• Kiran Nair


Application of Building information modeling in different domains of the AEC industry has been going on for years now. From architectural modeling to Structural BIM modeling the adaption of this new age technology has revolutionized the working mechanism of a construction project. Learning the implication of BIM for structural engineering is the focus of this article.

Structural engineering is a field that consists of expertise and proficiencies that can be applied to every project that is undertaken, which can include minor slope strengthening to some major structural change to a high-rise building.

Under the AEC industry, the Structural Engineer is responsible for creating complex structural systems and is responsible for finding solutions that make the structural elements and material, efficient so that the building of infrastructure and its entire system is sustainable, safe, and durable.

In almost every project, the output of various other disciplines like architecture, mechanical, etc is integrated with the structural designs.

Apart from these design-related things, the responsibilities and roles of a structural engineer include enabling communication between suppliers and manufacturers to resolve production problems and supervise on-site construction activities.

Understanding their role Structural BIM Engineer can gauge the complexity of the tasks, requirement of a combination of different competencies along with a plethora of varied communication channels, brings them to pull a reliable data exchange platform. This implies maintaining the quality and credibility of the final product or building, a tool is needed that can enable a structural engineer to check forth the parameters of the system which is under development and cross-check the reliability of the information that is being transmitted. A technical solution that provides them with these functionalities seamlessly is Building Information Modelling (BIM).

BIM and Structural Engineering:

BIM brings about a union between technology and design teams which help engineers for creating better and more efficient BIM models. Since these models are 3-dimensional geometrically encoded they have the potential to incorporate the fourth dimension of time and fifth dimension of cost to it. The depth of BIM ideology survives on giving object-based digital representations of the buildings which are in the form of a data-rich model along with providing analysis and simulation of these models for design, construction, or operation related things.

BIM Software like that of Autodesk Revit can be utilized which can incorporate properties of the material, geometry, and loading conditions that are needed for structural engineering. Apart from this these three capabilities can be derived or copied directly from a BIM model and can be then stored, edited, and applied using some BIM software.

One simple example regarding usage of different software can be if Autodesk Revit is used it can help provide the physical representation of the objects that the structural engineers most commonly use but with Tekla Software, the user is allowed to specify its objects connection nodes and degrees of freedom along with having objects to model structural loads and load cases.

Talking about the suitability of BIM for structural engineers we also come to the fact that with BIM the number of requests to information (RFI) items from contractors is considerably reduced, as it makes visualization possible for clients and varied stakeholders involved in the construction project. Apart from this, BIM gives a freeway to all the stakeholders to explore and analyze readily available alternatives and different design scenarios.

Furthermore, the model developed by structural engineers can be clubbed with varied downstream activities useful in manufacturing and assembling structural elements along with finding interferences between structural models and the other BIM models like architectural, mechanical, etc. With BIM the structural engineers can easily take up things like seismic retrofitting optimization, monitor health and life cycle performance of structural elements, and conduct a risk assessment of different structures. Apart from this BIM for structural engineering can be applied in creating shop drawings, increasing the efficiency in modeling complex geological structures, and designing temporary formwork and elements.

Having learned the application of Structural BIM services for a construction project, we can then move to list some of the key benefits that a structural engineer derives by incorporating BIM.

Benefits of BIM Services to Structural engineers:

  1. Coordinated Teams with Information Sharing - utilizing BIM there comes coordination among different disciplines involved. The conflicts and clashes are resolved between different stakeholders due to the integration of different models. This enables a better relationship between different experts and teams involved who are now easily sharing information and knowledge due to the BIM models generated. With such coordinated teams, the overall productivity and proficiency of the teams are enhanced.

  2. Interoperability - As the name suggests, the exchanges of data between different Structural BIM software bring about more freedom and removes barriers that come between the usage of different platforms. The ability to exchange data across different platforms and software instead of choosing one single software to carry out every task makes integration and information sharing between different stakeholders more seamless and effective.

  3. Return on Investments - With the capabilities like Interoperability and clash detection tools available on BIM platforms and software, time-saving and financial accountability is easily achieved. In comparison to manual drawings and on-site construction changes, the application of Structural BIM Modelling helps save time and money and measure the ROI.

  4. Future Ahead with BIM - With fully functional BIM one can be assured that time, money, resources, and material utilization is efficiently achieved. With BIM documentation the construction project even after completion is looked after for years to come due to a preventive approach, which cannot happen with usage of traditional 2D CAD concepts and so most of the AEC firms, clients, engineers, and technical experts are seeing BIM Services for a solution.

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