Building Information Modeling (BIM): The New Standard for Design

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is an innovative process that is being implemented in the design community. BIM creates a coordinated project environment between the architect, engineer and entire design team throughout the stages of a project.

Most notably, BIM provides a 3-D interface that is more readable to the user than a typical 2-D drafting interface. This virtual prototype of the structure enables better understanding and review of the design.


Utilizing BIM software among the project team creates an environment of shared knowledge that makes coordinating easier. Different design options can be considered because of the simplicity of sharing and viewing BIM-based models between the architect and engineer. Interferences between disciplines can also be easily spotted when viewing a multi-discipline BIM model.


Structural beam interfering with architectural wall

However, BIM is more than a different way of viewing a structure on a computer screen. It is an interactive technology that combines the design, analysis and documentation of a project into one process. Since all of these aspects of the workflow are being performed simultaneously, it results in a quicker response time to design changes. Elements in a BIM model are interrelated. Therefore, if one element in the model changes, all related elements are adjusted accordingly. Design changes can be made in the fraction of time it would take for the same changes to be made when using 2-D drafting. The graph below represents a typical project curve showing how a design change impacts the different stages of a project.


Graph courtesy of

The ability to impact cost and performance of a project with a design change is inversely correlated with the cost of the design change. In the above graph, the (3) curve represents a 2-D drafting process while the (4) curve represents a BIM drafting process. When utilizing BIM technology, the majority of the workflow is completed during the early stages of the project (earlier than the 2-D workflow). BIM’s ability to front load a project with the workflow means that design changes have a greater positive impact on the project at an overall lower cost.

BIM may seem daunting to the inexperienced user, but it has a smaller learning curve than would be expected. Its realistic interface makes it intuitive and easy to master the basics. BIM software can be taught using a variety of approaches. Upon beginning my career at Allegheny Design Services, I completed training for the various BIM programs that I would be using, and in no time I felt quite confident with my ability to navigate the software. Now, it’s hard to imagine a design world without it.

BIM is an exciting technology being utilized at ADS to improve project efficiency. To see the various projects in which ADS has used BIM technology, click here.

Thanks for reading,


Written by Jillian Maston, EIT, Junior Structural Engineer

jillianJillian is a resident of Morgantown, WV. She graduated magna cum laude from West Virginia University College of Engineering and Mineral Resources with her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 2011. She was inducted into the civil engineering honor society, Chi Epsilon, during her senior year of college. Presently, she is completing her master of civil engineering at North Carolina State University with a focus in structural engineering. Jillian gained experience in the industry through internships at Burgess and Niple and the North Carolina Department of Transportation. In January 2013 she began her career at Allegheny Design Services where she has broadened her experience in the analysis and design of structural materials.

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