From 2D to BIM: A Paradigm Shift in AEC Practices


Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a comprehensive process that involves the creation and management of digital representations for buildings and infrastructure projects. It extends beyond a mere 3D model; instead, it adopts a collaborative and integrated approach, facilitating improved design, construction, and operations.

BIM serves as a crucial link connecting stakeholders and technology throughout construction processes and workflows, enhancing decision-making and overall outcomes. It’s important to note that BIM is often misunderstood as merely software, but in reality, it is a dynamic working methodology.

But how does this contribute to the improvement of the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) Industry? Let’s explore.

AEC Industry before BIM: From Hand-Drafting to CAD

(source: Rare Historical Photos)

Once upon a time, architects and engineers relied on hand drafting and paper drawings to communicate their design ideas and specifications. This was a time-consuming and error-prone process, often demanding multiple revisions and copies of the same information. Moreover, the drawings were often inconsistent and inaccurate, leading to misunderstandings, conflicts, and rework among the project stakeholders.

The 20th Century saw the advent of Computer-Aided Design (CAD), which enabled faster and more accurate documentation and sharing of information.

However, CAD still had some limitations, as it was mainly focused on producing 2D drawings and 3D visualizations, rather than capturing the full scope and complexity of the project. It also lacked interoperability and integration among different disciplines, resulting in discrepancies and duplication.

AEC Industry after BIM: A Paradigm Shift

(source: IMechE)

In the 21st Century, the AEC Industry underwent a paradigm shift with the introduction of BIM. It offers a new way of creating and managing information throughout the project lifecycle. With BIM, you can now create and use a single, shared, and consistent digital model that contains all the relevant information about the project. It also supports the integration and analysis of the model data using various tools and methods, such as simulation, optimization, visualization, and automation.

With BIM, now it has become easier to:

  • Save Costs
    BIM enables early detection and resolution of design issues while providing better control over the project budget and resources, thus reducing waste and inefficiency.
  • Ensure Greater Efficiency
    The productivity and overall quality of the project delivery in enhanced with BIM, as it enables faster and more accurate design, documentation and coordination, as well as smoother and safer construction and operation.
  • Improve Interdisciplinary Coordination
    BIM enhances the communication and collaboration among the project stakeholders by enabling the sharing and exchange of information in a common and standardized format, as well as the alignment and integration of the project goals and requirements.
  • Increase Productivity
    Innovation and creativity are improved with BIM, as it enables the exploration and evaluation of multiple design alternatives and scenarios while facilitating the implementation of advanced technologies and solutions.
  • Achieve Better Quality Construction
    BIM ensures the delivery of high-performance and high-quality built assets, as it enables the verification and validation of the design intent and outcomes, as well as the monitoring and maintenance of the asset performance and condition.
  • Build Sustainably
    Sustainable and resilient buildings can be better ensured with BIM, as it allows the assessment and improvement of the environmental, social and economic impacts of the project such as energy efficiency, carbon footprint, water consumption, waste management and user satisfaction.

BIM Popularity: An Emerging Trend in the Global AEC Industry

(source: QeCAD)

Many countries and sectors are adopting and implementing BIM for their public and private projects. According to a report by NBS, the global BIM adoption rate increased from 28% in 2019 to 36% in 2021, with the highest rates in China (70%), the UK (65%) and the US (52%).

Some countries have even mandated the use of BIM for their public projects:

  • The UK: One of the first countries to adopt a national BIM strategy, they require the use of BIM Level 2 for all public projects since 2016. They are now working towards achieving BIM Level 3, which involves the integration of with Internet of Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.
  • Singapore: They launched their BIM Roadmap in 2010, aiming to achieve 80% BIM adoption by 2015. They also introduced the BIM e-Submission and the BIM Fund to support the industry in adopting and implementing BIM.
  • France: Launched the Plan Transition Numérique dans le Bâtiment (PTNB) in 2015 to accelerate the digital transformation of the construction sector. They introduced the BIM Object Standard and the BIM Data Dictionary to facilitate the interoperability and exchange of BIM data.

Working with BIM: Key Concepts and Aspects

Working with BIM involves understanding and applying some key concepts, such as:

  • BIM Level of Development (LoD)
    (source: Novatr)

    BIM Level of Development (LoD) is a framework that defines the level of detail and reliability of the BIM model at different stages of the project. The LoD ranges from LoD 100 (conceptual design) to LoD 500 (as-built model) and specifies the minimum requirements for the model geometry, data and documentation.

  • The Dimensions of BIM
    BIM is often described in terms of dimensions, which represent the different types and levels of information that can be embedded and extracted from the BIM model.

    • 3D | Geometry: The geometric and spatial representation of the project.
    • 4D | Time: Schedules, deadlines and milestones, to facilitate the planning and management of the construction.
    • 5D | Cost: Budgets, estimates and cash flows, for estimation and control of the project finances and resources.
    • 6D | Sustainability: Energy consumption, carbon emission and user comfort for analysis and optimization of the project’s sustainability and resilience.
    • 7D | Operations and Facility Management: Maintenance, repair and replacement-related information.

What’s Latest with BIM

(source: ArchDaily)

Building Information Modelling is supported by various software applications and platforms that enable the creation, management and analysis of the BIM model.

  • Revit: Developed by Autodesk, it offers a comprehensive solution for architectural, structural and MEP design, as well as construction and facility management.
  • Civil 3D: Another one by Autodesk that offers a specialized solution for civil engineering design, such as roads, bridges, tunnels and land development.
  • ArchiCAD: Developed by Graphisoft this software offers a user-friendly and intuitive solution for architectural design, documentation and collaboration.
  • Tekla Structures: A BIM software developed by Trimble, which offers a powerful and accurate solution for structural design, detailing and fabrication.

BIM is also enhanced by the integration and collaboration of various technologies and methods, such as:

  • Cloud Computing: Allows the storage and access of BIM data and applications over the Internet which improves the scalability, security and availability of BIM.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Enables the automation and optimization of BIM processes and tasks, such as design generation, clash detection, quality control and risk management.
  • Virtual Reality: Enhances the immersive and interactive visualization and simulation of the BIM model using devices such as headsets, controllers and sensors.
  • Augmented Reality: Enables the overlay and integration of the BIM model with the real-world environment to improve the verification, validation, and operation of BIM.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): A technology that allows the connection and communication of the BIM model with various devices and sensors, such as smart meters, cameras, and RFID tags, which improves the monitoring, analysis, and performance of BIM.

Examples of Mega Projects Executed with BIM

The Beijing Daxing International Airport

(source: Airport Technology)

It is the largest airport in the world, spread across 700,000 square meters to handle 100 million passengers per year. BIM was used to coordinate the complex and massive design, construction, and operation, involving more than 200 disciplines and 600 subcontractors. Design errors were reduced by 95%, construction waste by 40%, and energy consumption by 50%.

The Crossrail

(source: CNN)

The largest infrastructure project in Europe, consisting of a 118-kilometer railway line connecting London and the southeast of England, was made possible using the help of BIM. The data and information generated by the project involved more than 10,000 people and 40,000 documents. Using BIM helped improve collaboration and communication among the project stakeholders, as well as the safety and quality of the project delivery.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi

(source: ARTE Distribution)

The first universal museum in the Arab world that showcases the cultural and artistic heritage of humanity used BIM to support innovative and challenging design, construction, and operation. BIM helped to optimize the structural and MEP systems, as well as the environmental and acoustic performance of the museum.

And That’s Why, BIM is the Future of the AEC Industry

(source: iStock)

BIM is a boon to the AEC Industry, as it offers numerous benefits and opportunities for improving the quality, efficiency and sustainability of the built environment. As more and more countries and sectors are adopting and implementing BIM for their public and private projects, it is becoming crucial for the industry to adapt the technology into their workflow. BIM is the future of the AEC Industry, as it will continue to evolve and transform the way buildings and infrastructure projects are designed, constructed and operated.




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here