The Next Big Thing In BIM

I began my engineering career long before we had 3D modeling, but today’s architectural and engineering graduates cannot imagine a world without it. CALYX began using BIM (Building Information Modeling) back in 2007, when many firms had yet to make the leap to 3D. With BIM technology (in our case, Revit Structure by Autodesk), we can digitally build a virtual model of a building that helps architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and owners visualize a facility and identify design, construction, or operational issues or “clashes.” Because BIM encompasses all aspects and systems of a facility—structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and more—we can see through visual representation when a waterline mistakenly runs through a beam, and correct it before it causes significant problems during construction. A 3D model can also be used for shop drawings, code reviews by fire and other officials, cost estimating (which is built-in so material quantities are updated when changes are made), forensic analysis, renovations and space planning, facilities management, and building efficiencies.

As BIM pairs with the “Internet of Things”—a phrase coined by Peter Lewis in 1985 that refers to the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings, and other items—building automation will be the next big thing. Buildings will constantly provide us data. It’s already possible to create energy efficiency based on how traffic flows through a building.

Soon, augmented reality (AR) will march through our doors. Unlike virtual reality, which provides a completely immersive visualization experience, AR integrates with the real world and BIM to streamline the process for designers, engineers, and contractors. Rather than a physical/digital model that must be remodeled if any construction changes are needed, AR allows architects to interact with virtual models in real time—move something and see what happens. Stakeholders can put on AR headsets and join the project manager for an on-site walkthrough with virtual BIM overlays. Using 3D models through AR lets stakeholders experience a life-like representation of all building elements and a true picture of the finished project. It also gives builders more exact data—dimensions, texture, shape—which makes it easier to determine the amount of material needed, reducing unnecessary waste.

BIM itself took us to a new level and will continue to grow as the Internet of Things expands. I suspect that in the next couple of years, augmented reality may launch us to new heights.