30. June 2016 – Built2Spec

Building Information Modeling? Interview with TNO

Built2Spec involves BIM, but what exactly does this popular abbreviation mean? How can BIM support the construction process and what are the main challenges? Léon van Berlo and Tim Dijkmans from TNO tell us more!

The exact differentiation between Building Information Modeling and ordinary 3D models is not so clear for non-professionals. How do you, as an expert, differentiate BIM from an ordinary 3D-model?

It is indeed a subtle difference. When we talk about BIM we really talk about data. The more intelligent data we have, the more we can get out of it. A computer doesn’t know if a line is a wall, or a window, or anything else. BIM is a container term for data that has ‘semantics’. This means a computer knows what type of object it is, what relations it has with other objects and what properties it has. This information creates the possibility for several types of simulations and analyses on the data.

In the end 3D geometry is ‘just’ a property of an object. Just like the 2D representation. It is about the way the 3D is constructed that makes it meaningful for a computer or not. Many 3D models these days get their 3D from semantic rich information. In that case the computer has meaningful objects and relations and the geometry information is represented as 3D. Other 3D models are just a collection of lines. You could see this as an enriched 2D drawing. These non-semantic 3D drawings don’t have the meaningful information a computer can use for analyses.

It is hard to see the difference between a ‘dumb’ 3D model and a rich semantic 3D model when you view it on a screen. And there is no clear line between when data is dumb or semantic. In the end it all comes down to the use case. What do you want to use the data for? Is the data ‘smart’ enough to perform that job?

In order to build highly energy efficient buildings, the integrated building process management represents one of the key tasks. How can BIM support this process?

There are many advantages of using rich datasets in an integrated process. The data can be shared among stakeholders for coordination and integration of disciplines; the data can be used for early phase energy simulations and predictions so the designers can have a very early insight in the performance of the building; the data can also be used to validate the performance of the building against the original design.

In a way, working with rich datasets in contrast to drawings brings a huge potential and creates immense possibilities for the industry. Designing and building more and more becomes a process of juggling with data. The BIM movement is the foundation to transform the construction industry into a ‘data driven industry’.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges today concerning the use of BIM?

It is of great importance to keep in mind that BIM itself is not the goal. Better performing buildings (or even: better performances inside buildings) and a more efficient process are the goals. BIM is probably the best approach to reach those goals. I believe that there are many misconceptions about BIM and a culture of making it more complex than it really is. The biggest challenge is to educate people that it is better to start using it instead of waiting for the next big promise of an even better BIM that will solve all your problems. The construction industry needs to become more efficient by making use of the possibilities that are already there.

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