Page T1.1 . 11 October 2006                     
ArchitectureWeek - Tools Department
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Modeling Rules

by Dace A. Campbell, AIA

As we leave the 20th century behind, we must discover, refine, and implement new tools, new roles, and new practices to unify the fragmented AEC industry and efficiently cope with the complexities of today's intricate business and legal climate.

One of the tools critical to industry integration is building information modeling (BIM), which is sometimes described by software vendors and industry pundits as a 3D representation of architectural design intent used to create and manage 2D documentation. If BIM is not just used for drawing management but is also seen as a comprehensive information management and delivery tool, it promises sweeping, positive implications for all project stakeholders and may enable truly integrated practice.

BIM has its roots in computer-aided design research from decades ago, yet it still has no single, widely-accepted definition. We at the M.A. Mortenson Company think of it as "an intelligent simulation of architecture." To enable us to achieve integrated delivery, this simulation must exhibit six key characteristics.

It must be: digital, spatial (3D), measurable (quantifiable, dimension-able, and query-able), comprehensive (encapsulating and communicating design intent, building performance, constructability, and sequential and financial aspects of means and methods), accessible (to the entire AEC/ owner team through an interoperable and intuitive interface), and durable (usable through all phases of a facility's life).

In light of this definition, one might argue that few design or construction teams are truly using BIM today. In fact, we may not achieve this high standard for several years. But we believe these characteristics are all essential for reaching the goal of integrated practice.   >>>

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A building information model (BIM) used for constructability review reveals dozens of conflicts between rebar and post-tensioning cables in a typical detail from a parking garage by RIM Architects.
Image: Mortenson

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In the constructability review of a condominium by Callison Architecture, existing and proposed underground utilities and foundations were tested against the proposed building and crane foundation locations.
Image: Mortenson


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