What is BIM and why should engineering students know about it?

What is BIM and why should engineering students know about it?
Bentley System's clients include Malaysia's Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp), which has become the first infrastructure developer in Asia to achieve Level 2 accreditation in the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Source: Shutterstock

How do you gain an understanding of technologies that will be crucial to future industry? For Southeast Asian engineering students aspiring to join tomorrow’s workforce, the answer could lie in three letters: BIM.

BIM stands for Building Information Modelling, a process that generates and manages digital representation of physical and functional places. By fusing architectural knowledge with technological processes, this is a tool that makes building plans more integrated and efficient. Contractors, architects, and engineers are increasingly using it to collaborate over long distances using virtual technology. Here’s an example of BIM:

The global BIM market is set to mark a CAGR of 14.9 percent during the forecast period of 2018 to 2023, according to Reuters. It’s spurred by mandates enforced by governments for the promotion and adoption of BIM so projects can be more efficient and save on operational overheads.

Universities are preparing students and practitioners for this increased use. The University of Melbourne has an undergraduate BIM module, the University of Liverpool offers a specialised MSc in Building Information Modelling (BIM) while others like the School of Design and Construction at Washington State University are setting up BIM laboratories.

Last week, Malaysia joined this crew, launching the first BIM labs at the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and UCSI University. Partnering with Bentley Institute, an initiative of Bentley Systems which provides software solutions for infrastructure professionals, the BIM Advancement Lab in UPM will be its first in Southeast Asia.

Vinayak Trivedi, Vice President and Global Head of Bentley Insitute, described BIM as part of the solution for an industry plagued with cost and time overruns, allowing owners and stakeholders to make informed decisions based on the real-time information the digital representations provide.

“BIM Lab at a university is the bridge between industry and future professionals. They foster an environment for research and education on the digital advancement of infrastructure with BIM,” he told Study International.

Vinayak’s firm has partnered with other global universities, including the University of Delaware, City University of Hong Kong, Georgia Tech and the National University of Singapore.

“In association with us and our Digital Advancement Academies, these BIM labs have the opportunity to host global level symposia on digital advancement relevant to regional requirements. The objective is to get the future professionals (today’s students) to get exposed to and learn standards on collaboration, electronic data management, exchange and security, Capex & Opex information management and related aspects on large infrastructure projects,” Vinayar explained.

The BIM Advancement Lab in UPM will be equipped with 25 i7 computers, AV and PA systems and over 50 softwares such as STAAD.Pro, AECOsim BUilding Designers, RAM Connection, ContextCapture, WaterGEMS, MXROADS, STAAD Foundation Advances, LEAP Bridge Concrete, LEAP Bridge Steel and RM Bridge Advanced.

“These software would be able to produce BIM-ready model for all phases of construction, from initiation until the end of life,” Head of Lab Dr Aidi Hizami Alias told Study International.

As part of Malaysia’s Public Works Department and the government’s Construction Industry Transformation Programme digital push, industry players are mandated to use BIM in their future processes. Around 50 percent of companies will be required to use this for their project submissions soon, according to Dr Aidi.

“Since we have the technology, why don’t we go further and apply BIM from the start to finish, and not just during the submission process? And we can benefit from that, in terms of cost- and time-saving,” he explained.

Professor Dr-Ing Ir Renuganth Varatharajoo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Industry and Community Relations at UPM said the lab will be a “game changer in our university and Malaysia”.

As the country moves towards using BIM in project delivery and monitoring, seen through the country’s mega projects like the recent RM25 billion (US$6.11 billion) construction of its mass rail transit in the capital, BIM is a technology that will soon be used across the board in the industry, Regunanth said. UPM, in turn, is moving towards an “industry-in-campus model”.

“University is where this process has to start,” he said.

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