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The Benefits of BIM for Structural Engineers

Building Information Modelling Will Help You to Create Better Models

As an engineer, you understand that the technologies you use change over time. For example, the rise of digital design software was important. It gave you more ways show your ideas to your clients. As time has gone on, those software packages have become even more detailed. Your firm is now able to create lifelike depictions of the structures you design.

More recently, these software packages have started incorporating something called building information modelling. You’ll see this most easily if you use Revit. Building information modelling is not so much a new technology. Rather, it's a new method. It focuses on the creation of sustainable structures. Furthermore, it creates more cooperative work environments.

You may be thinking about making the switch to building information modelling. Be aware that it will take some work to implement the methodology throughout your firm. However, the benefits are enormous. Before we get to those benefits, let’s take a more in-depth look at what building information modelling is.


What is Building Information Modelling?


Building information modelling, or BIM as you’ll often hear it referred to, is a building process. It involves the use of a singular set of computer models where you don't have to bring separate drawings together. As a result, it creates a more cohesive design structure.

This may make it sound like it is relevant to architects only. However, the methodology works just as well in engineering.

This collaborative process ensures the accurate tracking of project changes. Instead of trying to pool information from a variety of sources into one model, you can receive accurate data. This data gets updated whenever a team member makes changes to the project.

Think of it as a shared knowledge library. Each member of your team, from your designers through to your engineers and construction crew, are all incorporated into the BIM model. Furthermore, building information modelling goes beyond construction. It continues to define the structure for its entire lifespan.

That’s the basic definition, but truly defining building information modelling is not an easy task. In truth, you’d probably find 10 different definitions from 10 different organisations. Each may have its own interpretation of the building information modelling concept, and how it applies to them. It is likely that your own firm would eventually build its own definition once you’ve made the transition.

The key point to remember is that it involves the use of technology to create a more efficient and sustainable work process. As a result, building information modelling brings several disciplines together.


The Benefits of BIM

Building information modelling offers an array of benefits to engineers.

Let’s take a look at how incorporating BIM into your firm may benefit you.


Benefit #1 – Improved Productivity


Improved productivity is something that all firms look for. As a result, this may be the most important BIM benefit. Building information modelling will help you to automate much of your work. You deal with fewer manual processes, which saves time.

In particular, many firms find that the creation of 2D technical drawings costs more time than most other stages of a process. The engineer must take all the relevant data, and create drawings that relate to that data. Building information modelling allows you to automate this process. You can use BIM to help with things like rebar schedules and numbering, which would have been time consuming tasks otherwise. As a model becomes larger and more complex, this automation becomes even more important to improved productivity.

Beyond that, large firms will find that BIM allows them to bring the work of experts from around the globe together. Such firms may have engineers positioned in different countries. Furthermore, they'll need to make use of these individuals’ talents on a per project basis. This can become confusing. Documents and designs start flowing in from different sources, which is hard to keep a handle on.

BIM’s focus on collaborative design lessens the work required to pull these singular documents into a cohesive project. This is because the methodology uses cloud computer technology. Each person working on the project can do what they need to. However, they then upload their work to a shared drive, rather than sending individual documents back. This means that everybody involved in the project has access to all the relevant information.

Mistakes get caught earlier, and this sharing also keeps each team member engaged. As a result, communication improves. This leads to higher levels of productivity. As a result, the project's early stages conclude successfully.


Benefit #2 – Superior Project Insights


The data you have can make or break your project. This is especially the case as you start working on more complex designs. You need to consider how everything fits together, and whether or not the structure is actually sustainable. With traditional design methods, this meant spending time trawling through reams of data. Mistakes get made, some of which don’t become apparent until you hit a later stage in the process. For example, you may order too much of one material. Or, you may fail to take electrical wiring into account when designing your models.

Building information modelling allows you to avoid these pitfalls. The shared data system gives you access to all the information that is relevant to the models you create. As importantly, your models have access to this information as well. Advanced BIM software will adapt to the data you present to it. You’ll be able to find conflicts at the design stage because BIM brings every aspect of the project into one model. As a result, you save time and money that you may have wasted on correcting mistakes.

These superior project insights also benefit you when it comes to material ordering. BIM helps you to understand exactly how much of each material you need. As a result, you won’t find yourself in a situation where you have too much or too little of a material when construction begins.

Finally, building information modelling helps you to understand how your model will perform in a real-world environment. You can add real-world data into your simulation. Again, this produces more accurate models that you know will work in the real world.


Benefit #3 – Improved Collaboration

Collaboration lies at the heart of building information modelling. The methodology helps with this. However, it’s also important that your firm commits to collaborating with all project stakeholders. Thankfully, most BIM software packages make collaboration easier. In fact, they're designed to ensure everybody pools their resources.

It all comes down to that single model structure. Every person involved in the design stage works on one model. As a result, the information gets shared with everybody else automatically. This provides the tools that team members need to communicate with one another. For example, an electrical engineer might see a fault in the model. A structural engineer may have missed this fault. The electrical engineer can then raise their concerns with the rest of the team. This means the issue gets dealt with early on. As a result, you don't end up having to deal with the problem during the building phase.

That’s just one example of how BIM can aid the collaborative process. The key is consistency. BIM asks each participant to work within a singular structure. While it doesn’t stifle creativity, it does ensure that each team member is in tune with the processes of the entire team.

The automation aspect also benefits collaboration. Team members don’t have to spend so much time searching through data to find issues. Instead, their software does much of that for them. As a result, the team can focus on solving problems, rather than trying to find them. This makes the process more productive. Furthermore, it also adds a different tone to team conversations. Instead of looking to assign blame, the team can instead pool its resources to solve issues.

The end result is that mistakes get caught at the design stage. They don’t end up becoming problems at the point of construction.


Benefit #4 – Constant Information Access

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There will be plenty of times when you don’t have access to your desktop. For example, you won’t be able to bring your computer with you when you go to a construction site. Instead, you have to hope that the information you print off covers every possible issue. This is a difficult process, and one that presents a high possibility of errors. If you don’t have the documents you need, construction gets delayed.

This is where BIM’s cloud-based system can help. It allows you to access whatever information you need, wherever you are. Do you see that tablet or smartphone that you’re carrying around? With the right software, you have instant access to your model. As a result, you don’t need to drag a bunch of technical drawings around with you. Instead, you can just pull up the information on a mobile device.

Of course, this contributes to improved communication. If somebody asks a question, you can check the model to find the answer. However, it also has a less obvious side benefit.

Think about all the paper you need to use to bring your drawings to a construction site. Every printout has an environmental impact. Furthermore, it costs a lot of money to get those designs printed.

With building information modelling, you can avoid those issues. Having the option to access your model anywhere improves productivity. However, it also lowers your carbon footprint and will save you money. The effects may not be huge in a single project. But over time, you’ll find that your firm benefits.


Benefit #5 – Improved Visualisation

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Demonstrating your ideas to your clients is a tough challenge. Your firm has to put serious thought into how it will help the client to understand what they're looking at. Just think about your last pitch. You had to talk clients through drawing and models to help them figure out what you’re doing. At the end of it all, you also had to deal with questions. You may not have been able to answer all of them because your models didn’t have enough detail.

Building information modelling helps you to avoid that scenario. The single model structure means you always have the information you need to hand. Furthermore, you can make edits to your model on the fly, based on new information you receive.

If a client raises a concern that you haven’t considered, you can input the relevant data to create a more realistic simulation. This helps the client to visualise how your design will look in real life.

Improved visualisation is why your firm started using 3D design software in the first place. Building information modelling allows you to take that a step further. Your designs have more detail, which means your clients enjoy improved visualisation. This increases client buy-in for your project, and allows you to ease any fears they may have. After all, you have all the information you need to do so.



As you can see, there are many benefits to building information modelling. On a general level, building information modelling improves productivity and encourages collaboration. Your firm will save time and money if you adopt BIM. You’ll make fewer mistakes, and you’ll catch the mistakes you do make early on in the design process. Furthermore, the automation in BIM software means you no longer have to deal with a lot of the manual work that goes into designing structures. Finally, BIM allows you to create better models. This means you can impress clients and attract more business. You’ll keep up with the early adopters, and become more competitive in your field.

So how do you get started? This is where ArchiStar Academy can help.  ArchiStar Academy offers a superb Revit BIM course, which will help you to get to grips with the software.

Now, you need to find out more. Please contact ArchiStar Academy today to find out how we can help your firm adapt to BIM.

ArchiStar Academy offers several courses across the spectrum of digital design software. You’ll develop your skills, allowing you to create more accurate and functional models.

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Posted on 20 Jan 2020

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