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Significance of BIM to Architectural, Structural & MEP Engineers

Bhushan Avsatthi
Dec 2, '16 6:54 AM EST

BIM has very swiftly taken over the traditional approaches practiced in the AEC industry. It is challenging those old practices at every level of the construction project and throwing away the redundant methods to replace it with more efficient and time effective options. Though BIM has a very significant role to play at every stage of construction project, it provides a base for the most fundamental levels of engineering discipline, right from design to the analysis.

Aid to Architects

The designs prepared by architects have to be approved by the project owners and then make the necessary changes as required. Thus the design keeps on going back and forth from the architects to the project owners and back again to architects. The alterations became a norm and the conceptual sketches have to be changed all over again and maybe redrawn from the scratch. Sometimes the changes which surface during the construction phase, which costs heavily to both the contractors and the facility owners in terms of time and money respectively. BIM has credibility to make this easier through 3D rendered models, 360◦ landscaping, virtual walkthrough videos and panoramic view of the as – built structures using software like Autodesk Revit Architecture, V-Ray and Photoshop. So if there are any changes, they are just a few clicks away and design can be modified easily.

Aid to Structural Engineers

The engineers, fabricators, contractors and stake holders need to know that the design conforms to the physics of the structure so that it does not stumble upon. For this, the calculation of strength,  load, vibrations analysis, steel detailing and rebar detailing needs to be done, before finalizing the design so that necessary changes can be made. Sometimes it may happen that there are changes in building designs and structural engineer are under pressure to meet this new design requirements with proper structural plans and within decided time frames. 

A British infrastructure construction firm was assisted in addressing a challenge they faced in their project of a railway depot. They already had prepared Tekla steel models, based on architectural and structural drawings, having connection details, which they’d received from their client. They were informed about the design changes when model had already reached an advanced stage, and would have caused them delay in delivering the model and also would have incurred additional cost. However; their structural design support solution provider delivered the firm with a new Tekla model accommodating the changes with proper steel detailing.

Aid to MEP Engineers

Coordinating the continuous mechanical, electrical, plumbing and HVAC lines across large facility according to their planned layout is a major challenge that engineers face. Although the professionals design the layout, it becomes necessary for the workmen onsite to understand the significance of each line. Technology converts shop floor drawings to 3D rendered models and detects MEP clashes to resolve them. This real time data includes rooms, ceiling, floors and other data, to accommodate the layouts, pipes and ducts in the facility and checks for the spatial compatibilities. Navisworks and Revit - MEP are the two most prominent software that are preferred and used across the globe by leading architectural and structural design firms.

BIM also includes the variety of attributes for MEP fixtures like dimensional data, component materials finishes and Revit families readily available in the software. Other features encompass the complex calculations made easier by software like a change in one of these MEP lines, will automatically calculate the changes for the rest of the two associated systems.  Not only this, BIM also helps in installation of these products and helps the facility managers during the maintenance period.     

Facilitates sustainable designs and analysis

The changes made in the 3D BIM model by either structural engineers or MEP contractors, have to be tested for the sustainable design and analyzed for energy consumption. This is achieved by eQuest and RELUX software. To reduce the adverse impacts on environment energy modeling solutions by transforming a 3D BIM model to an energy efficient BIM model for buildings and help in planning the MEP and HAVC layouts so as to deploy the energy obtained from natural resources whenever possible.

Sustainable design is the means to achieve an end goal for avoiding the maintenance activities by performing Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) for buildings. Other energy efficiency elements included in sustainable designs are thermal load, heat flow through the building, the solar heat receiving capacity of the structure, seismic vibrations, wind loads and other live and dead loads. All these attributes help an engineer in making calculations to construct a strong structure, causing minimum maintenance and renovation. Since the cooling of HVAC components can be done by less clean rain water as against the fresh tank water, energy is saved in pumping this rain water at heights. This is an example of energy conservation and sustainable design.

Adherence to IFC and COBie Standards, a convenience

So many engineers are associated with any construction project at every level. Structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing engineers are involved at the most basic stages of commercial, residential, industrial, or any other public facility. When the drawings or plans are prepared by professionals from different disciplines they have to complement each other in coordination and collaboration, else alterations become inevitable.

Owing to this, BIM helps you generate the file in IFC – Industry Foundation Classes standards for better exports and enhanced compatibility with other drawings when one needs to merge them. Another standard, COBie - Construction Operations Building Information Exchange is a spreadsheet for data of building products’ information. One can look for exact definition of COBie in 10th Appendix given on 59th page of Strategy Paper for the Government Construction Client Group, published in March 2011.


Thus, as the title goes, BIM has its start with the engineering division and it also ends with engineering dragging along all the other disciplines that come in the intermediate stages. The market trends necessitate the application of BIM in any large public projects. In fact, governments of many countries are imposing a compulsion upon the general contractors and construction firms that their engineers make use of BIM.