Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Building 4.0: Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Digitization of the construction and property sector – chances and challenges

The digitization of the planning, construction and use of real estate is an opportunity and a threat. The construction and property sector needs to adapt. We’ll tell you how.

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

BIM is a term that generates both fear and enthusiasm, as it is currently difficult at present for many in the construction and property sector to assess its actual impact. A definition is provided by Berlin-based architect Siegfried Wernik, a pioneer when it comes to the introduction of BIM in Germany: “It’s about model-based, digital and interdisciplinary planning and collaboration processes in the construction industry.” Accordingly, BIM maps the entire life cycle of a construction project virtually and with significant data depth. BIM thus covers the planning, construction and use of the property for the entire life cycle.

Collaboration without disruption by use of different media formats

In Germany, no projects are yet known in which all processes have been fully integrated in full from an IT point of view. The quality of data and thus the level of transparency are moderate at best, while susceptibility to costly faults is high. At the same time, the level of detail is often not even defined. This is because discussions are still ongoing as to which specific processes should actually be integrated.

Contrary to public perception, BIM is not solely about 3D illustrations for construction, but rather about additional dimensions that need to be integrated (for instance, deadlines, resources, cost and quantity calculations, detailed descriptions of materials). All information that is relevant to the construction process should not only be entered in a central database but this database should also be made accessible to everyone involved in the project.

This intensive level of collaboration requires compatible database software and the ability to manage this data with a project focus.

Transparency as a basis for cost-efficiency and keeping deadlines

What does BIM mean, then, when put into practice? First of all, all those involved (unlike with computer-aided design – CAD) gain access to virtual plans, control units for the process and an extensive database. Using this information, collision and quality checks are automatically performed by the qualified software. The quantities of construction materials and services can be automatically determined. Cost effects and schedules can be visualized. BIM therefore demands that all those involved make necessary decisions at the required time. This means that responsibilities and delays are allocated in a transparent way. In a nutshell: 3D plans should also be realized in 3D – without the need to make 2D plans first.

Advantages and disadvantages

The advantages naturally lie in boosting the quality of planning (particularly with regards to collision prevention). What’s more, it can be assumed that the introduction and use of BIM solutions will lead to reduced costs for planning and building in the future. This enables the construction industry to realize optimized planning processes and make important decisions right in the planning phase. There is also a new high level of transparency within the planning process.

The effects of planning decisions on the cost and deadline structure of projects will be immediately visible. Additional time and costs of building projects will hopefully be avoided or reduced. Procurement processes will improve and the transfer of all information into one transparent database opens up new possibilities for optimizing facility management.

Problem areas arise, in particular, from the increased amount of planning work in the early stages of a project and from the increased amount of training for the software to be used. However, it will be up to IT providers to offer user-friendly solutions that can be marketed quickly (similar to the transition to CAD).

Investments must be made in these applications and additional management capacities will also be required in order to monitor the transition.

Legal aspects

The planning and construction contracts used to date are not inherently suited for BIM projects. In particularthe cooperative approach intrinsic to the BIM planning method must be projected in the contracts for smooth implementation of BIM. Therefore, various contract models are currently being developed that are intended to ensure close collaboration of all those involved in the project.

Regardless of the chosen contract structure, the foundation of functioning BIM planning is the mandatory contractual commitment by all those involved in the project to exchange data via a central data platform. This requires the definition of obligatory, uniform legal and technical standards. Regulation is also required, among other things, for the interfaces between the various people involved in the project, requirements concerning the rendering of services, requirements concerning the client’s data sovereignty, matters relating to liability, the confidentiality and data security of the BIM model, and access rights for individuals. The incorporation of the additional requirements for those involved in construction are above all discussed in “Special Contractual Conditions for BIM Services” (BIM BVB) and a “BIM Specification”.

Besides the new requirements for collaboration between people involved in projects, additional functions are expected to be required in the planning process for coordination and integration as well as for overall control of the entire project. These cannot be readily realized with the current triumvirate of constructor, architect and contractor. Further, the appointment of a BIM manager/coordinator also has to be adressed and regulated.

The remuneration of architects for the increased planning workload and for the BIM coordinator/manager needs to be addressed, too – also in relation to HOAI (German Tariff for architects and engineers).

Recommended action

What should be done? BIM brings about increased efficiency and transparency, helps to prevent expensive claims in due time, and is set to become the future industry standard. Businesses of the real estate and construction industry, architects and constructors should thus already concern themselves with amending planning, construction and tenancy agreements, and adress usage and access rights, data protection, liability and responsibility with BIM use. For this, we can be your partner.


Markus Ruhmann und Ann-Sophie Stöffler

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Tags: #Bauen, #Bauwirtschaft, #building, #building 4.0, #Building Information Modeling, #construction sector, #digitization, #industry 4.0, #Planen, #planning, #Real Estate

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