BIM is essentially all about web-based collaboration by all the stakeholders in a project. It started off with web-based 3D modelling of the design (BIM 2), with the software being an advance on traditional CAD design. It is now moving into other areas, including concept and planning, feasibilities, authority and environmental approvals, design and documentation, estimating and cost planning, project data, the construction and commissioning process, health and safety, environmental matters, contract and operational management.
BIM is not a single piece of software or model, but a new form of information processing and collaboration, with data embedded within the models.
These developments are now being categorised into BIM 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you Google BIM you will find loads of information, with a lot of it being quite theoretical and a lot of it making it all sound very complicated.
However it is not complicated at all. The traditional method of project planning, design and cost estimating has been for the design consultants and estimators to work semi independently and integrate their inputs through regular coordination meetings. This resulted in quite a bit of design conflict and rework to resolve that, with consequent delays.
With BIM 2 software, 3D modelling is now becoming quite common for the design element with the consultants providing their design input through the internet into one 3D model. There has been rapid development of software for BIM over the last couple of years, which is easily located on the internet.
The development of the more advanced processes (BIM 3, 4, 5 & 6) covering stages of a project other than the 3D design is taking longer to catch on in the industry, but will inevitably develop and provide considerable efficiency improvements in each area, not the least being risk management.
With the implementation of BIM, there obviously has to be good organisation and discipline to get the maximum advantage out of the 3D modelling, but this is happening and it is proving quite successful. The management of BIM implementation has become a specialised field.
There are loads of references on the web to BIM, but don’t let them confuse you. It is not rocket science, just a substantial advance in efficient planning, design and management. I think the following reference is quite good at explaining the background and concept.