BIM – future or present

Published in: CIO magazine, September 2009
Author: Georgi Minkov for Cad Point Ltd.

How are project technologies developing? Will the coordination between architects and engineers be automated? What will the project of a building look like in the future? If such questions have bothered you, the following article will provide you with the answers.

Before taking a look into the future, however, let us see where we have started from. It was only twenty years ago that designers argued whether computers could be applied in the process of designing. Then Autocad 10 came into being. The possibility of drawing the details first and only after that thinking for the frame and the arrangement of its parts on a sheet of paper was a revolutionary idea. Commands such as Erase, Copy, Mirror greatly increased the productivity of designers. At the same time it was faster to draw the small details by hand. Several years were necessary to improve Autocad. Simultaneously with the improved drawing means, “lisps” appeared and made drawing different type elements easier. Thus the productivity of the drawing process was additionally increased. Up to that time architects used to design in 2D and they gave two-dimensional drawings to the engineers. An increasing number of customers demanded 3D for their buildings, so 3D had to be designed subsequently. That meant twice as much work for the architects and it logically led to the appearance of a program for design objects in 3D. 2D working drawings were educed from the 3D models. From then on architects and engineers seemed to come apart. Architects began designing in 3D, but when they had to hand their designs to the engineers they had to make 2D drawings. Such drawings were difficult to use because of the possible mistakes arising in the process of transferring from Archicad to Autocad. Engineers on the other hand continued to work in 2D. They created a great number of new “lisps”, developed the technology of drawing but were still kept in 2D space. That problem was solved when a program working with objects was introduced. The advantage over “lisps” was that the object (for example reinforcement) included the whole information in itself and when a change in the object was made, the information about it was changed in the drawing as well. While with “lisps” such automatic change is impossible. That technology greatly facilitated the efforts of the engineers in drawing reinforcement plans. The constructors, however, were compelled to start the calculating model of the building from nought. Thus the bulk of their work was enlarged, their productivity was lessened and the terms for realisation of the project were extended. The rest of the engineers (Water Services & Sewerage, Heating and Ventilation, Electricity) usually drew their plans on the architecture drawings in 2D. Such design technology was slow, labor-consuming and offered a precondition for making mistakes. 

Such was the practice until the concept “BIM” emerged. We shall not dwell on the debate who was the first to introduce the term “BIM”. The fact that such a debate exists indicates the significance of the term. More important for us, as designers, is the question “What is BIM?” (Building Information Model). BIM is a digital model of the building.

Forget for a moment the way you usually design. Imagine a customer coming into your office. You promise to give him the building of his dreams. After approving the drawings you begin designing the building with Revit Architecture. You deal with objects such as walls, doors, windows, a roof . The design is in 3D and at every step you are able to see the picture of your future building. When the architecture project is nearly finished you ask the customer to come and see it. Prior to that you have transferred the model in Navisworks. Now you invite your customer to take a walk through their future building. The customer is dazzled and your project is approved. A number of small corrections have to be made and you can give the 3D model to the constructor and the other engineers. 

The constructor opens your 3D model in Revit Structure, the engineers use Revit MEP. The constructor erects the construction of the building according to the architect’s 3D model, places the loads and transfers the model to be calculated in Robot Structural Analysis. The engineers have already opened the 3D architecture project with Revit MEP and have started building in 3D their special parts. Periodically every designer hands his model to the other designers. The problem points are automatically revealed by the program. The models are accordingly corrected and co-ordinated once again. The constructor has calculated the building by Robot Structural Analysis and has obtained nearly complete drawings in Autocad Structural Detailing. Using Revit MEP the engineers obtain their drawings from the 3D model. Any technical mistakes are practically excluded because the changes in the 3D model appear instantly in all drawings. Final co-ordinations in 3D are made.The 2D drawings, created in Revit are accordingly shaped. The project is ready to be handed in.

A BIM of the building – a digital model of the building, is also handed in, alongside the four files of all parts. Using Building Information Model the engineers make a net chart and a building technology of the objects. Animation of both processes helps their co-ordination. Thus all possible problems in the process of building can be avoided. 

A 3D plotting of the building is an additional facilitation afforded by BIM. 

Now the building has been built and has been turned over to the customer. It is accompanied by an informational model. According to the type of the building BIM can be used in a different ways, but one thing is important – it can be used all through the life of the building. Imagine that on its 10th year you decide to carry out repairs, or to repaint the facade, or to make some reconstruction. By using BIM you can make several variants, compare them and choose the most suitable one. If you design a Center Mall or Business Center requiring a special type of control in the process of exploitation, BIM will provide unique opportunities. It will help in managing the building as a whole and its different systems as well. In industrial buildings you can add the productional process modeled by Inventor. When a change in the technological process is necessary you can try different options, using BIM before a final decision is taken. 

Creating and using BIM saves effort, time and money not only in the process of designing but all through the life of the building. Very soon the investors will require from the designers an informational model of the building together with the files of drawings.

BIM is not a matter of indefinite future, BIM already exists. Now, in the present. There are a number of architect bureaus and construction bureaus creating a BIM of the buildings they design using Revit Architecture and Revit Structure. 

Such a project is “Residential Building with Underground Garages” – architect Julii Farkov, who was nominated as Architect of 2008 for conservation and renovation of monuments of cultural importance. Revit Architecture was used. The construction of the building was carried out in Design Bureau Minkov (, with Revit Structure, the analysis of the construction with Robot Structural Analysis and the working drawings – with Autocad Structural Detailing. Using Autodesk programs in the process of designing assures a trouble-free exchange of information among the different programs. 

  • Some of the advantages of BIM technology of designing are as follows:
  • Work in 3D; Detailed descriptions of all parts of the building. 
  • Automatic co-ordination between architecture and engineers.
  • Drafting of working drawings of all parts (Architecture, Construction, Water Services & Sewerage, Heating and Ventilation, Electricity) from the 3D model.
  • Trouble-free integration of the 3D models of all parts; Developing of BIM.
  • the effort of the constructor engineer is greatly lightened by the use of Revit Structure and Robot Structural Аnalysis.
  • Using Inventor the technology of the production can be added in industrial buildings.

This designing technology is not quite a new one. Informational models have been used for decades in machine-building industry departments such as shipbuilding, aircraft industry, etc. That is why informational models creation can be defined as a past, present and future practice.

Thanks to Autodesk decisions we can apply that test technology in designing buildings and installations.