Gauteng-based Autodesk Gold Partner and software solutions company CAD Corporation has noted a significant increase in the adoption of building information modelling (BIM) and the software that drives it in the South African architecture, structural engineering and, more recently, building engineering services sectors.
“South Africa is reaching a point where enough projects are being developed by consultants to allow BIM to move into the construction phase,” CAD Corporation technical and consulting manager Justin Taylor tells Engineering News.
BIM technology is also being adopted and driven by companies such as multidisciplinary engineering consultancy WSP Consulting Engineers, which has even developed its own website on BIM, which covers the facts about BIM and several case studies in which BIM has been used by WSP.
Meanwhile, BIM is becoming the standard on projects worldwide and is being driven by the increasing demands and complexities of modern design projects.
By leveraging the power of BIM, CAD Corporation can assist construction and project managers in performing more accurate quantity takeoffs by visualising construction processes through four-dimensional simulation and clash detection, and in executing on-site operations more effectively, resulting in less construction waste and more time and cost savings.
“In the last couple of years, the capabilities of BIM technology have increased significantly, owing not only to the technology hardware becoming increasingly powerful and cheaper to buy, but also to the designers letting go of previous boundaries and beliefs regarding what can and cannot be achieved with computers and software,” notes Taylor.
The development in mobile technology in terms of smartphones using mobile operating systems developed by Apple, Android and Windows Mobile, as well as the array of tablets, has enabled BIM data to be accessed anywhere, at any time.
Further, the ease of access and increasing communication, collaboration and coordination provides enhanced design efficiency and is increasing people’s acceptance of BIM and what it can deliver.
CAD Corporation emphasises the benefits of computer-aided design (Cad) in the process of BIM in the architecture,engineer- ing and construction (AEC) industry.
Taylor says Cad has been an important part of the AEC industry for decades, as its invention in the early 1980s enabled architects and engineers to take advantage of the rapidly advancing computing technology to transform the labour-intensive and difficult process of manual drafting into an electronic process, which was more efficient for documentation.
The project information used in traditional Cad software, such as two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) Cad software developer Autodesk’s AutoCAD Architecture or infrastructure software developer Bentley Systems’ Microstation, usually comprises lines, arcs and circles. However, BIM and the software that drives it extend this beyond 3D, augmenting the three primary spatial dimensions – width, height and depth – with time and cost as the fourth and fifth dimensions respectively.
“BIM, therefore, covers much more than just geometry. It covers spatial relationships between the various disciplines of architecture, structural engineering, wet and dry services and civil engineering. It also includes other aspects, such as quantities and properties of building elements, sustainable design and construction and even direct relationships between building component design and manufacture, such as curtain wall systems,” says Taylor.
BIM and the software that drives it differ from traditional Cad in the parametric nature of its design engine.
For example, if a user were to draw plans, elevations and sections in AutoCAD and needed to implement subsequent design changes, he or she would have to go to each sheet and carry out a manual update, explains Taylor.
The software that drives BIM helps solve the problem of using only parametric objects by enabling the designer to develop a project design using the actual objects, in addition to symbolic 2D lines.
“These objects not only represent what the specific item looks like in the real world but also how it should behave and interact with other items,” says Taylor, adding that the objects can also contain additional information such as material properties, manufacturer details and costs.
In doing this, the building is virtually constructed and all the relevant design iterations, updates and revisions can be managed through the software, says Taylor.
CAD Corporation has noted rapid acceptance and adoption of BIM in the concept and design phases of a project, but the true scope also envisages the virtual construction of a building or structure prior to its actual construction.
This enables architects, engineers, builders and owners to digitally explore a project’s key physical and functional characteristics, such as cost scheduling and the environmental impact, before the project is actually built, says Taylor.
This is undertaken to reduce uncertainty, resolve clashes between disciplines, enhance communication and understanding of the project, as well as simulate and analyse the building process.