Building information modelingBuilding information modeling, or BIM, has been around for about a decade now, but it may still be new to some clients, developers, construction professionals and building owners.

By nature, BIM models are highly complex, and they can be challenging to interpret. Here are some tips that the construction client can use to understand what BIM is telling them.

Building information modeling

BIM technology is complex. They are more than digital, 3D representations of building designs or architecture. The models integrate all the physical and functional information of a building project: specifications, building materials, schedules, and costs. The latest definitions add environmental sustainability and life-cycle management.

In short, the models can display everything an architect, engineer, construction manager, developer, owner or facility manager would need to know about a project before construction begins. You can see a three-dimensional representation of a project, incorporating virtual reality (VR) aspects to picture it in place. You can close in, viewing electrical, plumbing, ventilation and other systems. A popular use is a virtual “fly-through,” viewing internal spaces.

BIM allows the owners, developers, architects and construction managers to experiment with different design choices and analyze the results on costs, schedules, life cycle maintenance and environmental impact.

This also allows designers and engineers to find design conflicts, such as where planned pipes would go through load-bearing bulkheads. This allows the engineers to resolve the conflicts before construction begins, saving valuable time and expense.

BIM emphasizes the importance of integrating every team into the design process.

Adoption of BIM

According to industrial research firm McKinsey & Co., 75 percent of companies that have adopted BIM reported positive returns on the investment. This is a result of shorter project life cycles and savings on material costs and paperwork.

Governments in the U.K, Finland, Singapore and elsewhere now require BIM for public infrastructure projects.

Take the time necessary

Implementing BIM, integrating it fully into your systems and getting the most out of the technology typically takes three months of daily use in the architecture and engineering offices.

During this critical learning curve, projects, milestones and tasks will require more time to accomplish as the team learns how to make BIM work with their existing systems and tools.

Some projects may have timelines or delivery requirements that aren’t flexible enough, leaving them out of the BIM process. They should use previously existing processes and tools.

Demand to be involved

Success in BIM depends on the client’s involvement from the get-go. Your engineering team should offer you plenty of opportunities to offer feedback and suggestions. They should also provide frequent visualizations of the project and updates, and proactively keep you involved. If they don’t, demand they do — or find another team.

Make a BIM implementation plan

The engineering or architecture firm driving the project should present a BIM implementation plan that details how each member of the project team will use BIM, assign responsibility for each part of the model, information needed by each member, and exactly how the data will be shared.

How much detail do you need?

Even though a powerful BIM system can visualize the placement of every electrical outlet and closet rod, it may not be necessary. Each additional level of detail adds to the time and cost needed to produce the model.

The engineering industry has produced comprehensive guidelines that define the levels of detail for large projects, such as AIA E202-2008: Building Information Modeling Protocol Exhibit. However, with a smaller project, you need to weigh the benefit against the cost and time required for a greater level of detail.


BIM templates are the starting points for models. They allow the project team to save time and produce more consistent, accurate models. Your engineering team should not only use BIM templates, but clearly show which templates they have chosen and be able to tell you why.

By the same token, the engineering firm should build a standard library of components for their BIM models. These can save time, and are fully customizable to fit the requirements of the project.

The result is time savings, which equates to cost savings.

Test concepts frequently

BIM offers a range of analytical tools to examine design and construction alternatives. Try out as many as feasible, looking at the predicted results in costs and timelines.

Keep it lean

While today’s computers are powerful and can process much more data and far larger files than ever before, BIM models are highly complex and larger files still slow computers down. The engineering team should examine best practices in keeping the BIM files as lean as possible.

Find out more about BIM

At McNeil Engineering, we provide the BIM design team an accurate base data model to build an intelligent model.

To find out more about how your next project can realize the benefits of implementing BIM, read our BIM page and give our digital modeling team a call.