The Evolution of Modeling in Construction

Building information modeling (BIM) has established itself as a useful process for architects and construction teams over the past two decades, as it allows users to create intelligent 3D models that include every detail of a building. This process also enables you to document management, coordination and simulation throughout your project’s life cycle, which includes planning, designing, construction, operation and maintenance.

Below, you’ll learn more about the evolution of BIM, one of the most important chapters in the history of construction. This story is a complex narrative that involved the U.S., Western Europe and a set of Soviet countries competing with each other to develop a flawless architectural solution to replace 2D workflows.

History of Modeling in Construction

BIM was a concept long before the technology was advanced enough to make it a reality. Notable early events in the history of modeling include the following.

Engelbart’s Vision

The conceptual foundations of BIM technology date back to the 1960s, when computing was still in its infancy.

In the paper Augmenting Human Intellect, engineer and inventor Douglas C. Engelbart provided his vision of the future. He stated that architects could begin designing a structure just by entering a series of data and specifications — for example, a 5-inch slab floor, 8-inch concrete wall and so on. As they began designing the structure, they could look at the model and adjust the parameters.

Solid Modeling Programs

In the 1970s and 1980s, solid modeling programs emerged. The two primary methods these programs used to display and record shape information were:

  • Constructive solid geometry (CSG): CSG uses numerous simple shapes that can either be solids or voids. The shapes can combine and intersect, subtract or combine, resulting in what appears to be more complex forms.
  • Boundary representation (BREP): Boundary representation, defines objects using their spatial boundaries by detailing the edges, points and surfaces of a volume.

Charles Eastman and the Building Description System

In the 1970s, architect and computer scientist Charles Eastman designed a project called the Building Description System (BDS). This program featured a graphical user interface, perspective and orthographic views and a database you could use to retrieve elements and add them to your model. These elements could be sorted into categories such as supplier and material type.

Eastman said this system would lower the cost of design through its efficiencies in analysis and drafting. However, most architects at the time could not use the software, and it is not even known if any projects were made using the program. However, BDS was notable because it identified some of the biggest issues architectural design would tackle over the next five decades.

Evolution of Modeling Technologies

3D modeling in construction saw major advancements in the 1980s with new features like temporal phasing and graphical analysis. Technologies like this made it easier for professionals to model construction equipment in their building projects.

Temporal Phasing

In the early 1980s, several systems developed in the U.K. gained traction and were used for construction projects. One notable system was RUCAPS, the first program to feature temporal phasing. It was useful in the phased construction of Terminal 3 of London’s Heathrow Airport.

In 1988, the Center of Integrated Facility Engineering was developed at Stanford, which was a major landmark in the evolution of BIM. It led to the development of 4D models with time attributes for building.

Simulations and Graphical Analysis

In 1993, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab started developing the Building Design Advisor, which would perform simulations using an object model of a structure and its context. This software was among the first to integrate simulations and graphical analysis to provide information regarding the project’s performance. It could do this given alternative conditions concerning the project’s geometry, orientation, building systems and material properties.

Soviet Contributions

While all these developments were happening in the U.S., two prominent programmers from the Soviet Block would end up defining BIM as we know it today. Leonid Raiz and Gábor Bojár founded the two groundbreaking programs ArchiCAD and Revit.

ArchiCAD is notable for being the first BIM software available on personal computers. Revit, which was developed as an improvement on ArchiCAD, could handle more complicated architectural projects.

Revit

Revit revolutionized the world of BIM by using a visual programming environment to create parametric families and allow for a time attribute to be added to components. This allows a “fourth dimension” of time to be associated with your building model, enabling contractors to make building schedules based on these BIM models and simulating the construction process.

The Freedom Tower in Manhattan was one of the first projects to utilize Revit for design and construction schedules. It was built in a series of separate but connected BIM models that were tied to schedules, providing real-time material quantities and cost estimations.

What Is the Future of Modeling?

Although the concepts and technologies behind BIM are almost 30 years old, we have only begun to realize all the potential benefits of this growing industry. In the years and decades to come, possible advancements include the following concepts.

Project Quantum

The purpose of Project Quantum by Autodesk is to make BIM work in the cloud. As of now, applications are designed with one type of user in mind and have their own data formats. Autodesk wants to make some of its applications work together in a common data environment. This concept was demonstrated by opening up four applications on a single screen, with one of these platforms being Revit.

Each time a change was made using Revit, the change would appear in the other three applications. This data isn’t being translated to be compatible with other applications — it is instead transmitted to the other platforms via Quantum.

Live Sensors

With live BIM, we can make 3D models of buildings, bridges and roads using real-time sensors. We then combine the 3D model with environmental and physical data, resulting in the model changing color and shape based on these data. These live sensors can alert you of a problem before something actually goes wrong. By doing this, you can get a more comprehensive idea of how a structure behaves.

Work With a Data Modeling Expert

At Take-off Professionals, we create 3D data for layout and machine control. We also offer earthwork takeoffs with material quantities and dirt, cut and fill maps and mass haul analysis for roads and sites. Our cutting-edge process allows you to easily access high-quality data, providing you with the confidence to complete a project successfully. You can reach out to us for more information on working with us for an upcoming project by calling 623-323-8441, emailing us at info@takeoffpros.com or filling out our contact form.

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