BIMArchitecture, engineering and construction professionals are finding new uses for Building Information Modeling (BIM), the three-dimensional digital modeling tool, every day.

By using BIM as a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility’s physical and functional characteristics, the building sector could improve productivity by 6 to 9 percent, according to a government report conducted by Australia’s Allen Consulting Group. In that country alone, the savings incurred by architects, engineers, builders, contractors, owners and facility managers using BIM throughout a building’s life cycle would generate a $5 billion of economic boost to Australia’s GDP.

In the U.S., according to a McGraw Hill Construction SmartMarket Report, 67% of engaged BIM users reported a positive return on investment, reduction in change orders, increases in productivity and reductions in average direct cost.

These impacts will only grow larger as new technologies flow into the construction industry. Creative users have already begun supercharging BIM by leveraging its base models and databases with new IT tools such as RFID (radio frequency identification), barcodes, laser scanning, virtual reality, energy and structural analysis, GIS/GPS (geographic information systems/geographic positioning systems), “big data” analysis and mobile and cloud computing, the study found.

The economic impact of augmented BIM grows even larger when professionals use it to manage the enormous information flows required for mega-projects such as hospitals, highways and LNG (liquid natural gas) facilities, as well as tunnels, airports, petrochemical plants and office buildings.

Workers in Australia used this approach in 2012 on an existing building, when they created a plan for meeting the future operational needs of the Sydney Opera House. The project showed that BIM tools could be applied to asset and facilities management as well as construction of brand new structures.

With the success of that project, engineers at Northumbria University and Ryder Architecture collaborated to create BIM Academy, a consultancy intended to teach the methods to other construction professionals.

And other building professionals are following suit, training to take full advantage of the huge potential of BIM and its capacity to help them collaborate better with partners and clients.

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