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What is BIM? The benefits of BIM for planning and design

Everyone has heard of BIM (Building Information Model) and everyone talks about it. Yet not everyone knows what it is exactly nor do we know that it will mean for planners and their work in the future. Here are a few answers to frequently asked questions about BIM. BIM is not a software; BIM is not a data format; BIM is not new; BIM does not work only in buildings; BIM is not a solution to all problems in the building sector; and yes, it is possible to construct buildings successfully without BIM.

What, then, is the point of BIM? It is a method for networked planning, execution, operation and implementation of building projects. It is precisely the last two points which are frequently neglected in discussions about BIM but these actually provide the operator with many benefits. The most important element in BIM is the collection of all the data required for the building project. All the disciplines involved can access these data at any time. The building project is first constructed visually and then continually updated before the physical execution of the plans starts.

The benefits are clear to see. Mistakes are not automatically avoided but can be detected at an early stage. The common database makes modifications and corrections clear and easy to understand for all involved. In turn, the results are reflected immediately in the number of parts and in the delivery dates. Before construction begins, the client and the planner see the results in front of them and can simulate certain situations and processes. In addition, 3D visualization and presentations may well increase acceptance and understanding of the building project. The standardized data format »Industry Foundation Classes« (IFC) enables exchange between the specialized programmes of different technical disciplines so that during planning, in the building phase and in operation, they are able to communicate with each other or, at least, exchange data.

Building with BIM does not necessarily mean that more time is needed for planning, it only means that the time schedule for individual planning steps is adjusted. In return there is an increase in quality, adherence to schedules and costs. Planning with BIM does not guarantee the success of a project but it increases the chances of success. This presupposes careful handling of data, open dialogue between all parties involved, the willingness to give BIM a chance as a new method and the right tools for professional planning.

For more than 10 years DIAL has been a member of »buildingSmart«, an international organisation for the improvement of data exchange between different software applications. At a very early stage DIAL became involved in the model description in BIM for the topics »Luminaires« and lighting. Since the very beginning, the DIALux evo light calculation software has been aligned to the IFC format.

In the new version, DIALux evo 7, which will be released in the spring of 2017, it will be possible, for the very first time, to import IFC files. This will make it much easier for the lighting designer to work with BIM. It is no longer necessary to make a 3D (re) construction of the planned project.

Photometric information and the data of products which are actually available on the market are added to the imported project. In turn, the software supplies the required normative evidence and provides a clear and graphic simulation of the results of different solutions with regard to energy consumption and the lighting effect. There are already plans for exporting the products chosen and the data via IFC which will complete the integration of lighting calculation software within the BIM process. DIALux is available completely free of charge to all planners and designers.