Understanding city information modeling and its impact on designing smart cities

building information modeling

The process that involves the generation as well as management of the digital representation of functional and physical characteristics of a place/s is called city information modeling. It’s more commonly known as BIM or Building Information Modeling. BIM files are now being used by government and businesses who are into the planning, designing, construction, operation and maintenance of physical infrastructure. Water, waste, electricity, gas, communication, bridges, roads, tunnels, ports are infrastructure in which BIM is utilized.

What exactly is city information modeling?

building information modeling

City information modeling has been around since the 1970s; though it is more in the highlight today. This is because governments and private agencies are focusing on building energy efficient, hi-tech yet eco friendly buildings/cities.

It is a software which can create 3D representations of building/s, and layer it with additional information. So what is building information modeling – it is often cited as the 5 dimensional representation of any building, where time is the 4th dimension and cost the 5th.

BIM is very relevant today as people and nations are interested in green construction. BIM provides architects with the necessary information to construct green buildings. For example, with the help of BIM model, it is easy for an architect to simulate/visualize wind flow in and around the building. He/she would also be able to understand or make projections regarding the change in wind velocity and ventilation if the building’s surface material and shape was changed.

How is BIM different from traditional building software

What is building information modeling and how is it different from CAD? BIM is very different from CAD, as CAD only helps people understand how a building would look. But BIM software like Ecotect or Revit gives detailed information about how a building would function.

Vague, undefined, product-specific as well as generic data, void as well as solid space is represented in BIM. It also defines the objects parametrically, i.e. every object is a parameter in relation to another. This means that if the related object is changed/amended, then, the dependent parameters will also be amended.

The advantage of BIM is that architects, surveyors, structural engineers and civil engineers, landscape architects, all the contractors add discipline specific data to a single BIM shared by all. This results in project clarity and prevents the loss of asset information.

BIM helps in city information modeling as with its help, a city is viewed in totality. As a building is integrated with its surroundings, including utilities, transport system etc. City planners can use this information to plan more sustainable cities.

Benefits of building information modeling

designing smart cities

Unlike CAD, BIM provides component specifications and details, structural loads, material, water and airflow, spatial relationships, scheduling information, cost etc. Engineers and architects enjoy the benefits of building information modeling, as it helps to save their time in designing. Construction and developer firms like BIM as it saves on labor and materials.

BIM is used when there is a huge amount of complex variables involved in a project. It streamlines communication between the various parties taking part in the design and construction of the building. BIM is all about increasing efficiency throughout the design process, and is thus invaluable to green construction.

Role of BIM in urban land administration

BIM has the potential to manage cadastral spaces in cities. City information modeling can enhance the understanding of stacked, interwoven and complex cadastral space for non-specialists. The semantic and spatial information about the physical structures can help to provide unambiguous delineation about ownership, responsibilities, rights and restrictions. The use of BIM can help to elevate data systems from 2D to 3D, making them dynamic, intelligent and interactive.

Smart cities and BIM

designing smart cities

BIM for smart cities is a boon. BIM allows smart city planners to even deign underground infrastructure. During construction, the shared BIM allows workers to work in a clean and efficient manner, avoiding potential mishaps. With BIM, accidents such as cutting into sewerage line, gas pipe or fiber optic cables can be avoided.

Bridge, pavement and drainage designers can work with the same model as it is geo-referenced. MicroStation, AssetWise, ProjectWise are some of the BIM and GIS enabled software for smart cities. 3D GIS solutions also can analyze shadows, lighting, line of sight, skyline studies etc. Intelligent models enable informed decisions which impact performance and longevity.

BIM adoption

As the Income tax return is perfect when it is measured using appropriate software, building an infrastructure is easy when it is constructed using BIM. It is the future technology which is a great enabler for many new things. This system works on the data provided so logically the next step is to gather scientifically accurate data. Institutions around the world are employing their manpower to use BIM efficiently.

Governments all over the world are gradually adopting BIM. The UK government is mandating implementation of BIM level 2 on all governmental projects. European countries such as Germany, Spain, France etc have also expedited BIM adoption. New Zealand and Singapore have also set a roadmap for infrastructure projects. In India, BIM adoption is gathering momentum due to the smart cities project initiated by the government. Thus, BIM for smart cities will be of great use in India. Nordic countries such as Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden have stolen the march over other countries, as they had initiated BIM way back in 2005. Adopting BIM to city planning is the next logical step, as now there are many software solutions to process Big Data.

How does BIM help city projects

lower costs

BIM is an important tool for city information modeling and helps governments constrained by budget to plan, design and execute smart cities.  It helps in the following ways:

  • Improved Visualization of the project
  • Improved productivity as information retrieval and access becomes easy
  • Increased coordination of the construction documents
  • Embedding as well as linking vital information – vendors, locating documents and quantities which are required for tendering process and estimation
  • Increased speed of project completion
  • Reduced costs

BIM contains also the data that is required for the analysis of building performance. This can be used to create building simulation input file which would save a lot of time as well as effort. Automating the process, and sharing of one file for the project reduces costly errors during execution.

BIM is comparatively new, but will probably be one of the most used technologies of the future. This is because engineers and architects can digitally model all the different aspects of the building in real time. A lot of time and money is saved when BIM is used in a project, as all vendors and designers can stay updated on any change in variables as everything is inter-related and inter-dependent.

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