At Trimble, we understand that choosing a BIM software is a crucial factor in your company's competitiveness - and can be overwhelming. Whether you're transitioning from 2D to 3D / BIM or want to replace existing software, choosing a BIM solution has far-reaching consequences for your processes, projects and success. At best, it's your ultimate competitive advantage; at worst, the wrong tool can quickly become a handicap and slow down your business. What do you have to consider when deciding on a BIM software? How can different solutions be compared? Every company has different requirements and each software has its own strengths and weaknesses. However, there are a number of common criteria that you should consider when choosing a BIM solution and questions that each provider should answer. We have summarized a checklist with the most important points for you.
Be open - nobody is an island!
BIM stands for cooperation. The most important principle of BIM-based planning and execution is improved cooperation between all project participants and coordination of their work based on the 3D model. Your BIM solution should, therefore, empower you to participate in this process, share information with others efficiently, and communicate effectively.
The keyword is Open BIM. Open BIM solutions promote the free exchange between different software and support open exchange formats, such as the IFC format developed by the buildingSMART association. In particular, you should check how well the software integrates with other industry solutions relevant for you. For example, do you regularly exchange data with plant design solutions, or do you want to transfer data to production? Maybe you even have your own applications that you would like to incorporate into a software? Don’t let your software decide who you can, or cannot, work with, not only have your current partners in mind, but also the future.
Just as important as working with other trades is collaborating within your own business. A state-of-the-art BIM software solution should offer the possibility of working on a model at the same time and from different locations without loss of performance. You can use this for your own employees as well as in the project community to put together teams in a decentralized and flexible way. Do not wait for the project to come to you. Be ready anytime.
Questions you should ask:
- Which interfaces does the software have?
- Which exchange formats are supported?
- What is the connection to other industry solutions relevant to me? (eg A&D, plant design, production machines, etc.)
- Are there any possibilities to integrate own applications into the software?
- What are the options for working together on a model at the same time? In a team and with project partners?
Model Smart: Easy Modeling and Flexible Change
The 3D model is your central source of information in the BIM process. That's why it should above all: be easy to create and easy to change.
BIM software solutions are based on so-called parametric modelling. The individual parts or components of the building model are related to each other and influence each other. Each part is assigned parametric properties, such as height, length, width, position, etc. If a part changes, the parts related to it also adapt automatically. If the height of the wall changes, the ceiling to which it is connected also moves. Good BIM software solutions give users helpful tools to build and edit models faster. For example, you can access libraries with predefined standard connections, or define them yourself, or store your own frequently recurring reinforcement guides. It is also helpful to be able to insert finished building products such as formwork, anchors or screws directly from the manufacturer into the model. The better the parametric modelling of a software, the easier the change management. If the reinforcement adjusts directly in the new concrete body, or the front plate responds to the changed carrier, it can save you a lot of time and stress. This is also beneficial when it comes to presenting planning alternatives for a project. The ability to present additional options to your customer early in the project could be your key advantage.
The model should always be the source of all drawings, material lists and other documents. These, in turn, must be up-to-date, even if changes are made in the model. Once you've made the transition from 2D to BIM, you should not be tempted to return to the 2D world at the end of your work and manually adjust drawings. All 2D documents must be derived from a 3D model. The true value of your BIM model is that it is the single source of truth. But only if you do not lie to yourself.
Questions you should ask:
- What tools does the software offer that makes modelling easier for us? eg libraries of ready-made connections, intelligent reinforcement, etc.
- Can your own frequently used details be predefined?
- Is there an easy way to insert finished building products directly from the manufacturer?
- How does the model behave when I make changes? Are there any automatisms that adapt intelligently?
- How do drawings and other documents behave when the model is changed? Will these be updated automatically?
It’s in the engine - How much power is under the hood?
In a BIM project, the 3D model is enriched with information throughout its lifecycle. So you always have all current and relevant information available. Considerable amounts of data can come together. Your BIM software should, therefore, be able to handle them safely and remain powerful and agile even on large projects.
An initial indicator of performance might be, for example, the file size of an average model. Ask to see larger models in the software. The software should not force you to divide a large model into smaller units due to lack of performance. Even if concrete body and reinforcement or steel beams and screws are displayed together in the model, the performance must be right. Above all, in the context of BIM cooperation with project partners, it is also important to map reference models of other participants in your planning and to integrate them fluently into their own work processes. Only you should decide the size or complexity of the projects you are tackling - not your software.
It is also important which degree of detail you can achieve with the software. This will determine which project phases you can cover with your software. The Level of Definition (LOD) (PAS 1192-2) is the collective term used for the ‘level of model detail’ and the ‘level of information detail’ required at the different stages of development of the components of a building model. It provides information about the level of detail that parts of a 3D model have at different phases of the project lifecycle and how reliable the information of individual components in the 3D model is. For example, detailed 3D reinforcement planning is only possible from software capable of handling the ‘as-built’ level of information. Only such a constructible model provides all necessary and manufacturer-specific information for workshop planning, production and assembly. This high-quality model supports the entire workflow, reduces ambiguity in the planning and gives you the opportunity to provide high-quality data for your project partners.
Questions you should ask:
- How powerful is the software even for larger or more complex projects? What is the file size of an average project?
- Do I have to break down my project into partial models or is the software able to reproduce it in its entirety?
- Can I reference other trades without loss of performance?
- To what level of definition (LOD) can the software model?
- Which phases of my work can I cover with the software?