Top Trends in BIM - 2020

Trends in BIM keep evolving year on year, as technology moves forward. It is surprising that despite being a complicated and fragmented industry globally, the AEC ecosystem has adopted BIM seamlessly. Most architectural practices and construction companies have transitioned to BIM based software, from conventional CAD systems. It is safe to say, that BIM has transformed and is currently transforming the way the industry functions. 

For those who are new to the concept, BIM or Business Information Modelling is a design technology that allows architects to build data enriched 3D models of buildings. BIM comes into play not just in the initial concept stage but in the entire life cycle of the building i.e. even post construction. As mentioned, the technology is ever evolving. Hence we have picked what we think are the top trends in BIM this year.

Redefining Urban Planning

As cities expand, civil engineers and urban planning architects are stressing on using BIM to create smarter cities. Classically, metropolitan cities especially in developing countries would take shape at their own will. However, as governments take more interest in developing city extensions that are steered towards planning, the role of BIM expands. 

The city of Kuopio in Finland, for example, is a good case study of the benefits of using BIM in urban planning. It leads to better roads, better building portfolios, better sewage and most importantly, aides in saving tax dollars. It also bypasses any conflicts that may arise in further expansion of the city, in the far future. So, one of the key trends in BIM is its increasing role in developing future-ready cities. 

3D Printing Material & Prefabrication 

Another upcoming trend is the use of BIM in developing construction material. On-going research in California has resulted in the design and building of a house in just 24 hours, using 3D printing. The Chinese have of course overtaken this, by building ten such houses using BIM based technology. As you will notice, the role of BIM is jumping over from the design arena to actual fabrication.  

Speaking of fabrication; prefabrication using BIM is another trend to watch. Modular construction is taking large leaps owing to evolving of BIM capabilities. Globally renowned architectural firms like Chapman Taylor have personally invested resources in off-site manufacturing. They have used BIM based prefabrication to build a Holiday Inn Express in Manchester, United Kingdom. The current trends in BIM suggest that the number of modular constructions will surely increase in the coming decade. 

Digital Twins

‘Digital Twins’ in BIM is not entirely a new concept. However, the current trends in BIM indicate that they are increasing in popularity among the AEC community. Digital twin means a digital replication of physical systems, processes and most importantly, assets. It is not just a static replica though. To understand this better, imagine a clone of an actual building project which is aware of the exact timeline of steps & changes that took place. It knows the issues faced and the resolutions used. It covers the entire lifecyle of the building.  

Current trends in BIM show that future ready architects are using digital twins it to produce intelligent insights. These are helping with consistent comparison of planned schedule versus actual execution. In short, digital twin is empowering architects with a powerful analytical & predictive tool to monitor their projects. 

Drones and Robots

Remote monitoring is another emerging area when it comes to current trends in BIM. Currently, drones are the most scalable option wherein they are being largely used to provide reliable imaging of construction sites. Combining it with geographical information systems, they provide BIM based information regarding project productivity. Companies like Droxel are using drone based imaging to survey large construction sites and provide real-time data. This helps project managers understand the quantity of work being accomplished at remote sites. The effective combination of drone and BIM is leading to reduction in project delays; saving millions of dollars. 

Robots are the latest when it comes to remote monitoring and even execution of construction. Several BIM based software are enabling industrial robots to carry out construction on sites. These involves tasks of the repetitive kinds such as pre-fabrication based construction. The AEC industry is witnessing an increasing interest in scaling up the use of robots, leading to investments in related research and development. 

Artificial Intelligence

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in BIM is probably the most predictable trend, as AI is omni-present today in most technology related businesses. BIM software can collect a large amount of information from several construction over multiple projects. AI is aiding BIM software to be able to learn and interpret these findings, so that the software’s effectiveness increases over time. This helps in future design and construction processes and helps avoid expensive errors.

The current trends in BIM show that owing to the effectiveness of AI assisted BIM, the decision-making process in the industry is quickly improving. Architects are identifying patterns and automating multiple processes. Generative design is another well-known example of AI assisted BIM application. 

Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality

Only a few years back, virtual reality (VR) used to create a sense excitement among users due to its novelty. The technology however had limited application. But as current trends in BIM indicate, the use of VR in construction is going to exponentially increase. The most obvious application has been to take virtual tours of construction, in the design phase, to identify points of improvement. VR is now scalable and available on most mobile screens. This has democratised its use among builders, designers, construction workers and architects. 

Augmented reality (AR) is used to project digital visuals out onto the real world. This is being used as a demonstration tool by architects, to explain various aspects of building design to important stakeholders. AR enables life size illustrations of concepts, anchored on to potential sites/areas. This makes it easier for clients to visualise changes, designs and concepts. AR & VR as a combination, is also being increasingly used in AEC trade shows to demonstrate future projects. Technically, this is called mixed reality (MR). This BIM enabled technology allows prospective clients to literally walk through projects, that are projected at exhibition spaces. 

Integrated Geospatial and BIM solutions 

This is an off-shoot of remote monitoring that we referred to, earlier in the article. Integrated BIM and geospatial solutions are a growing trend in the industry. Also, referred to as GEOBIM, the technology is finding application in projects that extend across square miles. It emerged due to the shift of the geographical information system industry (GIS) towards 3D modeling. 

GIS is used in the construction of large scale projects like roads, rails, bridges and expressways. GIS takes care of the macro level planning and operations and BIM is used for design and building of these structures. The combination of the two has created a holistic approach towards large projects because these tend to affect everything around them. GEOBIM is helping create smart landscapes and cityscapes, where the interconnectivity of each structure is duly acknowledged. 

BIM is here to stay and it is here to grow. As an architect, it helps to stay informed about the latest trends in BIM. It helps one enrich one’s practice and provide clients with the latest solutions. Quick adaptation has become a prerequisite of the AEC industry. As it turns out, BIM is a common denominator in most AEC related technological advancements. If an architect is in tune with the trends, he is ahead of the curve.

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