What Is BIM and Should You Care?

BIM modeling for security applications

Although estimates vary among industry sources, the world CAD software market is said to be worth about $8 billion annually, with more than roughly seven million CAD stations in use worldwide (Google: CAD market share, BIM, installed seats, “Googler Blog.” Data extracted from Gartner Research and Jon Peddie Research, as well as Autodesk press releases).

Approximately 63 percent of the users are still working in 2-D. This would mean that at least 2.6 million users are working in 3-D and, presumably, gradually migrating to BIM. There is little doubt that Autodesk’s AutoCAD has a lion’s share of the CADD and BIM market. Industry estimates range from 55 to 85 percent (according to http://www.wikinvest.com/stock/Autodesk (ADSK), Autodesk’s market share in 2011 was 85 percent. Other sources quote lower figures. Also see: http://frombulator.com/2009/10/cad-marketshare-bim-marketshare-installed-seats-installed-base-bim-cad/).

There are, however, a number of CADD programs available from other vendors, including GraphiSoft’s ArchiCAD; Bentley Systems Microstation and Integrator; TurboCAD from IMSI/Design LLC; Google’s SketchUp; and Nemetschek VectorworkS. They all are heavily involved with BIM and many offer online BIM training and webinars.


BIM security functions

The use of the Internet for security activities is not entirely novel. Application Service Provider (ASP) security companies, such as those that provide security central station and CCTV monitoring services have been around for almost a decade—albeit, in still fairly small numbers. “Cloud computing,” namely the delivery of services over a network, usually the Internet, is in its nascent stage, but is growing rapidly. Security departments will be able to maintain their databases, such as digital video storage, on a commercial host’s off-site data center on a subscription basis. BIM is simply a natural progression in the swift evolution of IT technology. (See related story on pages 34 titled: “BIM Now and in the Future.”)

The architectural and engineering (A/E) community—the driving force in new construction and major renovation—is notorious for resistance to change. The basic capabilities of BIM have been mostly embraced by the largest A/E companies, but the smaller firms are struggling to keep up—some reluctantly. Moreover, it will be some time before the A/E industry will be ready to nudge BIM beyond basic functions. The poor economy is yet another impediment to the evolution of BIM toward the security functions and the services described in this article. It is my view that as great as the potential of BIM may be, it is still not quite ready for prime time, at least not for security.

To use a metaphor, I see BIM as a structure with a sturdy foundation beneath a building that has been framed but the walls haven’t been closed and the openings have no doors. There is no furniture, no polished floors. The crystal chandelier for the Great Room that BIM shows is still in a packing box somewhere, hidden.

Another potential problem for the full development and adoption of BIM is its sheer complexity. It is yet one more major learning curve for users to master. Anyone working with architects and engineers will be familiar with other online collaboration software programs, such as DrChecks, an Internet-based design review and quality control system. There are other programs as well, such as Autodesk’s Buzzsaw, Bentley’s ProjectWise and more. When I am informed that I have to use one of these programs in order to participate in a project, I cringe at the thought. Sometimes I can’t log in. Other times it won’t save my work or it stores it at unexpected locations. On occasion, things simply disappear.


The dark side of the equation

As a final consideration, one cannot avoid worrying about cyber security and the potential vulnerability of BIM to cyber attacks by hackers from the dark side. It is a cardinal rule that as complexity increases, so does vulnerability and disorder. I have no doubt that BIM is, and will be for some time, “hackable.” In as much as BIM will be documenting facilities in great detail, this information is subject to nefarious exploitation.