Lots of you will be applying to internships and graduate schemes this year, hopefully in civil engineering firms, we don’t want you selling your souls to those bankers! Actually, considering the state of the economy they could probably do with some bright engineers like us. That’s for another article, the point of this article is to give you an insight to Building Information Modelling (BIM), which is a hot topic in the industry at the moment and would be very useful as a point of conversation at an interview. Top tip for interviews: At the end when they ask for a question, ask, “What’s a typical day like for an intern/graduate?” Works for almost all interviews sparks up a conversation and makes you look interested.

So what is BIM and why is it so important? Traditionally when designing projects contractors and consultants all work from 2D drawings such as the plan and side elevation. So everyone would have printouts of this drawing, however problems arise when you need to make a change to these drawings, if everyone has a printed out version then you need to redistribute everything and this can take time and money.

This is where BIM comes in, BIM allows for everything to be centralised in one place such as a network. This means that all the information for that building will be accessible anywhere in the world, in the consultant’s offices or in the contractor’s port cabin for example. Furthermore BIM will not only provide a 3D visualisation of the project but it will also show how it develops with respect to time and this is important because it will allow you to show to the lifecycle of the building for example if you were trying to win a bid for a project or sell the idea to stakeholders or the public.

One of the biggest advantages of BIM is the ability to edit in real time, it’s not as simple as editing the document and uploading it. BIM will coordinate all the different views to accommodate for these different changes, so if you change the length of the beam for a bridge in the plan view, when the subcontractor gets the side elevation for example they will not have a different beam length. Another feature of BIM is that it allows for simulation of the building process long before the construction takes place, which means problems can be foreseen well in advance and changes can be made instantly. BIM’s benefits do not end at the construction phase, the information can be used in the management and decommissioning of the building which are both more costly that the actual construction of the building.

The government believes there is a limited window in which to implement BIM in to the public and private sector and that the UK needs to capitalise on the opportunity. It believes by the UK being an early adopter of BIM, dubbed the global technology, it will allow UK firms to engage in business easily worldwide and make us a world leader in the technology. By 2016 all government procured constructions projects will need to use BIM level 2.

Whether you like BIM or not, it is being implemented across the UK not only in the public sector but also the private sector. It is forecasted to save companies a lot of money and will mean there is a greater transparency in projects, however there are some controversial issues likely to arise when things start to go wrong, but we’ll have to wait and see.