AECBytes mulls over BIM’s future in infrastructure

Infrastructure is BIM’s next frontier, according to AECByte editor Lachmi Khemlani, and while there are many thorny questions over how the predominantly architecture-based technology would transfer to large-scale city projects, its list of potential uses is “endless”.

In an editorial for AECBytes, Khemlani offers a tantalising vision of BIM, one where it finds further utility in providing 3D, intelligent models of cities: “Imagine the ultimate scenario of applying [the BIM philosophy] to infrastructure—a live intelligent 3D model of every city that represents all its transportation networks, utilities, zones, open spaces, buildings, and any other infrastructure components, all physically located within a geographical map and related to each other.”


A sound idea, but Khemlani’s editorial goes onto identify the many practical questions that this brings up. File size, she suggests, could be a sticking point.


“If BIM models of individual buildings are so large and unwieldy, how much more would BIM models of neighborhoods and cities be? Needless to say, we need some intelligent software solutions to optimize the size of these super-huge models.”


The march of technology will partly contribute to the solution, Khemlani says. As computers become more powerful, and their hard-drives larger, these technically-demanding projects will become more feasible, but methods of compression will still need to be “several orders of magnitude” more effective than they are now.


Moreover, Khemlani quotes a user of the AECBytes forums to highlight how BIM and CAD packages would have to be able to work in symphony on a virtualised city map: “For BIM to work at the city and regional scale, it has to be platform-neutral, because cities are made up of buildings and infrastructure designed by an infinite number of architects, engineers, landscape architects, urban planners, and scientists.”


Providing all that is solved, Khemlani is clear on the benefits BIM would confer to city-planning. BIM could be used to make an educated prediction on the impact of a proposed new development on traffic, and could also be used to plan the evacuation of residents in the event of a natural disaster.


The full article provides an image-heavy comparison of two infrastructure-focused programs designed by Revit-maker Autodesk, investigating how existing programs are paving the way in this field.


How many years away do you think we are from BIM being used in large-scale infrastructure projects?