Building Information Modelling

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the next generation technology revolutionizing the way that information about buildings is modelled and captured for use throughout the life of a building.

It creates a BIM model, which is an electronic representation of the 3D geometry of a building and all its component objects and their properties, collected over the building’s life. BIM use is mandated by governments in several countries, though not in New Zealand. Here, its use is encouraged through the efforts of MBIE’s BIM Acceleration Committee, which has developed handbooks, case studies, business benefits, user groups, training courses, etc to support the uptake of BIM. Consequently, many new major government projects are ‘BIM projects’, and BIM is specified to support a range of large and medium-sized industry projects. In time, it is expected that the benefits of using BIM will also be seen in residential building and renovation.

Exemplar code test in a user process for automated code checking
Exemplar high-level user process for automated code checking

While many construction processes are well supported by BIM (for example, see the 21 BIM uses in the NZ BIM Handbook) there are still many important tasks where no commercial computerised solutions exist.

Researchers at the University of Auckland are finding innovative solutions to many of these problems, three of which are highlighted here.

  1. Research on automating code checking of BIM models is being done by Dr Johannes Dimyadi. A method for creating a computable representation of New Zealand’s performance-based building codes has also been developed. Tested with the C/VM2 compliance document for fire safety design, a code checking system has been created to allow a user to direct the checking process for a BIM model. The output of this is a report on compliant and non-compliant aspects of the design in regards to C/VM2.
  2. Reducing the BIM data overload investigates how best to provide the smallest set of BIM data needed for any particular process in construction. This removes the need to send all information collected in the BIM model for every step in the project, the majority of which is irrelevant for any one process. For example, a lighting simulation doesn’t need structural and thermal properties of the building. Maintaining the consistency of the complete BIM model when most of the project professionals are working on their own independent sets of BIM data is a fascinating challenge that we have found solutions for.
  3. Dr Dermott McMeel is researching how BIM can be used on site. Using localisation features of mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets) we are able to link a user’s position to the right spot in the BIM. This enables many site processes to accurately link to, and update, the BIM model from the site. For example, the snagging process (compiling minor defects prior to building handover) is enhanced by being able to tag an identified defect on site to the correct element in the BIM model. This can then generate work schedules for the various subcontractors who will be tasked with rectifying the defects.


Professor Robert Amor is Head of the Department of Computer Science, in the University of Auckland's Faculty of Science.

Reproduced with permission from the National Business Review (NBR) Building Information Modelling, published in their "Special Report: Investing in Property" on Friday 5 May 2017