About BIM

BIM explained in laymen's terms

BIM is an acronym that stands for Building Information Modeling. BIM is very much talked about these days in the building industry, but when asked you will receive more or less different definitions from different people?

Some say BIM is a type of software. Some say BIM is the 3D virtual model of buildings. Others say BIM is a process or BIM is nothing more than the collection of all building data organized into a structure database easy to query both in a "visual" and a "numerical" way. It is safe to say that BIM is all the above and some more… Now let’s see BIM explained in laymen’s terms. When it comes to BIM everything starts with a 3D digital model of the building. This model, however, is way more than pure geometry and some nice textures cast over it for visualization. A true BIM model consists of the virtual equivalents of the actual building parts and pieces used to build a building. These elements have all the characteristics - both physical and logical - of their real counterparts. These intelligent elements are the digital prototype of the physical building elements such as walls, columns, windows, doors, stairs etc. that allow us to simulate the building and understand its behavior in a computer environment way before the actual construction starts. Nevertheless with the advent of mobile technologies such as iPhones/iPads and the likes utilisation of BIM has broken out from the close circle of professionals. Clients, building owners and operators are getting more and more access to BIM models through their mobile devices even without the need to installing a BIM application first. This shift will put the adoption of BIM onto the next level so you as a professional really cannot afford ignoring BIM. Fortunately you are at the best place to learn about BIM so please watch the below video below and read on to get fully prepared for the latest major paradigm shift in our industry.
what is BIM

What is BIM good for?

3D visualization -
While there can be several different goals to fulfil by the creation of a purpose built BIM model that may differ both in their focus, scope, complexity, level of details and the depth of information added to the 3D model, of course the most trivial use of a BIM model is for making nice visualizations of the being to be build. This is good for both helping your design decision by comparing different design alternatives and for “selling” your design to your client or even to the local community that might have a veto about the entire building project. Change Management - Since data is stored in a central place in a BIM model any modification to the building design will automatically replicate in each views such as floor plans, sections and elevation. This not only helps in creating the documentation faster but also provides stringent quality assurance by automatic coordination to the different views.

NHS Building — paastudio, CA, USA —

Building Simulation - BIM models not only contain architectural data but the full depth of the building information including data related to the different engineering disciplines such as the load-bearing structures, all the ducts and pipes of the different building systems and even sustainability information as well with which all the characteristics of a building can easily be simulated well in advance. Data Management - BIM contains information that is not visually represented at all. Scheduling information, for example clarifies the necessary manpower, coordination and anything that might affect the out come of the project schedule. Cost is also part of BIM that allows us to see what the budget or estimated cost of a project might be at any given point in the time during the project. Building Operation - It is needless to say that all these data put in a BIM model is not only useful during the design and construction phase of a building project but can be used throughout the entire building lifecycle helping to reduce the operation and management cost of buildings which is at least magnitude more than the entire cost of construction.

Why should I switch from CAD to BIM?

BIM and CAD represent two fundamentally different approaches to building design and documentation. CAD (Computer Aided Design) applications imitate the traditional “paper & pencil” process in so far as two-dimensional electronic drawings are created from 2D graphic elements such as lines, hatches and text, etc. CAD drawings, similarly to traditional paper drawings, are created independently from each other so design changes need to be followed up and implemented manually on each CAD drawing. BIM (Building Information Modeling) applications imitate the real building process. Instead of creating drawings from 2D line-work, buildings are virtually modeled from real construction elements such as walls, windows, slabs and roofs, etc. This allows architects to design buildings in a similar way as they are built. Since all data is stored in the central virtual building model, design changes are automatically followed-up on individual drawings generated from the model. With this integrated model approach, BIM not only offers significant productivity increase but also serves as the basis for better-coordinated designs and a computer model based building process. While switching from CAD to BIM is already justified by the benefits achieved during the design phase BIM offers further benefits during the construction and operation of buildings. You can find further information about CAD vs. BIM in Ralph Grabowski's “CAD & BIM – Is there a Free Pass?” whitepaper.

What do I need to keep in mind when selecting my BIM tool?

Although there are several model-based design solutions available on the market today, it is important to note that not all solutions can equally fulfill the requirements for being a true BIM solution. The following set of questions help you judge if a certain solution has all the characteristics that set cutting edge BIM solutions apart from the rest of the pack:

  1. What is the "depth" of the BIM model supported?
    Optimally, the BIM model should be able to serve all deliverables during the entire building project lifecycle. There are various levels and depths to creating 3D building models starting from mass models used for schematic design through 3D models created for visualization purposes to intelligent “real” building information models. While models created for visualization only contain not more than the 3D geometry and material descriptions necessary for the realistic presentation of the building, real BIM models, in addition to the geometry, also contain an abundance of additional information necessary to coordinate, document, list and manage the building based upon its intelligent BIM model.
  2. Does the BIM solution cover the complete workflow?
    As noted above, “real” BIM models should incorporate all information necessary to create the deliverables during the building projects’ lifecycle. This also means that the BIM authoring tool should cover the complete BIM workflow without the need for changing tools and/or workflows in the middle of the project. Hence it is a vital question whether the design, documentation, realization and operation of the building is supported by the BIM tool beginning with conceptual design through design development, construction documentation to construction administration & management and ultimately facility management.
  3. At what level does the BIM solution support interoperability?
    In addition to being compatible with the world at the binary level (file compatibility) BIM tools also need to be compatible with one another at the process or workflow level. This is especially true in the event of interdisciplinary design teams that need to collaborate on the different design aspects of the same building. When selecting your BIM tool it is mission critical whether your BIM tool supports open standards and open workflows that enable coordination with consultants -- regardless of the type or version of their selected design application (BIM tool). To learn more about “openBIM” design workflows please visit
  4. Does the BIM solution support real-time model-based collaboration?
    Building design is a team process in most cases. So should be BIM as well. This is, however, not a given, as BIM models are much more tightly integrated than traditional CAD drawing-based projects. Sharing design in BIM requires a whole new approach that involves active BIM servers that offer parallel, “real-time” access for an entire team. When selecting your BIM tool it is a question of strategic importance whether the BIM model and the process to creating it are designed in a way that supports real-time sharing for teams and projects of any size. To learn more about model based design sharing with the cutting-edge GRAPHISOFT BIM Server visit
  5. Does the BIM solution sufficient performance for large/complex projects?
    As noted above, the BIM model is much more tightly integrated and includes much more data than traditional CAD drawings. This necessarily implies that project-size growth has an exponential relation with the performance requirements. Whether a BIM solution can handle that growth depends on various factors including its ability to utilize latest hardware enhancements and the way it handles the model. When selecting your BIM tool it is an absolutely valid question what the maximum possible project size is allowed/recommended and whether advanced IT technologies such as 64-bit and multiprocessing technologies are supported at the same time throughout the entire application.
  6. Does the BIM solution support local standards and offer sufficient local content?
    Building projects are not only unique design pieces but the way they are designed varies between countries. Global BIM solution providers handle the issue of “localization” at different levels. Language translation is really not localization - it is only what its name suggests. When selecting your BIM tool it is your primary interest to be fully aware whether a BIM solution follows local design standards and has rich local content including intelligent building objects, local project and listing templates, and attribute sets following local standards.

What does GRAPHISOFT have to offer in relation to BIM?

GRAPHISOFT® ignited the BIM revolution with ARCHICAD®, the industry first BIM software for architects. GRAPHISOFT continues to lead the industry with innovative solutions such as the revolutionary GRAPHISOFT BIM Server™, the world’s first real-time BIM collaboration environment, the GRAPHISOFT EcoDesigner™, the world's first fully integrated building energy modeling application and GRAPHISOFT BIMx™, the worlds leading interactive BIM presentation environment also available for the iPad/iPhone. Next to its genuine BIM tools GRAPHISOFT offers a wide array of Add-On products and solutions to extend the capability of its BIM tools.

How to start implementing BIM and how can GRAPHISOFT help?

GRAPHISOFT offers a full package of tools to help you start implementing BIM in your office. Register at to access the content of the "BIM Learning Studio" online or contact your nearest ARCHICAD provider for a physical CD evaluation package.

What is relevant for me related to BIM if I am interested in sustainable design?

Sustainable design (or "green") is becoming a leading force behind utilizing BIM in the building process. GRAPHISOFT offers the AEC industry's first fully integrated BIM solution for "green". Please visit our EcoDesigner page for the full coverage on BIM and sustainable design.

How can I test my current BIM knowledge?

GRAPHISOFT is operating a full-fledged Certification program for design professionals using ARCHICAD. If you are interested in your current level of BIM knowledge please take our dedicated BIM test online.