builders across the world.
In today’s world, data is not just a base to work on, but the essence of every decision made, in every work we do, every gadget we use, and every process we undertake. One of the most tedious and time-consuming aspects of design and construction is translating information from one software to another. If two programs are incompatible, you can lose important data, so the whole process can take up to a few months. Which is why in the future, we should see more connected systems that give and accept information, resulting in more error-free decisions and saving time and money. While we cannot forecast all possibilities of BIM integration with other software, there are a few that are growing in prominence.
Geographical Information System or GIS is a platform which is used to visualize, analyze, store, and edit geographical information and is represented on a map. GIS helps in spatial analytics, modeling and forecast, sharing information, and planning and designing of large development projects, be it buildings or infrastructure.
GIS operates at the city, regional, and country level, whereas BIM operates at the building level. While GIS is used for planning roads, bridges, airports, rail networks, and other infrastructure in the context of their surroundings, BIM is the key enabler for the design and construction of these structures. By the integration of GIS in BIM, a layer of geospatial context gets added to the BIM model. Integration of BIM and GIS enables users to unlock the value in diverse data sets and enable applications including citizen engagement, sustainability analysis, disaster preparedness, etc., thus aiding the decision making at building level. For example, a geospatial analysis of an area can provide insights about its susceptibility to flooding, give designers accurate information and thus influencing the structural design, orientation, and even the construction materials to be used in the building.
In the AEC industry, critical data gets lost between every stage, especially in larger projects. From master planning, zonal planning, site planning, building and infrastructure designing, construction, and the operation of the facilities, there is certain critical data which gets lost. But with a GIS-BIM integrated platform, the data loss is minimized. The information/data created in both the GIS and BIM platforms can be on the cloud, enabling stakeholders of both infrastructure and building projects to be able to manage data from any part of the world. Integration of GIS and BIM will provide better designs and long-term savings.
Construction 3D printing is an additive technology where computer-controlled deposition of building material is done in layers to create a building. This technology can be used to print construction components or to ‘print’ entire buildings. Building material is pumped into the printer nozzle that is controlled from a software program.
Construction 3D printing has the potential of simplifying yet enhancing the efficiency of the construction process. It massively curtails the wastage, increases the quality of the final product, saves time, minimizes pollution, decreases injuries and fatalities on construction sites, and by doing all this, saves a lot of money.
BIM is considered as a pivotal piece in the success of 3D printing in construction. BIM helps in enhancing the benefits of 3D printing in more effectively designing, scheduling, and executing the buildings. A construction 3D printer works by taking commands from a computer-aided-design program and BIM is the enhanced version of this. The integration makes it a whole lot easier to print more complex designs. BIM already serves as a rich source of geometric information for commercial, large scale, and automated 3D printing machines. 3D printing robots co-existing with human workers on construction sites will eventually need scheduling and assembly sequence information to maintain safety and productivity. This integration reinforces the notion that the most difficult-to-design buildings can be best designed in BIM and can be best printed using a 3D construction printer.
The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of inter-related computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, and objects that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. An IoT ecosystem consists of web-enabled smart devices that use embedded systems, such as processors, sensors, and communication hardware to collect, send, and act on data they acquire from their environments. An IoT platform is a set of components that allows developers to distribute the devices, remotely collect data, secure connectivity, and execute sensor management. IoT devices can be used for air-conditioners, televisions, heating systems, door locks with biometric/voice identification, and many more.
During the construction phase, connected IoT devices can help construction companies with project progress tracking. By equipping site workers with wearable technologies, such as connected sensors on hi-vis vests or hard hats, construction companies can track employee movements to ensure teams are using working time efficiently.
The integration of BIM with real-time data from IoT devices presents a powerful paradigm for applications to improve construction and operational efficiencies. Connecting real-time data streams from the rapidly expanding set of IoT sensor networks to the high-fidelity BIM models provides numerous applications. In a typical BIM IoT workflow, web-connected devices means having specific management software to supervise and control data exchanges directly from the digital BIM model. During the construction phase, IoT devices, when integrated with BIM tools, can allow real-time data query, risk identification, visualization, and notification. Sensor networks and BIM models can be used to minimize risks in complex and spatially confined construction sites.
Artificial intelligence or AI is a wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. It is used to describe how machines can be trained to imitate human cognitive functions by spotting patterns, learning from experience, understanding images, etc. Specific applications of AI include expert systems, natural language processing, speech recognition, and machine vision. Some examples of AI-enabled smart assistants are Siri, Alexa, Self-driving cars, Robo-advisors etc.
BIM software has the ability to collect and work with a variety of data. AI helps make sense of this data, analyze it to make predictions, and create models to forecast the next step. AI uses data collected by BIM software to explore opportunities, assess resource-efficient solutions, and even create execution plans that minimize the risk of loss. When used with BIM, AI helps reduce the risks caused by human error in building and infrastructure projects, avoiding severe damage to life and property. It helps increase productivity in construction projects and brings cohesiveness and integration to the manpower across teams on an infrastructure project. It has the ability to internalize knowledge, interpret new information, and create new ways and methods of doing things based on its newfound wisdom.
The incorporation of AI in BIM has only started recently, and the combination of these two powerful technologies is bound to grow in the future.
Augmented Reality or AR, and Virtual Reality or VR, are both marvels of digital world. They bridge the gap between the physical and the digital world.
Virtual Reality is the use of computer technology to create a three-dimensional, simulated environment that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. If an implementation of virtual reality manages to get the combination of hardware, software, and sensory synchronicity just right, it achieves something known as a sense of presence, where the subject really feels like they are present in that environment. It uses a host of technologies to achieve this goal.
Augmented reality is the use of computer technology to superimpose digital content over a real-world environment. The input can be audio, video, graphics, GPS overlays, and other digital content which responds in real time to changes in the user’s environment, typically movement.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two sides of the same coin. Augmented Reality simulates artificial objects in the real environment while Virtual Reality creates an artificial environment to inhabit.
Both AR and VR, when integrated with BIM, complement one another. They let you experience your own creation in a real environment, not just view it on screen. That would make it so much easier to spot issues and find new and better solutions for your designs.
The integration of VR and BIM provides a collaborative platform to help in managing and exchanging all the project data, which can be supported by mobile devices and tablets. BIM models can be visualized on mobile phones and tablets using VR technology. This helps the construction stakeholders throughout the process of construction to improve the work quality.
The merging of AR and BIM allows the participants to visualize an immersive view into reality and view the as-planned information onto the as-built environment. The AR-BIM systems enhance the interconnection between work tasks as well as improve the existing construction on site. In an AR application, the BIM model can be viewed in context with reality, the platform providing precise data context channeling the virtual information to the workers at the construction site. Through this integration, the workers are to see the progress of the work tasks and the differences between the current and the future work progress, thereby identifying potential discrepancies.
Building information modeling (BIM) methodology enables project stakeholders to create information-rich virtual models that help to better visualize building projects. There is currently a shift in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) industry to embrace BIM as a tool that can assist in integrating the fragmented industry by eliminating inefficiencies and redundancies, thus improving collaboration and communication and enhancing overall productivity. The resulting product, a Building Information Model integrated with multiple technologies, is a data-rich, intelligent, and parametric digital representation of the building project, as close to reality as it can be, and at the same time, allowing a high level of communication among the team members, more efficient interoperability, and further opening up new avenues of collaboration in the future.
Soumya Das is the founder and CEO of Aarka Technology Pvt Ltd, a Construction Technology company based out of Noida, India. Besides founding Aarka, she is also the Director of Aarka Sports Management Pvt Ltd and Rudrabhishek Infosystem Pvt Ltd, an Information Technology company she has managed till date since its formation. She has handled diverse projects in the field of planning, GIS, architecture, BIM, construction technology, and software deployment and implementation, working with both government and private clients. She specializes in planning and management, business development, strategic alliances, and business advisory and assistance to international companies in entering the Indian market. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from College of Engineering and Technology, Bhubaneswar; Master’s degree in Environment Planning from School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi, and a Master’s in Strategic Management from IIM, Calcutta. She has 15+ years of work experience in the AEC Industry and writes for various technical and non-technical magazines. She is a lifetime member of the Council of Architecture and Institute of Town Planners.
Have comments or feedback on this article? Visit its AECbytes blog posting to share them with other readers or see what others have to say.
AECbytes content should not be reproduced on any other website, blog, print publication, or newsletter without permission.