Building Information Modeling (BIM): What is it? What is it used for?

This design model is now mandatory by Law since January 1, 2019

The construction sector’s significant internal revolution must come to a conclusion by 2025. This is when BIM will, in fact, become mandatory for all projects, both minor and complex. The legislator decided this because software enhancement for the building sector is the best solution for making works increasingly efficient, sustainable and safe. But what is BIM and why is it used? What are its guaranteed benefits? And how much is BIM used in Italy in 2019?

BIM: Meaning and Objectives

BIM is the acronym of Building Information Modeling, a not easily definable model. In fact, it is not just software, nor specific technology. It does not come as a surprise, then, if, during the last years, negation of what it is not has been used to define what it is.

To summarize, we can, say that BIM is a method that, starting from various technological platforms, modifies all project creating processes. It is, therefore, not surprising that Building Information Modeling is oftentimes explained as a process that accompanies the project for its entire life cycle. The greatest BIM model innovation is that it stays with the project from its design phase to when it is dismantled, passing through its construction and maintenance phases. BIM is, therefore, an interdisciplinary shared model. It includes information on every single structure component and its various works.

The main Building Information Modeling objective is to create a virtual model of the project structure, before it is even built. Up to this point, nothing new has been said. During the building digital definition process, all actors involved in the project, intervene: from the architect to the builder, to the engineer, the plant manager and facility manager. The project concept is, therefore, thought out from scratch, guaranteeing a strategic approach that was unthinkable, until very recent times. To this end, it could be useful to know the difference between BIM and CAD tools.

BIM & CAD: What are the differences?

Those oversimplifying things see Building Information Modeling as the natural evolution of CAD software. But BIM software can do so much more than just simply transform 2D drawings into 3D models. What actually does change, in fact, more than the actual software used, is the vision behind the project. BIM used in designing is not limited to defining lines and graphical elements that builders will later use to create foundations, walls and floorings. It is so much more, and it goes much further, as it integrates all the information needed for plants, energy performance and subsequent maintenance activities. No CAD program ever aspired to do what BIM does today.

BIM: The advantages

The advantages of Building Information Modeling are easy to see for everyone. This system ensures that all typical inefficiencies of traditional design are surpassed, integrating the design phase with the operating one. Firstly, BIM ensures real economic savings: its design exactness reduces waste to the minimum. Time is also saved, at a design level, and during tenders. Errors are also reduced. No more working on different models, but just on a single one. Sections, plans and prospects represent different points of view of the same object, reducing the typical errors that can arise when working with different models of the same object. Project design is simplified, especially for complex projects.

Building Information Modeling in Italy

We previously said that BIM will be mandatory in Italy, by 2025, for all new projects. Building Information Modeling already became mandatory on January 1, 2019, when the Italian Ministerial Decree of December 1, 2017, established that all public works costing more than €100 million must use this model. Next year, in 2020, BIM will also become mandatory for works with costs exceeding €50 million, with a gradual progressive introduction, according to category, that will be completed in 2025.

How many Italian companies have already started using Building Information Modeling? The 2019 BIM Report, published by ASSOBIM, the association created to promote this model in Italy, tried to provide an answer to this question. A sample of 600 people were used for the purpose, and construction companies, design firms, material producers and engineering firms.

The Report found that over 50% of the people interviewed knows and uses this new method, while 40% know what it is, but until now, has not yet used it, except maybe for smaller things or partially. More specifically, approximately 60% of the people interviewed stated that they have good knowledge of BIM. Despite this, it is still used very little. Less than half of the interviewed declared that they used Building Information Modeling for architectural design purposes. Adding to this data, there's also the fact that only 20% of companies, at mid-2019, participated in public tenders, where BIM was already required by Law.

As for professional training, 30% of the companies interviewed has at least a BIM professional, but only 7% of them, possess a BIM certification.