What is BIM?

Published by Ponari on


We are currently standing at the brink of a digital revolution that has fundamentally changed the way we live act and go about our daily business. In an article written for the world economic forum, it has been stated that in its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation brought about by this digital revolution will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. It is in this context that Building Information Modelling(BIM) has made a gradual entry into the Architectural, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry.

This revolution has been termed as the fourth Industrial Revolution and has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by the convergence of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

This explosion in information technology is reshaping the world and re-writing the rules of our reality as we know and experience it. As I think and ponder about the possibilities that would be brought about by Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, the Internet of things (IoT), and the entrance of 5G technology, I am awed. This in reality is indeed an explosion

What is BIM?

Patrick Suermann, PE, defines BIM as, a virtual representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility from inception onward. As such, it serves as a shared information repository for collaboration throughout a facility’s life cycle.

This, therefore, means that BIM is a process that begins with a creation of an intelligent 3D model and enables document management, coordination and simulation during the entire lifecycle of a project (plan, design, build, operation and maintenance) as Autodesk would put it.

BIM is therefore fundamentally a process that that is driven by data. The Building Information Model forms a central location in which data is stored and managed as a repository in which metadata is aggregated.

Maturity Levels of BIM

BIM maturity levels refer to the construction industry’s supply chain ability to operate and exchange information. These levels of maturity can be categorized as;

Level 0

This is the level at which we have unmanaged Computer-Aided Design( CAD) and is generally a step up from generating information by hand. Information at this level is scattered and are from diverse sources, characterized by a large number of paper documents.

level 1

This is a step up from level 0, in this level we have a mixture of both 2D and 3D CAD. 3D CAD mainly used for conceptual design development, while 2D drafting is adopted for statutory approval of and product information.

This level has an aggregation of scattered and diverse data points with isolated sources of information. There are structured records and documentation in digital format. Models are not shared between project team members.

level 2

This level of maturity is a progression towards Building Information Modelling and is distinguished by collaboration through the exchange of information by all parties involved.

This is enabled by ensuring there is a common file format in which design information is shared and data processed. This enables any organization to be able to combine that data with their own in order to make a federated BIM model and to carry out the necessary checks on it.

level 3

This level envisages a fully integrated Project Information Model and is hailed as the future of the industry. At this level, the entire project team operates in collaboration from a single project model through a centralized repository.

The access to the model is within a fully developed common data environment in real-time. The model could then be handed over to the Employer for purposes of operation and maintenance throughout the asset’s lifetime as an asset information model.

Benefits of BIM

Understanding the BIM process makes it clear that the fundamental benefit of BIM is its accurate geometrical representation of a physical asset in digital format.

By far and large this is a game-changer and therefore as stated by CRC Construction Innovation, 2007, the following become benefits related to this process;

  1. Better design: Building proposals can be rigorously analyzed, simulations performed quickly, and performance benchmarked, enabling improved and innovative solutions.
  2. Controlled whole-life costs and environmental data: Environmental performance is more predictable, and lifecycle costs are better understood.
  3. Better production quality: Documentation output is flexible and exploits automation.
  4. Automated assembly: Digital product data can be exploited in downstream processes and used for manufacturing and assembly of structural systems.
  5. Better customer service: Proposals are better understood through accurate visualization.
  6. Lifecycle data: Requirements, design, construction, and operational information can be used in facilities management.

Softwares in the Market

According to the NBS National BIM Report 2017, the most popular drawing tools are:

  • Autodesk Revit (Architecture/Structure/MEP) 41%
  • Autodesk AutoCAD 14%
  • Autodesk AutoCAD LT 12%
  • Nemetscheck Vectorworks 9%

Adoption of BIM in Kenya

In my own personal assessment from being in the industry for the last four years, I can clearly state that the industry in Kenya is still lagging behind as far as the adoption of BIM is concerned.

Having been part of a project team that implemented one of the key vision 2030 flagship projects in the country, I can therefore authoritatively state that from an engineering perspective, we are still within level 1 of BIM maturity.

We do have a lot of ground to cover to be able to catch up with the rest of the world and especially the UK who in the recent past from my research have become the pacesetters in driving the BIM agenda forward.

Ultimately we need to adopt in order to adapt to the trends of the market. It is therefore my hope that the industry in conjunction with our policymakers start thinking in this direction so that this wave of change does not leave us behind.

It has been in the public knowledge that a lot of government projects have been marred with claims of corruption. In my capacity as a professional I propose that adoption of level 2 BIM should be made mandatory for all public projects in our country. This might just be the trigger to the change that we need in order to reduce instances of corruption and wastage of public resources.


In light of the above facts I believe I would be correct to state that BIM is here to stay. It has been a long time coming, over the years it has fluidly morphed from a concept and now it is a reality. With the exponential growth of our digital technology, the possibilities of BIM are unlimited.

This technology at hand is disruptive and it is time to allow our industry to be disrupted. Adopting BIM means adopting a process that is driven by data, making the process more efficient, accurate, intelligent, smart and most importantly collaborative.

The World Economic Forum has pronounced this a “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” where connected machines, feeding from data, will exponentially transform processes in every industry and the AEC industry is not an exception.


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