What does BIM Have to Do With 3D Visualization?
It has been said that architects are years ahead of civil engineers when it comes to 3D modeling and visualization. While this may be true, the engineering and construction industry is making large strides in large part to something most commonly referred to as Building Information Modeling (BIM).
While BIM can sometimes be difficult to describe, Autodesk does a pretty good job here:
“Building Information Modeling (BIM) is changing how buildings, infrastructure, and utilities are planned, designed, built, and managed. Autodesk BIM solutions help turn information into insight and deliver business value at every step in the process.” (and then, further down) “BIM is a process that involves creating and using an intelligent 3D model to inform and communicate project decisions. Design, visualization, simulation, and collaboration enabled by Autodesk BIM solutions provide greater clarity for all stakeholders across the project lifecycle. BIM makes it easier to achieve project and business goals.”
“Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a process involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of places. Building Information Models (BIMs) are files (often but not always in proprietary formats and containing proprietary data) which can be exchanged or networked to support decision-making about a place. Current BIM software is used by individuals, businesses and government agencies who plan, design, construct, operate and maintain diverse physical infrastructures, from water, wastewater, electricity, gas, refuse and communication utilities to roads, bridges and ports, from houses, apartments, schools and shops to offices, factories, warehouses and prisons, etc.”
My own personal interpretation of BIM is as simple as the phrase: “Building it before you build it”. This means that you digitally create the project, in as much detail as possible or required, before you ever break ground. This involves 3D modeling primarily as well as database tracking, conflict analysis, scheduling, visualization and so on.
Because BIM has the word ‘building’ in it, some have proposed the use of CIM (Civil Information Modeling) in reference to civil engineering type projects. I’m personally indifferent because either term works, but much effort has been made in recent years to catch the civil industry up with architects, mechanical engineers and other industries. Autodesk has been a key player in making their software make more detailed and more smart models so that there is information behind the polygons that help in the design and planning processes beyond just developing plan sets for construction. Instead of just replicating the way drafting has been done for decades (if not centuries), Autodesk and others are trying to create software that make the process easier and are beginning to end solutions.
Alright, so all that said- what does BIM, CIM and all of this have to do with visualization? Well, the good news is that BIM is heavily reliant on 3D modeling. As long as you are developing a 3D model, visualization is usually just a step or two away. This is the main reason why architectural 3D visualization is ahead of civil because they are doing most of their modeling in 3D already. Civil visualization, on the other hand, often requires many hours of 3D modeling that is never used for anything more than visualization.
This will change and BIM/CIM is the catalyst that will move it forward.
Now that I have butchered the topic of BIM, feel free to correct me in the comments!