Building information modelling, (BIM), has been accepted as a guideline in architecture and construction, but civil engineers are becoming aware and questioning whether BIM applies to them. They constantly work with architects and structural engineers, so have become familiar with the term. While spending their time designing roads and highways, BIM has opened up a new world that is very relevant at present and will continue to grow in importance.
But what is building information modelling (BIM)? It is neither a product or software program but a combined process constructed around reliable information regarding a project from initial design, through to construction and finally into operations. Although its origins are in architecture, BIM is not specific to architects. BIM standards are applicable to everything that is built and this includes roads and highways. Civil engineers are experiencing the advantages of BIM in a similar way as that of architects. Although 3-D is part of BIM, engineers are able, via BIM, to anticipate more easily the effectiveness of projects before they are constructed. They can optimise designs with analysis, simulation and visualisation, acknowledge changes in design much quicker and thus deliver higher quality construction documentation. It also allows extended teams to collect valuable data from the model to assist the progress of decisions made previously and a more cost-effective delivery of the project.
The benefits of BIM for road and highway design contribute to improved designs and an increase in efficiency and productivity. Design and construction documentation are connected, therefore the amount of time required to assess more options, carry out any changes to design and produce construction documentation is greatly reduced. This is of significance to transportation agencies where the time to contract letting can be decreased, enabling projects to be completed earlier within certain time frames. They are making use of the 3-D model more and more, for the operation of construction equipment, with machine guidance by GPS. Over and above efficiency and productivity and as part of the design procedures, BIM further assists in roadway optimisation by including simulation, visualisation and analysis. The design work of civil engineers revolves around code compliance and not constructability. Therefore any misunderstandings about design goals due to ambiguous documentation, can cause schedule delays and order changes after the commencement of construction.
The merits of BIM techniques are revealed during the design process where several types of analysis and simulation occur, allowing engineers to quickly sift through repeats and receive immediate feedback on how a project is performing. The assessment of traffic volumes, lighting, noise, signage and drainage, can all be carried out earlier as part of the design process of a project and before any important work is spent on construction documentation. Contact with civil engineers during the last year has confirmed the contribution and advantages that BIM can bring to road and highway design, at this time and in the future. Organisations such as WisDOT are well advanced in their preparations for BIM.
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