BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a technological tool used in construction and engineering project management, through a 3D digital model, indispensable for professionals of architecture, construction, surveyors and interior designers. Although it seems a 21st century technology, this software originated at the end of the 70s beginning of the 80s, in the USA. The first version was developed by Sigma Design International (Louisiana). In Europa, Graphisoft (Hungry) was pioneer in applying the BIM concept.

However, we must also mention the tool that revolutionised the design and building sector: CAD (Computer Assisted Design). CAD offered the possibility of working digitally in two dimensions: before CAD’s appearance, the projects were presented in paper and pencil.  At first, the use of this system allowed to gain time in the projects’ development, but this application wasn’t able to adapt to the current needs due to a variety of constraints like the partial visualisation of the project and the need for a more laborious project. And this is mainly due to the fact that each part of the design is independent, so any change needs to be manually reproduced in each part. These deficiencies lead to a greater cost.

Now we should raise the following question: if CAD and BIM have coexisted for so long, what made BIM prevail over CAD? To understand it, we need to look back to the times of crisis –at the end of 2007–, when the real-estate bubble burst. The sector started to collapse dramatically. It was the moment to rethink the production model of construction: it is necessary to go towards a much more competitive model and to reduce costs. This is were BIM comes in.

In the words of Jerry Laiserin: BIM is a building model based on data, a representation processed allowing to view all the project and construction phases on different dimensions. As a result, we optimise the project, enhancing the communication, the collaboration and the simulation. In a sector like construction, in which professionals from different areas, the collaborative digital tools are key to achieve industrialisation and move away from obsolete practices; it is time to align intelligences. According to experts in the topic, this evidence can be quantified: the collaborative tools allow to save up to  33% on building maintenance costs throughout their life, to reduce by 40% the general risks and to increase the overall quality of the projects by more than 50%.


BIM: innovation and collaborative technologies in the building sector.

Thus far we have talked about costs and quality, but in today’s socioeconomic context, the environmental issue is also very important in the field of edification and building; to talk about savings, resource optimisation and efficiency in the building process we must adopt a new paradigm. This is required by the energy-efficiency commitment by 2020, within the European Union energy strategy. And the answer to these needs is BIM. But, how can we save costs, improve productivity and implement edification projects in a sustainable manner, through a technological application? The answer is simpler than it seems. The crux of the matter is to combine all the factors involved in a 3D project: execution time, durability, sustainability and economic cost. Before BIM’s arrival, all these factors were reflected on a deferred basis throughout the construction process, that is, in different documents at different times.  Thanks to BIM, we can work on the basis of a central database in real time, a system that allows to control all details of a building’s entire life cycle and, more importantly, to prevent mistakes before going from virtual to real building.

Countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and France are well advanced in the use of BIM, while Southern European countries still have some way to go.  However, the Administration has taken action: the European Parliament has urged the member countries to take a step forward in their regulations on public procurement and tenders, recommending the implementation of the BIM methodology in all phases of public equipment and infrastructures –design, construction and operation (maintenance and ease of management )–.

And last but not least, when we talk about new technologies, we can not ignore e-accessibility. Today, the democratisation of the digital world is a reality. Any person with a smartphone or tablet with Internet connection can access technologies that,  in the past, were relegated to the professional field. Today we have at our disposal applications with a database of construction elements allowing us to plan, analyse and make simulations, for example, to create our own house. However, does access to technology make us more professional?

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