Unpacking the world of BIM

What is BIM

BIM is a process for creating and managing information on a construction project, throughout the project’s life cycle. The process involves using a set of appropriate technology to develop a coordinated digital description of every aspect of the built assets. In most instances, this digital description comprises a combination of information-rich 3D models and associated structured data such as product, execution, and handover information.

On an international level, the BIM process and associated data structures are best defined in the ISO 19650 and 12006 series of standards.

Understanding BIM Dimensions

In essence, BIM dimensions refer to levels of information and data entered into a 3D model using BIM software and include 3D model data, time data, costs, and sustainability. In this blog, we will aim to decipher the various dimensions of BIM and its place in the South African construction industry.


Consisting of a simple X and Y axis 2D BIM is the earliest form of construction model. These models were initially made by hand using manual processes and later using CAD drawings. With the evolution of modeling tools, 2D models are not considered BIM.


Probably the most familiar form of BIM, 3D BIM includes the process of gathering graphical and non-graphical information to build 3D models which are then shared in a common data environment (CDE). Once again emphasising the importance of collaborating in construction, during the development of a 3D BIM all parties involved in the project must provide accurate inputs of information to ensure potential flaws are identified and remedied before the real work begins. Some of the key benefits of BIM include:

  • Reduced rework – meaning less time and money spent on fixing errors before construction takes place.
  • Improved collaboration between multidisciplinary teams.
  • 3D visualisation of the project to help with communication of design intent, and to support logistics.

Looking specifically at the South African construction industry 3D BIM is currently the standard level of detail of modeling used on projects.


This dimension brings time information into the equation, adding more accuracy to the information relating to the project. This information could relate to:

  • Installation time
  • Time until model is operational
  • Curation of materials

The addition of a dimension of time assists project planners in creating and shaping proposals from a much earlier stage in the project compared to traditional workflows. It also allows the project team to better visualise the progress of a project at various stages. This in turn positively impacts the timeline of the project as project planners can see how assets come together and provide feedback on any concerns that can hinder the project or jeopardise workers.

The introduction of 4D BIM marked a huge step forward for the industry, as it further expanded on collaboration between design and construction teams which ultimately contributes to more successful projects.


With a core focus on costs, 5D BIM is information relating to cost data. This dimension affords users the opportunity to extract accurate cost data from the model and track changes in cost data over time. The availability of this information is quintessential in helping with budget tracking and cost analysis of a project, enabling greater accuracy to the cost estimate of an entire project.


Focussing on sustainability 6D BIM is better known as the project life cycle information. Basically, this dimension covers manufacturer data and information. Some of the aspects covered include:

  • Maintenance schedules
  • Configuration of the component for optimum performance
  • Expected lifespan

Having this information is critical in making informed decisions relating to product procurement by opting for products with longer lifespans that will bring more value for money. It can also assist in pre-planning maintenance activities to avoid downtime.


According to experts, 7D BIM is considered as a further elaboration of 6D BIM relating to sustainability information.


As a new dimension, this dimension adds information relating to health and safety.


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