You most likely never heard of “BIM” – building information modeling – but use of BIM promises to greatly enhance the functional, technical and economic performance of future housing development.

BIM is a powerful  tool that is increasingly employed by architects, engineers and builders to design houses, townhouses, apartment buildings or any other type of construction, irrespective of how complex.

Domiciles intelligently designed using BIM will consume less energy and emit less carbon, be much more comfortable thermally and acoustically, involve less water usage and start to become more cost-effective.

But BIM doesn’t design, nor does it replace the designer. It doesn’t generate architectural ideas or make aesthetic judgments. While it could make buildings work better, it can’t make sure they are beautiful.

Here is what BIM can do:

BIM allows designers to create, visualize and continually modify digital types of possible building designs. A design can be represented with only a small amount or as much detail as needed, showing any or all of a building’s many components and systems. And a model could be instantly edited, allowing unlimited numbers of variations to be studied.

A designer can readily tweak a building’s geometry, roof shape or slope; floor plan and room configurations; wall thicknesses measurement or ceiling heights measurement; fenestration designs or door placements. With each tweak, the computer software immediately adjusts and displays the entire digital model to  change the reflect.

But  capability of BIM’s transcends  tweaking and visualization

Sophisticated BIM programs, such as for example Revit and Grasshopper, enable quantitative measurement of key project performance characteristics predicated on selected parameters. Analyzing and comparing multiple design options can optimize a design predicated on whichever parameters are deemed most important – energy is use, carbon emission, daylighting, structural efficiency or construction cost. This is why BIM can be known as “parametric” modeling.

Digital modeling and testing isn’t limited to buildings. Plans for redeveloping communities, office and industrial parks, urban neighborhood revitalization or entire towns could be quantitatively evaluated.

Until recently, planners and building designers lacked the time and technology to create and mathematically analyze step-by-step design options searching for an optimal scheme. Instead, a couple of schematic concepts will be generated and studied, sometimes combined with physical study models.

During early years of practice, my firm planned new residential communities and housing, mid-rise and high-rise apartment buildings, and custom single-family domiciles. Even though fairly confident about how exactly these projects would look and become used, I could only theorize about how well-organized or cost-effectively they would perform years after being built.

Designs were predicated in part on relatively objective parameters: site and climatic conditions; prevailing construction standards and techniques; building code requirements; construction cost targets; and residential market criteria.

Until recently, architects in effect handed off designs to consultants to ascertain heating, cooling, ventilation, plumbing, electricity, lighting and other systemic needs. Following well-established practices and norms, engineers did all structural, HVAC and other calculations “by the book. ” Contractors priced the built-in design described in final specifications  and drawings, presumed to be accurate, complete and coordinated.

Today, architects, engineers and builders work far more collaboratively, acting together as a team from the outset of design. Because of BIM, the collaborative design process is efficient, productive and reliable – if BIM assumptions, input data and evaluation criteria are valid and up currently.

Obviously, architectural quality still depends upon the aesthetic talent and creativity of the team’s designers, not BIM. None the less, with a strong team and sound judgment, BIM could make good architecture better still.

 

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