Understanding Building Information Modelling in Canada

by Dr Melanie Robinson | November 9, 2022 |  6 min read

Understanding Building Information Modelling in Canada
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Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a digital way of working, for improved collaboration and the sharing of information and data between all parties in a construction or infrastructure project.

BIM brings efficiencies to the design process, reductions in budgeted costs, and savings along the full design, construct and operate timeline of a building project.

As the interest in and eventual adoption of BIM becomes the aspiration of construction professionals worldwide, it is important to understand why BIM is so essential to the advancement of the construction industry, particularly here in Canada.

BIM is commonly referred to as a process of delivering digital construction and is a major market driver for the conversion of traditional construction methods to digital ones. BIM has allowed for the introduction of new and rapidly accelerating technologies which are informing both national and international change. Such technologies include artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and the internet of things. Technologies such as these are positively influencing the way we design and construct our buildings and infrastructure assets, and are supporting growth in ways previously unimaginable.

How does BIM work?

Although BIM is supporting advanced technologies, it is not a software platform or something that can be perceived as a tangible application. BIM is a process which requires people and technology to work together. To be successful, BIM requires three main activities: the generation of information, the maintenance of information, and the using (or sharing) of information.

In a construction project for example, information is generated at every project stage from the client brief through to hand over and operation.

At its most basic level, BIM provides a common environment to collate and store all information defining an asset – whether it be a hospital, a school, an office building, etc. – together with its common parts and activities. This includes shape, layout and construction time, costs, physical performance, logistics and how the end user will work, live or perform within the space.

BIM can instil an efficiency in the whole design, build and operate process. As BIM is set to become a primary consideration for project teams all over the world, we can use BIM processes to improve the sharing and analysis of data across the entire supply chain using common data environments (CDE), as well as to standardise and consolidate processes to understand and build our projects.

Through improving data management and collaboration in this way, we will see the industry deliver efficiency throughout each stage of a project, as well as reducing costs and saving on construction time.

Performance through data

Data (or information) also provides a way to store the necessary architectural and design data for 3D modelling and simulation activities. This is incredibly useful for the design and structural considerations of a project, as well as allowing clients to engage at each stage of the project when and if they require.

Effectively with BIM, we are building the asset twice: first virtually in a 3D model environment and second, physically. The virtual stage allows us to assess all capabilities of materials and asset attributes, identify and avoid clashes to minimise the need for rework on site at the build stage. The virtual build engages all teams to work collaboratively to avoid clashes and mistakes and save on time and budget.

The Canada construction market size was $325.1 billion in 2021, with the market projected to grow at an Annual Average Growth Rate (AAGR) of more than 2% during the period 2023 to 2026. With BIM and digital construction being set to become an integral part of the industry, there is an immediate need to educate and train industry professionals on the benefits of these new working practices in order to rival other global markets. This will allow the Canada market to be more competitive, and in turn deliver better projects across the construction sector.

International Standards

BIM centres around the creation of an employer’s (or client) information requirements (EIR), which define the information that the employer wishes to procure in order to develop and operate a built asset. Setting this out in a contract document ensures that appropriate information is created in a suitable format at the right time. In 2019, the international standard ISO 19650 was launched to ensure that there is a universal understanding of how we manage the information flow over the whole life cycle of a built asset using BIM.

ISO 19650 is set out over five parts: concept, delivery, operation, information exchange, and data security – all set within a common language so that professionals in any geographical region can work to the same regulations and terminology.

While many businesses within the construction section may not know about BIM, implementing the right technologies and processes to facilitate digital methods of construction, and becoming ISO 19650 compliant, are worth the investment.

BIM reduce the time required for communication and represent a positive return on investment.

One of the most fundamental aspects of the ISO 19650 international standard is ensuring the right people have the right information at the right time.

While this may seem like a simple benefit, information not being with the right person when required can cause significant project delays. With ISO 19650, ambiguity ends, and projects can push forward.

The future of BIM in Canada

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada states that BIM is ‘the process of collaboratively developing and managing an integrated digital model containing a built asset’s geometry and lifecycle information’. The model acts as a ‘single-source of truth’ and supports the many practices that are involved in the design, construction, operation and management of a built asset. Its BIM Explained document signposts to many organisations within Canada set up to support BIM adoption throughout the region, and includes where to get started with your own BIM adoption journey.

Still not convinced BIM is for you? BIM can be used to digitize the approvals permits and rezoning processes, which currently takes around three years. Because time is money on a construction site, and cost savings are a welcome benefit, having the ability to streamline everything from architecture and engineering plans to communication between various parties, including municipal officials, is a winning formula.

The construction sector in Canada needs BIM!

For more information about the benefits of BIM adoption in Canada, please contact Dr Melanie Robinson at [email protected].