Google Earth, Facebook and Jaguar analogies to explain BIM

Trevor Strahan, senior architect at Morgan Sindall Professional Services shares his unique analogies for explaining the benefits and concepts of BIM. 

At Morgan Sindall Professional Services, we have identified three main benefits of BIM: it enables a building to effectively have ‘layers’ of information that can be quickly and easily accessed by any of that buildings’ key stakeholders; the sharing and collaboration of information is intuitive; and virtual prototypes can be created that simulate a building’s construction and lifecycle giving an accurate, fast and in-depth insight into what the final outcome will be.


These three benefits maximise the value of a building by reducing the number of problems that occur during the construction process and by providing an information system that can be used to effectively manage a building throughout its life cycle. Central to our understanding and explanation is that BIM is not a visualisation tool, but rather a design tool that is used to add value to the design process.


Ensuring that our customers and partners fully understand the concept of ‘layering’ and why BIM is important, and how it will add value to the design and build of a property, is essential. One analogy we can draw is Google Earth. If you consider that Google Earth started as a 2D map, from which layers of information have been added to create what is now a tool used to gather full and useful information on where we want to go, then the concept of BIM becomes easier to imagine. These layers of information have created 3D viewing that allow us to understand what a place looks like, and how long it will take to journey from ‘A’ to ‘B’. There are even layers of information that allow us to quickly find places of interest and access reviews in order to design our trip.


Useful and informative layers of information are an integral part of BIM; 3D layers include how light, heat and sound can impact a building’s environment and inform a better design. 4D BIM adds timing information for each individual component, which is used to accurately inform on build times and make important decisions as to the order and safety of construction. 5D applies a cost to each individual component and the future of 6D BIM is that all asset and facilities information is available at the touch of a button. These layers of information allow the right design decisions to be made at the right time, maximising the value of a building throughout its lifecycle.


Another analogy to explain the benefits of BIM is Facebook. A Facebook member’s newsfeed is made up of comments, photos, posts, events, favourite brands and videos. These different streams of information need to be shared in order to enable the member’s news feed to function.


In a similar vein, the client, design team, contractor and supply chain need to share their information and collaborate with each other in BIM. This means that during the design process we are able to minimise potential disruption to clients during the works, maximise efficiency and identify system clashes that would otherwise only be discovered – and subsequently redesigned – much later in the process and at far greater cost.


Our final analogy is Jaguar and its use of prototype designs. Jaguar uses physical prototypes to test all of its cars. This enables it to iron out any design flaws before putting a car into mass production. A physical prototype is obviously not possible in the construction industry, but BIM allows us to create virtual prototypes, which are used to demonstrate the creation of a building through from design, construction, during use and even in demolition.


This testing allows us the foresight to make the correct decisions. By way of an example, we are able to simulate the creation of two differing construction models, visually side by side, to demonstrate which options will be quickest to complete and most cost effective. In deciding between modular and concrete building options, for instance, these prototypes have proved extremely useful.


Since the announcement that all publicly funded buildings will need to use fully collaborative 3D BIM by 2016, BIM has become more than a show piece of what Morgan Sindall Professional Services can do and how we design for tomorrow. Ensuring a wider understanding of its uses and advantages, and how it can be used to work for our clients, is now essential.


Author: Trevor Strahan is a senior architect at Morgan Sindall Professional Services.