Contemporary computer technology changes rapidly, forcing people to adjust the way they work in accordance with accumulative modifications.
Architectural design is one of the businesses affected by such change. From the process of manual drawing and drafting of 20 years ago, the profession has moved on and adopted CAD (computer-aided design) for the presentation and production of architectural documents, especially with construction drawings.
The transformation has been so complete that one can hardly find an office still practising manual drafting. New graduates are more accustomed to CAD programs than the drafting table.
Even clients are more familiar with CAD and computer technology. Computer representation allows clients to see the project – in which they are investing millions or billions – to the very minutest detail before the construction process begins.
The more the client sees, the further they can question, investigate or work to protect their investment, and computer technology allows them this advantage. This aspect coincides with the reality of growing complexity in the business of architectural design.
A building needs to respond to several simultaneous issues: energy consumption, meeting green building standards, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) requirements, cost-effective facility management, environmental impacts, and construction uncertainties, among others. Because of these competing agendas, CAD technology begins to reach its limit, as it is best used in the static presentation of architectural drawings and scaled models.
BIM (building information modelling) extends these limitations. In addition to the capacity to creating drawings and scaled models, BIM can also embed information into the representation of building parts.
Information may include data on the physical properties of building components, price, thermal induction, date and time of component installation, or the life expectancy of building parts. As this information can be integrated easily into drawings and models, BIM systems can do much more than the simple representation of buildings.
The information assigned in a BIM program to a building component can be usefully applied towards simulations and calculations – that is, bills of quantity, power consumption, or building maintenance schedules.
BIM allows the building owner, architect, contractor, building manager and other users to predict the future performance of buildings, using techniques of simulation to anticipate and prevent problems before the actual construction process begins.
Kaweekrai Srihiran, Department of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University