A BIM can be defined as a kind of dossier storing information about a building. It is neither a product nor software, but rather a digital representation of an object’s physical and functional features. The acronym stands for ‘Building Information Modelling’.
As well as containing visual information (such as 2D or 3D models of the building), BIM projects also include a lot of data about systems, structures and estimated energy consumption. This data is used to facilitate an approach known as the collaborative planning method.
Reasons behind the use of BIM
The idea of such free and open technology was conceived in order to bring together the various phases of planning a building, making them more dynamic and interconnected. Normally for instance, in order to create an architectural plan for a new block, different software must be used according to which part of the building you are working on.
While working on the structure, you might use 3D or 2D design programs, while if you are working on designs for the electrical systems, you need specific software for that. All these programs use different file formats, which are often incompatible with each other, leading to considerable delays in the planning process.
BIM enables the format of files used in programs operating with this technology, to be standardised, (the format used is IFC, or Industry Foundation Class), so as to give planners the option to introduce any kind of data easily and be able to position it correctly.
Finally, a complete plan of the building is produced, and can be divided into sections, analysed and updated as required. In addition, it is possible to obtain data such as energy certification details and structural calculations.
Although the initial investment required may be significant (especially for smaller companies), file standardisation ensures a much quicker planning process which is less likely to contain errors.
The current BIM situation
The present time would seem to be particularly favourable for the development of BIM based software. More and more countries are adopting this standard in public offices, while imposing its use in private practices. This ensures that architectural projects are accessible and readily available for viewing.
Nations such as the USA, the United Kingdom and Northern European states have already made it compulsory via new legislation, while encouraging their construction industries to embrace this revolutionary new approach. Some governments have even made available free BIM libraries and projects, in order to facilitate the planners’ work.
In addition to these measures there is the EU Directive 2014/EU, relating to future public bids for tender. In that document, the European Union invites the 28 member states to include Building Information Modelling in Procurement procedures, for all projects financed by public European funds.
BIM in Italy
Despite its almost universal acceptance throughout Europe, BIM remains limited to a niche segment in Italy. The adoption of BIM software is still quite limited there and is mainly restricted to large companies. Smaller architectural practices on the other hand, have been slow to adopt this innovative standard for a variety of reasons.
The main reason for this is the generation gap. Construction sector professionals over the age of 40 are used to using certain kinds of software. Updating their skills would take time and money and, bearing in mind the precarious nature of the national construction industry, many do not wish to make that investment.
Another aspect is that recent graduates, whose studies mean that they use BIM based software almost exclusively, but despite possessing excellent technical skills, they lack the necessary experience to manage important projects. Further complicating this situation in Italy, is the lack of a proper law governing the adoption of the BIM standard, despite the European directives.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith