Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a relatively new digital technique that has transformed the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. Prior to the development of BIM, the AEC industry regularly faced problems with high cost, slow delivery, unplanned setbacks, and a lack of communication between teams.
BIM helps reduce or even eliminate those problems entirely, and as such is a fast-growing technique in technical industries around the world.
It has seen major uptake in the UK and US over the last decade, but in many ways was pioneered in the Middle East. As the technology continues to develop, we will continue to see expansion of this method across the world, but will the Middle East continue to be an industry leader in the field?
What is BIM?
BIM is a holistic process of creating and managing information about a construction project, creating a single source of information that anyone on any team can use. First, a digital model is created of the asset across all stages of its lifecycle, from initial design, to procurement, construction, maintenance, and refurbishment. That information can then be stored, tracked, and monitored, to ensure optimised performance, integrity, or cost-efficiency, depending on the structure in question.
While the concept has existed in its infancy in the aerospace and aviation industries since the 1970's, advances in digital technology have brought the technique, and the industries it helps, to the cutting edge of design.
BIM ensures that appropriate information is created or captured throughout the entire process, so that accurate decisions can be made at any time. BIM can capture the physical specifications of the build, time management information, cost projections, and facility management data. Far more reliable than traditional methods, BIM has made a huge impact on the construction industry.
How BIM has changed the architecture, engineering, and construction industry
BIM has revolutionised the AEC industry because the digital model forms a reliable basis for decisions around general maintenance and repair, not just the initial construction.
Improved understanding from day one
Conceptualisation and design can often be one of the toughest parts of a project. Architects have different ideas to builders, who have different ideas to the stakeholders.
Thanks to the level of detail in the 3-D model that is central to BIM, everyone involved can see exactly what the finished product will look like, leaving no ambiguity. This works not only for the physicality of the project, but also the functionality: everyone can see exactly how it will work, and what they're all building towards.
Increased efficiency, decreased cost
The single biggest benefit of BIM is that it allows for increased efficiency across all stages of design, development, and construction, while also being able to reduce unnecessary costs.
The technique inherently relies on integrated collaboration and communication across different teams and disciplines, meaning that people who would never have spoken to each other on a traditional project have to interact and work together. This increases the productivity of the entire project, and means it's less likely that surprises will occur.
88% of engineers and architects say that BIM enables better design insight.
BIM also allows you to import files and data from other sources relating to the build, as well as other personnel working on the project. Teams can then share that data, analyse it, and back it up safely and securely.
BIM allows for a more predictive strategy, as the digital model can allow for potential problems to be solved before they occur. If you have the full design, material information, and data from the site, you can proactively measure and predict degradation, and fix things before they go wrong, saving time, money, and stress in the long-term.
The future of BIM in the Middle East
The Middle East, and the United Arab Emirates in particular, have championed the use of BIM, being early adopters, even going so far as to bring in government mandates and incentives to encourage its use. But what does the future hold for BIM in the Middle East?
A global BIM benchmark
One issue is that while many firms want to start using BIM in their construction, there isn't a globally recognised benchmark that BIM is held too. This means that not everyone uses the technology in the same way, to the same standard.
While governments around the world have recognised the inefficiencies in construction, and called for greater uptake of BIM to combat falling productivity, there is still a long way to go.
There is an opportunity for the middle east to lead the way in creating a unified accepted set of standards, techniques, and practices for BIM. In 2014 Dubai mandated that BIM must be used in large projects of 40 storeys or more, or 300,000 square feet and higher. Due to the clear benefits of BIM in terms of economics and efficiency, we may see more countries pushing for increased uptake of the technique in the coming years.
Increased BIM training
BIM requires a specific set of skills, training, and practical ability. Not everyone in the industry is equipped to provide it, and competition is fierce for those that are.
Many technical workers and engineers are learning new skills to work in BIM, as every industry becomes more reliant on digital tools, engineers who know how to create digital models will be far more employable. The Middle East may well soon set the standard when it comes to BIM training.
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