Thoughts on Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Posted by Amy Holland on June 11, 2015

HE Blog - BIM Post Image-600x400Building Information Modeling, or simply BIM, is a term that has been thrown around quite a bit in recent years. But what exactly is BIM? Maybe it is a 3D image of a building…maybe it is a really expensive piece of software that can spin a project around 360 degrees. Well, yes and no. I believe the majority of people would say that BIM is a piece of software that can, on occasion, export some 3D-looking image of a building. But BIM is so much more than this. BIM is an approach, or even more, a mindset.

BIM does require certain software and the 3D environment is indeed integral to the BIM approach. However, these items are assuredly not the totality of BIM. I see the most beneficial aspect of BIM as the Information that is created and stored throughout the BIM process.

The following is a very rudimentary example of how we, as structural engineers, utilize the information that is stored inside of one of these building models—think back to the days of 2-dimensional CAD drafting. Imagine the roof plan for a particular structure. The line that represented a roof girder was most likely a solid line of a particular color that printed relatively dark. If an arbitrary roof girder line was selected, the program may tell you what color it was and what “layer” it belonged to. Sadly, that was the extent of the information that was stored via the traditional CAD approach. The color and layer of that roof girder line do not seem to contribute to the constructability of the project do they?

Now envision the same roof plan inside of a building information model. When that same roof girder line is selected the amount of information that is presented is enormous relative to the 2-dimensional approach. A few of the more practical pieces of information that we take advantage of are: the actual beam shape/size, the material, length, and the volume. From that relatively small subset of information the engineer can quickly generate a schedule of the framing members in the project to determine a material take-off list. And even better, because the actual properties of the roof girder are stored inside of that “line”, that information can be passed to external software for other uses, such as a creating a structural analysis model.

The above is a basic example of how BIM would be utilized inside of the office of a single design entity, such as a structural engineer. Another example why the Information portion of BIM is so powerful is that this information can be passed from one entity to another. This allows the structural engineer to see exactly where the architect would like to place windows or ceilings and can then place structure around those items. Or for the MEP consultant to realize a roof beam is in the desired location of a roof drain and either relocate the drain or request relocation of the beam. Contractors can even jump on the BIM train and use it to update quantities on a more real time basis as well as integrate it into their scheduling schemes. The BIM train ideally ends with the building owner where it would be used by facilities management over the life of the building.

Information is extremely powerful. Not just in the A/E/C sectors, but in everything. If more information is available on a topic, then more informed decisions can be made. This value is evident in the quest to better manage “Big Data” and to take advantage of what it can offer.

Leveraging the power of BIM is not without cost. The software and hardware required to efficiently employ a BIM solution is indeed considerable, but more so to me is the intense attention to detail that is required. Everyone has probably heard the adage “…garbage in, garbage out.” This is incredibly pertinent in creating high fidelity models. For instance, if steel beams are modeled with a wood material or ceilings and walls are modeled as floor slabs the information chain begins to break down. The level of detail contained in a building model is an ongoing decision that must be made by each design entity. For a set of structural construction documents, the model is not expected to be detailed to a level that contains every gusset or bolt. However, the model should be detailed enough to know that there will not be conflicts within any of those items. If there is a conflict within a model, most likely it is with a part that was not modeled in 3D. When the information inside the building model degrades, it slowly starts to look more like the traditional 2-dimensional approach where a line is just a line and nothing more.

Building Information Modeling is a powerful tool that has become quite prevalent as of late. The benefits of BIM are without question. However, discipline is a prerequisite to a successful BIM venture. If you are on the BIM fence, pondering the decision to jump into BIM or not, give it a try…you will at least get some nice 3D images!

HE At LISD High School College And Career Week

Posted by Amy Holland on March 4, 2015

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Holland Engineering participated in LISD High School’s College And Career Week today.  RJ Brey and Amy Holland spoke to a number of interested young minds about “Structural Engineering”.  They gave information regarding day to day activities, educational requirements, and skill sets that produce successful structural engineers.  Holland Engineering is grateful for the opportunity to provide insight into the wonderful world of structural engineering!

Timber Rivets

Posted by Amy Holland on March 3, 2015

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Holland Engineering utilized a unique wood connection solution to resist large loads in the lateral load path of a recent wood framed project—timber rivets. The timber rivets provided an alternate means to through-bolting when connecting wood beams to steel columns. The rivets also allowed for a more compact connection and did not extend beyond the connected members as much as traditional bolt heads and nuts would have. This allowed the connection to be used closer to the ends of the members and to fit in narrower wall assemblies.

Ram Jack At Holland Engineering

Posted by Amy Holland on February 13, 2015

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Holland Engineering hosted engineers from around the area on Thursday for a lunch and learn presentation from Ram Jack.  Information covering the range of Ram Jack products and their applications was presented while the engineers enjoyed a tasty lunch from the Lindale Deli & Bakery.

New Website

Posted by Holland Engineering on January 30, 2015

Holland Engineering is excited to announce the launch of its new website,! Be sure to check back often for updates, articles, and other blog-worthy news from Holland Engineering. Thank you to Hanson ImageWorks for the fantastic job that was done in designing the new website. A thank you also to John Jackson with Digital Designs and Alan Roberts for their help in providing photographs.