The fact that BIM stands for ‘building information modelling’ gives a clue that it might not always be ideal for use on bridge projects. Constructing bridges differs in many obvious ways from buildings (as well as in some less obvious ones) and this has traditionally meant the use of ‘workarounds’ to tailor BIM systems for this application.
However, both the sector as a whole and some individual software companies have been stepping up efforts over the past couple of years to address the specific needs of bridge designers, contractors and owners. In tandem, use is growing of the term BrIM to distinguish systems specifically for bridges from their more building-focused counterparts.
A fast-tracked international initiative has recently produced bridge-specific ‘industry foundation classes’ (IFC), standardised, digital descriptions that enable data exchange across a wide range of hardware devices and software platforms used by owners, designers, suppliers and contractors. They incorporate details of objects such as columns and slabs – their types and attributes including materials and properties, locations and so on.
More abstract information such as costings can also be included, as too can details of the parties and processes involved in installation and operation. The final version of the IFC-Bridge extension was published as an official draft in May.