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Automation, Controls

Managing BIM workflow and improving the process

Building information modeling (BIM) is a workflow and acts as a combination of those three words that make up the acronym during the design process.

By David Butts September 3, 2021
Building diagram. Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

Revit, AutoCAD and vertical applications have evolved into essential engineering design tools that improve productivity, boost accuracy and increase coordination. The fact remains we’re not as good at the building information modeling (BIM) workflow as we would like to think we are. It’s important to figure out why and how we can get to where we need to be. BIM is a workflow, and it’s a combination of three key items that occur during the design process.

Breaking BIM down

  • The B in BIM is not a noun but a verb—the action of constructing, building, and creating. It’s not specific to a building but can be applied to water treatment plants, dams, and other infrastructure projects.
  • The I is one of the real keys moving forward—information is the new gold standard when it comes to design-to-construction workflows.
  • The M is the one part of the BIM process that’s consistent. Gradually, the AutoCAD and Autodesk platforms of 3D modeling tools have expanded, becoming easier to use and even an expected part of the design process. It has become simple to extract from someone’s head the idea of what the structure should be and convert it into a virtual world that is easy for even novice users to navigate and understand.

BIM is the sum of these parts. Creating logical connections that harvest data from utility connections to our infrastructure is where BIM can take us to the next level. The information that is associated with the components created during the act of building something sets BIM apart from traditional computer-aided design (CAD) tools. The data related to the components is not static but interactive.

Workflows in action

Consider the design of a water treatment facility to illustrate an effective, interactive, BIM-integrated approach. At the predesign level, the site is evaluated, and it’s determined that it includes some wetlands and will require pilings to reach the rock substrate below the clay-sand soil mix. The old method of proceeding would include site exploration, borings, and necessary groundwork.

But today, drones and aerial photogrammetry give us the third view above the site that was once prohibitively expensive to generate and produce. Three-dimensional point clouds bring the third dimension quickly to the overall view without the need for outdated drawings and field measurements. The point cloud can now be used to generate a more accurate representation of real-world conditions.

Once this model is generated, tools such as Revit can be used to create building element representations over the cloud model. Sections also give us a better view of the conditions to corroborate traditional site investigation methods.

Integrating the data into the BIM workflow

In the design development stage, individual teams accumulate information about the equipment and systems needed to complete the layout. The BIM workflow requires the data to be integrated into the model representations, as opposed to simply sharing the original forms, where multiple inputs could be required in different document sets. The model element author that owns the equipment inputs the data in the actual model itself, and the data can be updated in real-time.

At this point, the client’s ownership evolves. It’s no longer about simply storing the DWG in a network drive. The owner takes on the responsibility of owning the building, information, and model combined.


This article originally appeared on Gannett Fleming’s website. Gannett Fleming is a CFE Media content partner.


David Butts
Author Bio: David Butts, engineering technology manager, Gannett Fleming