Despite different architectural styles, histories, and locations, Westminster Abbey, Cathedrals of Milan and Cologne, the Palace of Alhambra, and Stonehenge have many things in common. They’re all iconic landmarks visited by millions of people a year. And the construction of all these five structures took more than 500 years to finish. Innovation in construction started to take off around 5,000 BC when human settlements began to use metal tools to shape materials for better, more durable homes. However, it wasn’t until the second Industrial Revolution in the 20th-century architects and builders began to control their projects.
Even though construction is still one of the most inefficient industries globally, there’s no way to deny how much the digital shift of paradigm has already transformed it. The advancement of digital technologies such as AI, VR, AR, IoT, prefabrication, or drones keeps adding tremendous value to construction projects worldwide. However, if one tool is single-handedly responsible for much of the positive transformations in construction, without a doubt, it’s Building Information Modelling (BIM).
Since its first use in the 1970s, it changed construction as we know it. While the future of BIM looks even brighter, will this software also remain the BIM as we know it?
Use of BIM to Spread to All Stages of Building Lifecycle
Even though BIM has firmly established itself as a building design standard, many of its most essential features are still under-utilized. While it’s true that BIM has its roots of development as a powerful design tool, at its core, it’s a communication and collaboration software. Hence, for the future of BIM, industry insiders expect to see designers and builders using BIM in stages outside design. According to Jeremy Thibodeau, AMER Leader, Construction Customer Success for Autodesk, in the future, usage of BIM will be spread more evenly through preconstruction, site construction, and operations and maintenance.
If you boil it down to its essence, BIM is a communication tool. The future of BIM involves using the model at all stages to improve collaboration.Jeremy Thibodeau, AMER Leader, Construction Customer Success for Autodesk
Indeed, even though 82 percent of BIM users reported a positive return-of-investment, only 41 percent used the software in the construction field. Meanwhile, even though BIM has a tremendous potential to bring down a facility’s operation and management costs, only 14 of owners felt that they could utilize BIM in their daily operations.
Thus, Thibodeau — and many others in the construction cognoscenti — believes that the future of BIM is “Connected BIM”, which entails leveraging more out of the end to end use of models through cloud technology. This will allow building owners or managers to continuously and automatedly supervise their assets, without the hassle, but with reduced maintenance cost. In other words, the future of BIM streamlines not just the design process but other pragmatic aspects of the building lifecycle, such as facility management, turnover, or handover phases.
BIM training is already an integral part of an education in design. However, in the future, many more professional domains, such as field operations or facility management, are expected to receive thorough training in BIM. In the future, this powerful tool might be just as ubiquitous as Microsoft Office applications for any building professional.
Optimized Buildings: Interoperability Will Define the Future of BIM
Despite the rapidly increasing BIM adaptation, most construction and architecture firms tend to use the software to gather data for visualization. They might treat BIM merely like a computer-aided design program, whereas BIM is capable of much more. “We design buildings manually, enter data manually. and then print data manually. This system works for the most part; however, it’s not very efficient,” says Bill Allen, CEO of EvolveLab.
Phases of construction outside design, such as operations and maintenance, will be more dominant aspects in the usage of the software. Thus, the future of BIM will be all about optimizing buildings, rather than just data and design.
“In the future, rather than gathering data and reporting on that data, we will use data to inform our designs,” adds Allen. “[T]he cloud will be software agnostic, and we will be able [to] create, manipulate, and capture information regardless of what software the geometry was created in.”
The rise of BIM as an internal optimizer entails its integration and interoperability with other tools to automate a building’s lifecycle. These technologies might include AI, IoT, AR/VR, 3D printing, robotics, and anything else that can be integrated into BIM. For instance, thanks to smooth interoperability with AI tools, BIM will feed a set of tasks, rules, and processes. In return, these computers — as well as robots, cranes, or drones — can execute them independently and more efficiently than humans.
The Future of BIM Has Arrived, But Not Evenly Distributed
William Gibson, a US-Canadian science fiction writer, famously said: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
Any statement couldn’t be more accurate for the future of BIM. As statistics show, many of the BIM’s powerful features are already here, but underutilized and not widely understood. Professionals outside design have a limited awareness about the benefits of BIM, and they are not fluent in the software. However, this might not remain the case a decade down the line.
While it’s impossible to predict how exactly the technology will develop and who will be able to access it, there’s a strong drive towards BIM as a holistic tool to optimize the lifecycle of a building through interoperability. The future of BIM will enhance its biggest strength, which is to enable seamless collaboration between not just teams, but also systems, processes, and other technologies.
As we expect BIM to usher a new golden era in construction, one thing for sure is that thanks to the supercharged efficiency in construction sites, we’re unlikely to wait for 500 years to see our time’s most iconic buildings.