Utilizing BIM for Sustainable Architecture

An analysis and continuation of my graduate thesis at the University of Texas at Austin.

Chapter 3: Building Information Modeling (BIM)

As outlined in Chapter 1, BIM is an emerging tool for design teams in the building industry and has the potential to increase efficiency and improve communication among project stakeholders.  It is necessary to clearly define what BIM is – or more importantly, what it isn’t.  First, there is a common misconception, even among design professionals, that building information modeling solely refers to a type of software or physical geometry and not process or workflows.  While BIM requires the use of authoring tools (software that can perform the minimum modeling and information requirements), the software is but a single component.  Workflows and processes among stakeholders must fundamentally change to fully take advantage of the technologies available.  For the purposes of this research, BIM includes the integration of both software technologies and process/workflows.

The second area of confusion within the building industry deals with what constitutes BIM, a BIM model and a BIM authoring/creation tool.  Adding to the confusion is the fact that these terms are typically used interchangeably, yet have very different meanings.  As explained previously, BIM (Building Information Modeling) involves the strategic implementation of both software technology and collaborative process/workflows.  A BIM model on the other hand, is the digital building information itself.  Eastman, et al. (2008), defines BIM models as having the following characteristics:

  1. building components that have both visual representation (geometry) and data attributes (parametric rules) which define what they are;
  2. components that have associated analysis and work process data (i.e. quantities, specifications, phasing, and energy analysis);
  3. data that is consistent and non-redundant (a change to a component will be reflected in all referenced views and data sets); and
  4. coordinated data that does not permit misrepresentation or inaccuracy.[25]

A BIM authoring/creation tool refers to specific software capabilities.  The authors also identify six criteria that are required:

  1. the simulation tool must be digital;
  2. it must be volumetric (3D);
  3. it must be quantifiable (dimensioning, takeoffs, and identity queries);
  4. it must be comprehensive (visualization, constructability, performance, sequencing, and financing);
  5. it must be accessible and interoperable by the entire AEC industry and design/development team; and
  6. it must be durable and usable throughout the building’s life-cycle (design, construction, and post occupancy). [26]

In many regards, most of what is being called BIM currently, does not meet the above requirements in terms of technology, modeling, or process/workflows.

The third and final major misconception is that the selection of BIM tools should be based on initial costs (seat licenses) and the anticipated cost for training software users.  Rarely is there a comparison done between available BIM technologies and the goals of design/development teams.  The result is that either the software is underutilized because project teams fail to leverage the capabilities of the tool, or the software capabilities do not align with the goals of the project.  The shift in attitude required by project teams is to view BIM as an investment that has both short-term and long-term costs/benefits.  Since BIM (Modeling) is about the combination of technology and process, there are opportunities for stakeholder education and culture change – especially cultures of construction.  These potential benefits are less apparent, but can have major impacts in the long-run.

The following sections discuss BIM in greater detail.  First, the current trends of BIM are explained along with opportunities and barriers associated with addressing stakeholder workflows, project costs, and sustainable design strategies.  Second, the currently available software technologies are outlined with general comments about associated capabilities and learning curves.  Finally, the future potentials for BIM are hypothesized, especially with regard to affordable/sustainable housing.

Current Trends

Processes & Workflows

Sustainable Design Integration

Available BIM Technologies for Architectural Design

The Future of BIM & Rethinking How We Use It

[25] Eastman, Charles M., et al. Bim Handbook : A Guide to Building Information Modeling for Owners, Managers, Designers, Engineers, and Contractors. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2008. 13.

[26] Eastman, Charles M., et al. Bim Handbook : A Guide to Building Information Modeling for Owners, Managers, Designers, Engineers, and Contractors. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2008. 13.

3 Responses to “Chapter 3: Building Information Modeling (BIM)”

  1. Roan de Guzman said

    Dear Mr. Dowhower,

    I would like to ask you permission to use your website for my thesis on Green BIM for my masters in technology management.

    thank you,
    Roan de Guzman

    • Hello Roan,

      Yes, it is fine if you would like to cite my website for your thesis. I do ask that you cite my thesis in your references where appropriate: Dowhower, Justin. “Adapting Building Information Modeling (BIM) for Affordable and Sustainable Housing.”
      Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, May 2010.

      Please email me a copy of your thesis when it is complete and I am interested to learn more about your research.

      Thank you,

  2. Ahmed said

    Dear Mr Justin;

    i would like to ask for your permission to use this website for my MSc thesis on BIM and sustainability to best fit in Egyptian context.

    thanks in advance

    Ahmed Radwan
    Demonstrator | Department of Architecture | Faculty of Engineering
    Assiut University | Assiut,Egypt

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