How Does BIM Software Work? The 4 Types and an In-Depth Look at How Building Information Modeling Tools Help Designers and Builders How does BIM software work 1 how does bim software work
I use BIM software to create 3D building designs and 2D plans

Building information modeling, or BIM, software are powerful tools that help designers and builders create and manage building projects. But how does BIM software work, and what are the benefits of using these BIM tools?

My blog post will take an in-depth look at how BIM software helps professionals streamline their design and construction processes. We will also discuss the different types of BIM software available today and how they can benefit your business.

1. What Is BIM Software?

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a process that uses advanced 3D modeling technology to create a digital representation of a construction project before it is built.

BIM software output showing 3D model being built with building systems
BIM software output showing 3D model being built with building systems –
an excellent example from MetaphoraDigital

With the aid of BIM software, architects, engineers, and construction professionals can collaborate on a building’s design and structure in three dimensions and with a large amount of data associated with 3D objects.

The software provides a platform for users to input data, such as measurements, and material specifications, and generate things like drawings and construction schedules.

This data can be used to create a virtual building model that can be explored and interrogated from every angle 📐 👀

BIM software allows construction professionals to avoid potential errors and oversights, saving time and money, and ultimately, BIM helps to create better buildings that are safer, more efficient, and more sustainable ♻️

2. How Does BIM Software Work?

BIM software works by creating three-dimensional (3D) objects that construct a building model that can be viewed from multiple angles and perspectives.

How BIM objects go together - example from Archdaily
How BIM objects go together – excellent example from Archdaily

The model is populated with data that describes the geometry, materials, systems, and components of the building.

This data can generate 2D drawings, energy analysis reports, construction schedules, and other documents. 

BIM software provides the platform for applying intelligent insights to the tangible aspects of a building, such as geometry, spatial relationships, geographic information, and component properties.

Architects and engineers can use these insights early in the design process to avoid potential problems and optimize the building’s performance 💪  

3. The Benefits of Using BIM Tools

Some of the key advantages of using BIM software include:

  1. Improved Communication: One of the significant benefits of using BIM is that it helps improve communication between all project team members. By creating a virtual model of the building, all stakeholders can have a clear understanding of the project requirements. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and potential delays during construction.
  2. Increased Efficiency: BIM tools assist designers by speeding up the 2D drawing production process. By generating plans, sections, and elevations directly from the 3D model, BIM tools may help increase efficiency for designers by reducing the time spent preparing drawings.
  3. Better Quality Control: Engineers can use the virtual model of the structure to find out where in-place construction work differs from the 3D model. This helps find potential design or construction problems and helps avoid errors and defects in the finished product.
  4. Reduced costs: Teams can modify designs before the project begins by recognizing potential impacts early in the design process. Engineers can then help to avoid costly blunders and delays during construction.
  5. Faster project delivery: By using BIM tools, the construction process can be planned and managed more accurately and effectively. This can help avoid delays and disruptions during construction, leading to faster project delivery.
  6. Improved sustainability: The carbon footprint of a building can be reduced by using BIM to optimize the design for energy efficiency. BIM tools can help to assess a building’s energy performance and identify ways to reduce its environmental impact.
understanding building performance -BIM Solar Study Animation
BIM solar studies – understanding building performance

4. The Four Different Types of BIM Software

There are four main types of BIM software that all work together in a comprehensive BIM process:

  1. BIM planning tools
  2. BIM authoring tools
  3. BIM analysis tools
  4. BIM use tools

First, BIM planning tools are essential to coordinate the different stages of a building project and set your BIM project off on the right track. These tools allow users to create the optimum BIM Execution Plans (BEPs), Information Requirements (like Exchange Information Requirements EIR, Asset Information Requirements AIR, etc), and automatically check the BIM model deliverables. The most well-known BIM planning software is, of course, Plannerly 😃

Second, BIM authoring tools are used to create the actual 3D models of buildings and their components. Each discipline involved in a building project usually has its own specific BIM authoring tool. Some of the most popular BIM authoring tools today include Autodesk Revit, ArchiCAD, and Tekla Structures.

Third, there are BIM analysis tools, which are used to simulate how a building will perform under different conditions. These tools use the authored outputs to help professionals identify potential problems with a design before it is built. BIM analysis tools ensure that all the different elements of the building (walls, floors, ceilings, doors, windows, etc.) are properly coordinated and fit together correctly. This step is critical in ensuring that the finished product is safe and meets all the necessary building code requirements, which can save time, money, and embarrassment 😉 in the long run. Some of the most popular BIM analysis tools include Solibri, Revizto, Autodesk Navisworks, and Bentley Systems’ STAAD.Pro.

Finally, BIM use tools help professionals manage and maintain a building after it has been constructed. These tools can track building maintenance schedules, monitor energy use, and more. The term Digital Twin is a buzzword that is now frequently used to describe how BIM technology may be utilized to track and manage a building throughout its entire lifecycle. One example is Unity, which is popular in the gaming industry as well as architecture and uses virtual models of buildings for facility managers to optimize building operations.

5. How Does BIM Software Work for Designers

One of the most fundamental steps in using BIM tools is the actual creation of the model by the designers with the authoring tools.

The software for designers and engineers typically includes a library of building components so that designers can quickly insert chairs, doors, windows, and other elements into their designs. 

Unifi BIM Objects Example
Unifi BIM Objects Office Chairs Example

These components are usually parametric, which means that they can be quickly resized and customized to meet the specific requirements of a project.

Designers can also use BIM software to create realistic renderings of their designs, which can be helpful for marketing or presenting to clients. These renderings can help to sell a design concept and give clients a better understanding of how the final product will look.

BIM render example - by SolidCAD using Lumion
BIM render example – by SolidCAD using Lumion

These tools can then generate construction documents, such as floor plans/sections/elevations, exported to PDF or DWG format and sent to the construction team.

Example BIM construction document
Example construction document for an H&M office

6. How Does BIM Software Work for Contractors?

Contractors use BIM to help them plan, construct, and commission buildings.

In addition to using the Architect’s model, some contractors will build their own models for specific use cases.

Use cases might include 4D sequencing,

4D BIM Simulation for Health and Saftey on site construction for Duke Realty Construction
4D Sequencing Simulation

a detailed virtual mock-up, or even a model more suitable for accurate quantity take-off.

Virtual mockup generated from a BIM
Virtual Mock-Up from BIM – a great example from Structr Advisors

These models are also used to run more detailed 3D Clash Detection.

Clash Detection example
Example BIM clash 😬

Clash detection is a process where the various trade contractor’s models are merged into a single model. This allows the entire project team to identify issues that need to be resolved before construction can begin.

7. The Future of BIM Technology 

The ultimate goal of BIM is to create a single source of truth for all information related to a building project.

This includes everything from the layout to data on the construction materials, MEP systems, and even occupants!

BIM software is continuously evolving, and new features are constantly added; I believe that by using BIM technology and processes, we can transform how buildings are designed and constructed.

In the future, I think that BIM will become even more critical as we move towards more sustainable construction methods.

The use of BIM will allow us to reduce our reliance on paper drawings and physical models.

We will be able to create virtual models that are more accurate, more accessible to update/manage, and ultimately help cut out waste through every stage of a building’s life cycle.

Conclusion

So how does BIM work?

Well, design and construction projects require an immense amount of coordination between a large number of different trades and professions.

With new ways of working, this can be especially challenging to get right.

BIM can help to streamline the process, but the best outcomes will only be accomplished if you have a solid plan.

If you’re looking to simplify your BIM management process, I highly recommend using Plannerly. It’s the most well-known BIM planning software and will help you to keep track of your project from start to finish. Plus, it’s free to get started!

I also suggest that you check out Jennee’s top 10 BIM software list too!:

Other Interesting Reads

WHAT IS BUILDING INFORMATION MODELING TECHNOLOGY? MY THOUGHTS ALONG WITH 3 BONUS RESOURCES!

10 EXAMPLE BIM GOALS + MY GUIDELINES FOR SUCCESSFUL BIM PROJECTS

MY TOP 10 USES FOR BIM IN CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT – PLUS THREE BONUS BIM RESOURCES!

9 AWESOME BENEFITS I SEE USING VIRTUAL DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION (VDC) AND HOW BUILDING INFORMATION MODELING (BIM) SUPPORTS THEM

FAQs on BIM Software

I have also tried to summarize some answers to the most common questions that I get asked about this subject – I hope you can use them too:

What is BIM in simple terms?

Building Information Modeling is a process for creating and managing digital representations of physical places. Simply put, it’s a 3D model of a building that contains information about the building, such as its dimensions, materials, systems, and how they all fit together.

How Does BIM Software Work?

BIM, or Building Information Modeling tools, are software tools that help architects, engineers, and construction professionals work together more effectively on building projects. BIM aims to provide a shared model of a project—including all its physical and functional characteristics—that everyone involved can use to coordinate their work. Each discipline involved in a building project has its own specific BIM software tool (known as an authoring tool), which allows users to create and edit digital representations of the components they are responsible for. For example, an architect might use a BIM tool like ArchiCAD to create a 3D model of a building’s interior and envelope, while a structural engineer might use an engineering BIM software tool like Tekla to build the structure and building systems engineers will add the building’s mechanical and electrical systems using tools like AutoCAD/Revit MEP. This process is overseen by a BIM manager who would use a tool like Plannerly (The BIM Management Platform) to plan everything from the BIM Execution Plan to automated checking of the model deliverables.

How do I get started with BIM?

If you’re interested in using BIM for your construction project, the best way to get started is first to understand why you are doing BIM. What are the primary drivers for you? What benefits are you looking to achieve? Once you have a clear understanding of this, you can start looking at the different software options available and decide which one best suits your needs. There is a range of BIM software on the market, so it’s essential to do your research and select the right tool for the job. Here’s a great list of BIM software to review!

How much does BIM cost?

The cost of BIM will include hardware, software, training, support, and sometimes professional BIM services. Initial hardware and software costs are typically recurring costs – BIM laptops generally last about 3 to 5 years before you want to upgrade to the latest tech. Training is an essential but often undervalued cost of implementing BIM. Support services may be charged on a pay-as-you-go basis or as part of an annual maintenance contract. Professional services to help set up BIM standards and workflows can also add to the upfront cost of BIM.

When evaluating the cost of BIM, it is essential to consider the potential benefits and ROI that BIM can provide. BIM has improved project efficiency and quality while reducing risks and waste. In addition, BIM can create significant time and cost savings during construction operations through better coordination and collaboration among project teams. These benefits should be weighed against the upfront costs of BIM to determine whether the investment is worthwhile for your organization.

How is BIM software used in the design process?

The 10 main uses for BIM in the design process are:
1. Test design concepts
2. Generate 2D construction documents
3. Create realistic renderings of designs
4. Perform energy analysis
5. Coordinate the efforts of different trades and professions
6. Design for sustainability
7. Model the existing conditions to evaluate a site
8. Present designs to clients
9. Make decisions about materials and products
10. Create virtual reality simulations

I blog for the Five BIM Bloggers series.

Every week we share different perspectives on important BIM topics!

To hear our views first, Join Free or follow Plannerly!

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