What does BIM Really Mean for Civil Design Engineers? (it’s not just software)

Topics: Drainage Design, Infrastructure Design, Flow, PDS

It is well accepted that Building Information Modelling (BIM) is mandatory in order for designers to participate in government funded projects. However, BIM presents a huge opportunity for smaller consultancies through enabling consultancies to bid for a wider range of projects whilst also improving productivity through better collaboration and ultimately saving clients’ money. However, almost half a decade after the birth of the concept there is still some confusion as to what BIM actually means.

This generalised confusion stems from the fact that BIM means different things to different people and is used in different ways across the construction industry, e.g. 3D visualisation, clash checking, and fully coordinated, intelligent models. In reality, the concept of BIM is geared towards reducing risk across the construction lifecycle. For example, reducing the likelihood of (often very expensive) on site errors, speeding up the design process, and delivering a digital model of the project that can be used for the on-going management and maintenance of the asset.

Despite frequent requests for BIM compliance many companies in the private sector remain unsure of the benefits of BIM or what they should be achieving from its application. This is a huge issue for the design community where the essence of productivity is streamlining workflows not making changes for the sake of making changes and harming productivity. Real success is achieved by clarifying what a client requires and being in a position to deliver that in the most commercially effective way.

Amidst a tough economic climate, with a mounting productivity gap, the construction industry is in the midst of a digital revolution and a common myth associated with BIM is that it requires new software – in part driven by technology vendors, for obvious reasons. However, depending where you are in your digital transformation journey this is not necessarily the case as current 3D modelling software, such as those developed by Causeway, are already set up for BIM. This means that full adoption does not require you to change to design workflows, re-train your team, or undergo any project downtime.

Many companies are in fact sitting on the capability to output designs in BIM formats such as DWF and participate in BIM projects – they just don’t know it!

In this scenario, achieving BIM level 2 compliance simply requires documenting processes, and enhancing what you do – not starting again from scratch, essentially making BIM a ‘quick win’ and a rapid route to improving productivity and commercial performance.

The second bug myth surrounding BIM is that specific collaboration tools are required which brings us full circle back to the idea that new software is required to reach BIM compliance. Often, we hear our customers say that Revit is the package being used for collaboration and all elements of the design must be imported into it. Revit though, is a 3D modelling package which produces outputs in the same way as civil design packages such as Civil 3D and PDS, and is not essential – or even preferable if you want to adopt BIM. More insights on how to leverage BIM design efficiencies can be found in our recent e-book.

In the UK, we find that companies typically use Autodesk Navisworks or Bentley Collaborator, both of which accept output from all sources in DWG, DWF, DGN, IFC. This means you don’t need to change software to participate, you simply use what you know best to design and then deliver it for inclusion in the collaboration package being used.Confusion can also come from how design changes are managed in a BIM process. Changes will not happen within the collaboration tool (these are just viewers). Changes must be made in the native design solution and then be updated into the overall project model. Therefore using a design solution that allows for streamlined design workflows and automated design are preferable. Always remember, BIM is not just about software, it is more about process, how you plan to deliver project information, agreeing formats, layer conventions, attribute naming, and level of detail required. From there it’s about integrating tasks and establishing how you will work in partnership with other stakeholders. Causeway hosted a free BIM focused webinar which provides a guide for design engineers to participate in BIM Level 2 projects. You can watch the on-demand recording of the webinar here.

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