BIM at the City Level
Rome wasn’t built in a day. In fact, just like many other cities around the world, it was built and developed—and rebuilt and redeveloped—over a period of hundreds of years. Long-established cities such as Rome are undeniably beautiful, but the past decades have shown that they are not designed to handle the population demands that they now face due to rapid urbanization.
In many parts of the world, our existing infrastructure is crumbling. While governments are working to update and/or replace it, in parallel they are building out new systems to meet future demands. All this is happening in the face of limited funding, increased project complexity, greater demands for sustainability, and increased interest in accountability and transparency from the public.
It may appear to be all gloom and doom, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel: building information modeling (BIM). The practice of BIM has been transforming the building industry for years, and now infrastructure players are catching on. When applied to the city scale, BIM for Infrastructure, or the use of an intelligent, model-based process for gaining project insight, can help city planners, GIS professionals, and civil engineers develop a more holistic understanding of the challenges they are facing. New BIM for Infrastructure technologies, particularly in the area of conceptual design, can play a key role.
It is now possible to quickly build 3D models of entire urban environments, including existing above and below ground infrastructure, from readily available GIS, BIM, and CAD data. Planners and engineers can use these virtual environments to rapidly lay out and model new infrastructure proposals in context. Not only does this save time and help eliminate errors, but because it all happens in a highly visual environment, the models can be used to demonstrate the project benefits to stakeholders including the public.
Engineering, planning and surveying firm VTN Consulting found that BIM for Infrastructure, and new conceptual design technologies, have significantly reduced the time required to develop project proposals. When the firm began creating a model to propose land use for a new sports and office complex, they relied on sketching tools, imported building models and freely downloaded web data to model the proposed infrastructure. With a BIM workflow, VTN was able to create the proposal in two hours – a process that previously required two weeks or more using traditional methods.
Rome may have required hundreds of years for planning and design, but sustainable cities of the future – complete with infrastructure to support a growing population—do not.