BIM the Commonplace Software of Tomorrow
The role of Building Information Modeling or the BIM software Solutions is approaching the forefront of the construction, architecture and engineering industry. More and more governmental institutions all over the world are emphasizing the positive impact of BIM software on building projects, and, by making the software as a necessary prerequisite for contract bidding, and the following venture commitments. As BIM software solutions are cost-effective, it is hugely promoted by the educational institutions thereby making it more popular among students. While there are many benefits of using BIM software, it can just be described as an efficient and cost-effective method to visualize, control and organize and communicate data about a building or construction project.
However, numerous software advocates do not need such advertisements as BIM tools are speaking well for themselves. The multiple advantages, driven by smart systems implementation, only prove the software’s necessity and lack of an equally effective alternative.
As per modern world trends, all industry niches are moving towards greater transparency and overall business efficiency. Although enterprises continue to raise their expectations from technological solutions, the existing software samples, surprisingly, keep up with ever-increasing demands. It seems like we’re only one step away from the global BIM adoption by both small and large companies.
Some of the best BIM software solutions are packed with highly powerful features that simplify many tasks, and there is a value in using it to transform your building project.
BIM is Not CAD
Rather than providing the helpful features of a computer-aided design (CAD), proper application of BIM tools saves funds, detects preventable mistakes, and creates accurate building schedules and speeds up overall construction activities. Basically, BIM software solutions help in enhancing building practices by minimizing the errors and contributing additional informational layers, such as information about existing materials, guidance on maintenance, correlation with other objects or models, cost and time estimations, analysis, and many others. No surprise, all kinds of modern constructions are built using BIM software.
An unexpected advantage comes from using these tools in dispute settling between stakeholders and contractors. They serve as a silent recorder of both the agreed-upon specifications and the factual operational report. Error detection can go wrong sometimes with human eyes; the BIM tool will always indicate whether there are grounds for debate. In addition, it significantly reduces courtroom time and any legal fees involved.
If the parties consider their cooperation mutually beneficial, BIM software can improve the results of their next ventures by accelerating the construction terms and conducting the analysis of their initial contract. By giving architects the ability to browse through the project from the concept stage and leverage the presented algorithms, it excludes faulty activities and creates an image based on their design preferences with all entailed characteristics. The anticipated risks derived from the given image help avoid otherwise probable construction or managerial mistakes, thus maximizing the quality of performance and outcome.
Nevertheless, many people still mistakenly consider BIM solutions a version of CAD software. To sort things out, first, we need to explain the main differences between these two solutions. Imagine a cube. In AutoCAD, the cube could be a box, a table, a cabinet, or many other things. The form itself cannot provide you with any insights on its practical meaning. At the same time, BIM enriches the images with certain properties and descriptive data. Once the information is made available, the system recognizes an object and its intended purpose and automatically provides standard field measurements, costs, and materials/textures. BIM software can accelerate overall construction operations by calculating the mass, type, and number of materials needed as well as their total cost. This way, a smart architectural workflow is built.
Most BIM software is developed for shared use by large teams composed of various professionals. The combined environment streamlines the communication practices of all team members and predicts the possible risks before they become apparent.
How to Choose BIM Software?
Although the benefits of BIM systems are numerous, they always depend on the software being used. The rational choice grants the best results; thus, one can never be too careful with market research. The first choice is always between the paid versions, and, free BIM software or open source BIM software. While some large companies are ready to invest in premium packages, others run with budget limitations and are keen on adopting the top free and open source BIM software solutions. As in every software niche, there are many options to select from, but you always need to consider your business needs and set feature priorities to make sure you don’t trade a queen for a pawn.
Keep in mind that free BIM software solutions may differ. Some products are entirely free of cost; others provide free licenses to students and academic institutions or free trials for a limited period. The intention behind free trials is to give you a feel of the product, and if you feel it suits your need, you can purchase them later.
Since there is no practical sense in describing the common general features of different BIM systems, we’d rather provide an overview of the most popular free and open source software.
Top Free and Open Source BIM Software Solutions
Despite the fact that Tekla BIMsight is a free BIM software solution, it is also a powerful tool, well suited for both construction professionals and active learners. The software is widely used by academic institutions thanks to its user-friendly and easy to learn design. It provides a simple way to introduce students to the complex subject of information modeling design coordination. The tool is developed for Windows 7 and 8 but is also available for IOS and Android with a touch user interface. Product compatibility with major mobile devices significantly increases its user-base and offers a flexible collaboration within teams. This solution is perfect for outsourced teams, allowing for a shared workflow space even if they are a thousand miles apart. Tekla BIMsight helps project members to find and settle issues from the early design stage before construction starts, thus saving time and effort and streamlining the result.
The most valued features of the Tekla BIMsight are the following:
- Multi-model checkups (coloured or transparent)
- Model testing supplemented with 3D navigation, measuring tools, mark-up, clash detection, and others
- Communication tools such as note creation and sharing and BCF support
- Conflict Check
- Support of Industry foundation classes (IFC) and SketchUp models
- Online support and discussion forums for all product issues or questions
- Training courses and Tekla warehouse containing libraries, templates, and add-ons
Today the tool is exploited by over 150,000 users in over 160 countries.
BIMx is developed for user comfort while creating and sharing BIM projects on portable devices at any time and in any place. The primary features of this system are integrated 3D modeling and comprehensive 2D documentation. The tool is perfect for architectural presentations to stakeholders and contractors. The construction design is virtually perceived through the Google Cardboard VR.
Although the software is not initially free, it has a freemium version with a rather full-dress functionality, including the 2D and 3D navigation mechanism. Of course, you’re welcome to pay for additional in-app purchases providing access to BIMx ‘PRO’ cross-platform features.
The core BIMx functionality is as follows:
- 2D & 3D Hypermodel
- Enhanced Real-World VR
- Soft transitions
- Multi-faceted 3D Cutaways
- Cloud Data Storage
- Individual Per-Element Info Stack
- Zone Info Display
- Cloud messaging solution
SketchUp is an intuitive modeling utility for 3D constructing. Simple as it is, this tool allows for initial sketching activities, such as drawing certain figures or lines with their subsequent transformation into 3D forms. It streamlines the modeling process by giving access to its available free 3D patterns stored at Trimble’s 3D warehouse so that you won’t waste any time doing the work from the outset.
Its embedded features for accurate sketching include lighting effects, structures, a layer assistant, and animations. Customizable settings make the operation of this application easy and comfortable. One of the three currently available Sketchup plans is free with slightly limited functionality compared to Sketchup Pro.
To sum up, the noticeable features of the tool are the following:
- Easy 3D and 2D modeling
- Customizable settings
- Patterns warehouse
- Sketching effects
Dynamo BIM represents the community-generated open source graphical solution for computational design and BIM. It supplements BIM with the additional information and logic setting of a graphical algorithm editor.
Behind the intuitive design, there is default visualization and constructional logic routines. This solution is extendable through a variety of user-designed packages, Python scripts, and direct importing of DLLs. The open source Dynamo can be used either solely or concurrently with Autodesk Revit or other paid programs as an additional lightweight sketch environment. Combined with Microsoft Excel, it can be used for structural analysis with the following table generation for Autodesk extensions. Likewise, Dynamo BIM transforms data for any other tool to which it can be connected.
This is a BIM software solution developed by Autodesk primarily for educational purposes. It offers the following:
- Free trials are for BIM, CAD, and CAM software
- Free 3D licenses for students
- Free mobile app
The utility can be used by PMs, virtual designers and construction managers, subcontractors, designers, and engineers to make productive project preparations, cut time on management and accelerate project schedules. The most useful features of this software come from its integration with such management tools as Assemble Insight, Astralink, and AutoHub. BIM 360 streamlines document handling, project layout and review as well as serves as a sort of bug tracker for issue creation and resolution. Other useful integration capacities are presented by its combining with BuildingConnected bid board and Beck Technology estimation tool.
BIMserver is an open source platform that can be used as a BIM generator for creating new operating systems. Since the IFC open standard underlies the development of the BIMserver software, it can naturally deal with IFC data. Although you’ll need a certain programming level to use the platform’s advantages, the tool is easy to tune as it’s mostly built on plugins of an open framework; thus it’s free to use and adjust to your needs. You can either start your BIM tool from scratch or modify others to meet your project’s requirements.
Its primary functions topping the database include:
- Model review
- Models fusion
- Comparative analysis
- Versions storing
- Numerous interfaces
- Open BIM protocols
- Cloud facilities
This free software has originated from an architectural study, unlike other applications which stemmed from related engineering areas and eventually adjusted to meet architect needs.
The tool can be applied from the early design stages with no solid limitations to the user’s ideas. The modifications implied by the ground rules of construction will be added later when the initial idea is fully shaped. The preview option is available at any stage of modeling enabling the users to navigate through the sketch or zoom it if needed easily. The TAD BIM software supports the principles of object-oriented programming by inheriting the properties and procedures. The initial functionality can be significantly extended with add-ons written for any specific design using ARDELA language. Interestingly, TAD consumes the minimum resources possible with the common file size measured in Kilobytes.
Free CAD BIM
This is a free BIM toolkit developed for bringing about BIM practices and FreeCAD workflow. The original idea is in creating the multifunctional toolkit by gathering the best features important to BIM processes from different free utilities under one roof. The result is a convenient, intelligent workflow that can be easily adopted by both experienced ‘BIMers’ and newbies. The system’s own functions are few, mostly placed under the management bar. The ‘donated’ tools are classified by the categories: 2D sketching, 3D modeling, annotations, and modifiers.
This is not specifically a BIM product, but rather a task manager with certain useful BIM features that might come in handy. The created collaborative space for the involved engineering and construction teams enables fluent project data sharing, review, and comments from a desktop, mobile device or online from the website. A free plan is available for one personal project with up to five members and 10 GB of space.
Among the most practical features of Trimble Connect are the following:
- 3D markup, measuring tools
- Project initiation and handling with an extensive task manager functionality
- Exportable reports and data storage
- Integrations with SketchUp, Autodesk Revit, Tekla structures
- Available learning materials
EXtensible BIM, originating from a software development toolbox, provides helpful, practical cases of models used in real life building settings. Plainly speaking, xBIM gives developers opportunities to review, learn, change or create BIM Models in the IFC format. Although the developer’s insight might be needed to figure out the peculiarities of involved APIs, other system components are easier. An additional boon of this software is in empowering users with the ability to develop new features, boosting the potential of commercial BIM solutions.
The system supports geometric, topological operations and visual imaging. xBIM comes with two main libraries, xBIM Essentials, and xBIM Geometry, intended as source materials for creating new, complex systems. Repositories of xBIM Team pages contain samples of existing applications built using the source materials.
4BIM, like other tools, has the standard native BIM package but in the form of an online software service. Its core functionality was developed to enhance the practicality of a modeling process and combines all the necessary features inherent to all successful BIM solutions.
The 4BIM tool boasts the following features:
- Easy-to-learn 3D builder with an online viewer available from a web browser.
- The comfortable online BIM data review tool based on IFC standards.
- Teamwork functionality enables users to check, merge and change numerous BIM data files, track model alterations, and receive alerts.
- Smart reports, encompassing the vital construction data and accurate estimations for the given period of time.
- Handover service for transferring facilities management data to the third parties in the COBie 2 data format.
- Availability at Android and iPhone/iPad devices.
Edificius is a popular free BIM solution enriched with real-time rendering functions and empowering users with the ability to produce a 3D video for their design and constructional visualizations. Edificius possesses the optimal combination of architectural design features, construction analysis, and budget estimations. It exploits Google Maps images for creating accurate predictions about land properties and their possible impact on a building process.
Its general capacities are summarized below:
- Structural, cost and time computations to improve the overall productivity of architects, designers, engineers, and contractors.
- Reliable mapping based on the latest satellite images for informative construction decisions.
- Real-time rendering and 3D video compilation as time-saving mechanisms animating client presentations with an ability to support all kinds of simulations and concept changes.
The adoption of BIM software solutions is growing big. Some of the top free and open source BIM software solutions are designed to increase on-site productivity by fifty percent as it can accurately assign data in near real-time. The choice of a proper solution is not an easy one as you can get perplexed by many aspects of your project, your team, and the available resources. On the bright side, it’s good to know that there is a wide range of free and open source BIM Software solutions that you can try before deciding for yourself. Some people benefit from using paid solutions with integrated open source add-ons. Others create a completely new and unique product facilitating all possible sides of their venture. In any case, the choices are yours, and they are plentiful.
In case you have already used any of the above discussed BIM software, you may share your experience here.
You can simultaneously check this all-inclusive list of the top BIM software solutions created by GoodFirms.
Eugenia Kuzmenko is a Marketing Specialist at KitRUM. She loves In-depth analytics, promotion strategy and writing great articles. She believes that marketing must be based on big ideas and capturing attention.
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