Blog/Building Information Modelling (BIM): From paper to digital
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Building Information Modelling (BIM): From paper to digital

Showing a client what his building will look like has always been an important part of an architect’s work. In this context, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the logical conclusion of a long-lasting history of visualization. It is also an important factor for standardization, which developed over time and sprang from the original idea of creating safer buildings.

The history of visualization and standardization of buildings
The visualization of buildings is no modern invention. Drawings of buildings have a long history. The first drawings and sketches date back to the 5th century in China and the Roman period in Europe. By the 15th century, which was an important milestone, they had become commonplace. In 1666, the Great Fire caused a lot of destruction in London. At that time, the city had about half a million inhabitants. One of the reasons that the fire brought so much damage was that the city had grown in an uncontrolled way, with houses being built wherever somebody found enough space or just put an additional floor onto an existing house. Although forbidden, many houses were built with wood and roofed with thatch, as these were cheap building materials.

One of the results of the Great Fire was a new movement to set standards for buildings. The first building regulations were written down to document these standards and prevent such a catastrophe occurring again in the future. With the advance of technology, these standards were developed more and more in the following centuries, but the next big step came along in the 1970s with the advance of computers.

First steps in digitization: CADD and CAD
When computers made their way into people’s workplaces, this also marked a new area in the visualization of buildings. The next big step in the evolution was Computer Aided Design (and Drafting)(CADD and CAD). Instead of the time-consuming process of producing every drawing by hand, architects and designers were now able to be much quicker and incorporate changes much more easily than before.

With the digital drawings, the information also evolved. More and more information accompanied the actual drawing, different systems for classifying the parts of the building were developed. Instead of supplying product information in a printed catalogue, manufacturers first provided this information on CD-ROM and then online.

Although the digital way of working made a lot of things easier, it still had one downside: Each party stuck to its own methods of recording their own information. Manufacturers developed product information, designers and architects needed to re-work it, and contractors reassembled the model in the format which suited their needs.

Industry 4.0: Digitization in the construction industry
Having information available in a digital format was the first important step. But over the years, it became clear that a digital workflow did not automatically mean more efficiency. The digital but separate way of working was inefficient and led to several mistakes.

Therefore, in the last few years, the industry started attempts to collect all relevant information for a project within one single place, creating a single source which is accessible for everyone involved in the project any time and any place.

Today’s digital technology is ideal to support this trend. Cloud-solutions, apps, and relevant programs cover the software side of things, laptops, tablets, and smart phones provide the respective hardware. Many industries already make use of digitization to a large extend in all their processes, gaining more efficiency and productivity. The building industry – compared to other sectors like the automotive industry – has not yet reached this point.

Now, Building Information Modelling (BIM), could be an answer to all these questions. The basic idea is to create a chain of processes which includes all stakeholders to share information, keep everyone up to date, and have relevant, correct and up-to-date information available at any time. Integrating BIM in a building project can help keeping timeframes and budget, can reduce the risk of errors, and can create a central source for all decisions about a building – from the design phase over planning and building up to the maintenance of the object.

If you want to learn more about the impact of BIM for the construction industry, the role of the stakeholders and the contribution to more efficient building processes, please read our Whitepaper on BIM.