You’re most likely familiar with computer-aided design (CAD) like AutoCAD. This software allows engineers to design 2D and 3D drawings of every facet of a product. Building information modeling (BIM) is similar except the software helps plan, design, analyze and create digital drawings of a facility’s structural and operational elements.

And it does much more.


BIM definition

National Building Specification (NBS) defines BIM as “a rich information model, consisting of potentially multiple data sources, elements of which can be shared across all stakeholders and be maintained across the life of a building from inception to recycling (cradle to cradle). The information model can include contract and specification properties, personnel, programming, quantities, cost, spaces and geometry.”

The key to BIM is the detailed and specific information provided that’s not found in traditional CAD. While CAD does create a two-dimensional design and addresses the materials including types, amount needed, and so on, it does not address personnel, quantities, spaces and performance requirements. The rich information BIM contains improves the quality of the design, keeps costs low, makes changes easier to implement, lowers construction costs, and shortens construction time.

Users can manage the building and its infrastructure with BIM software. CAD alone does not eliminate the need for documentation needed in the designing, construction and operation of buildings. BIM software has intelligence that can be used by other disciplines. It allows the team to simulate the building’s behavior before construction begins. The software can model plans for office parks, redeveloping communities, urban renewal and towns.


The I in BIM

BIM brings together building information resources (BIR), building information interfaces (BII) and building information models (BIM). Before BIM, the architect would design the building then hand it off to the engineer who would add the structural and HVAC calculations. Then the contactor would do the cost estimate. With BIM, everyone can collaborate at the same time saving time going back and forth. It also prevents information loss that occurs when one team hands off to another.

BIM makes it possible for all stakeholders — ranging from facilities managers and suppliers to manufacturers and procurement to project managers — to be involved in the building’s lifecycle within one application. In using BIM, companies gain intelligence that allow them to manage costs, reduce waste of materials, eliminate unbudgeted changes, save on costs from clash detections, minimize the facility’s use of energy and provide accurate cost estimates.

BIM benefits:

  • Reduces costs.
  • Speeds productivity.
  • Automates drawing and report generation.
  • Detects clashes early.
  • Simplifies procurement process.
  • Produces sustainable buildings using less energy and water, and emitting less carbon.
  • Reviews code.
  • Supports disaster planning.
  • Improves visualization.


Creating more than intricate drawings

BIM manages the entire life cycle of a facility. It renders walls, doors, stairs and other physical traits. It identifies clashes between structure and systems. It simulates how a functional building operates — ducts, pipes and even sustainability included — as if it were real. These powerful capabilities save time and money as it catches clashes and other problems early in the process.

Here’s a simple example, if a ceiling is removed from the BIM model, then any lights, fans and ducts also disappear and BIM software regenerates a new drawing with the appropriate physical and operational specs. The software can also implement requirements such as creating windows of a set size and height. Architects, structural engineers and mechanical engineers can all work on the same BIM while the software ensures everything meshes.

Using BIM allows the designer emulate the construction process to construct the facility just as a construction company would build the real thing. A change doesn’t require undoing an entire design and rebuilding it. When something in the design is changed whether it’s wall thickness, ceiling heights or door placements, BIM software updates floor plans, sections and elevations to reflect that change. This creates documentation faster and checks quality assurance.

After designing the building in BIM, the software generates architectural layouts, elevation and section drawings, structural layouts, production drawings, material reports, and manufacturing data. As a result, users save time in rendering the drawings and reports.


Doing more than designing buildings

Once the construction of the actual facility completes, the building owner continues using BIM to manage the facility throughout its life. Because of this, the owner of the facility is most likely the one to own the BIM model. This maximizes its usage and benefits.

BIM contains a wealth of information from multiple sources that can be shared with all stakeholders from a building’s inception to its destruction. BIM is super CAD for facilities with heavy emphasis on information that CAD can’t supply. BIM is transforming the planning, designing, constructing and operating of buildings from planning to demolition.


Vertex BD is a flexible building design software that automates the creation of architectural drawing sets, panel fabrication drawings, material reports, renderings and manufacturing data, all from one building model. Learn more at


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