What if BIM was used on a notable historical project?

BIM has redefined the way construction happens. But what if such technologies existed way back?

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Imagine a famous historical monument like the Taj Mahal or the Eiffel Tower which was constructed before technology as we know it existed. During those times, everything would have been completely different, including the process of construction.

A lot of the talk in the past decade has been a shift towards BIM from CAD. CAD technologies and software focused on digitizing what engineers and architects used to do by using physical tools like pen and paper. BIM takes it to the next level by focusing on object based 3D model development and attaching useful information to each of the components. But imagine how it was a few centuries back. If we talk about these architectural masterpieces built so many years ago, they possibly didn’t have what we consider basic today. Computers and even calculators as we know them today were non-existent.

The best tools architects and engineers used back then were just pencils and paper. Even pencils were just invented during the same era as some of these monuments were constructed!

Thought Experiment

There can be many instances where BIM could have helped in reducing time and increasing efficiencies. One of the major benefits of using BIM is time savings. But, construction in the earlier days rarely viewed time as a deadline for completion of projects. Introducing time as a resource began only after the current era of globalisation. Subsequently, the industry has now embedded time as a dimension. This process has increased efficiencies world over, thus reducing time dependency while providing an estimated completion date. Imagine the level of paperwork that one could save in those times with the help of BIM. Today’s technology would have made things a lot easier for famous historical projects. Taking all this into consideration the facets of modern technology may not be completely applicable especially due to the cultural differences if we compare to the time back then. However, it prompts for a good thought experiment.

A (dis)connected world

Today, the world has become ubiquitous with the availability of internet.  Same goes for mobile devices. They have changed the global landscape so drastically, that we cannot even imagine the world without it. But there indeed was a world before these inventions and if construction teams back then could leverage BIM and the internet, the world would have been very different.

In today’s world BIM relies a lot on connected devices and the internet. Teams from various geographies can collaborate together on one project at the same time. In those times, internet would have helped people from other countries also apply their expertise on project in a very different location. That might perhaps have led to a different scenario of how we perceive local designs and architecture but that discussion is for another day.

In those times, almost all knowledge was restricted to certain individuals only. A metaphor would be that there were different individuals as there are islands in the sea, with no connection with one another.

Knowledge was not so accessible as it is today. We have started taking our Google searches and online tutorials for granted. But in earlier times, only the people who toiled hard and became scholars had the right amount of information to make such grand undertakings successful.

Simulating construction

A good part of BIM is about taking 3D models to the next level by integrating time and cost dimensions, thus making a 4D or a 5D model. This enables construction teams to visualize how construction will happen on site before it actually does. Now, this kind of tech wasn’t available in the 19th century, so whatever challenges they faced, were rectified then and there on site itself. There wasn’t really a concept of pre-construction and the planning process wasn’t really that well organized.

That's how '4D simulations' were back in the day

Yet, some of the most brilliant structures have been built in the past eras which still stand strong. Notably, they would have been made in a more efficient manner had such technologies existed, but it also goes to show that what the human mind can conceive, it can be converted to reality.

What the human mind can conceive, it can be built. But in today’s era of AI and 3D printing, we can build something which even the mind cannot think of.

Tools like Autodesk Navisworks, Bentley Synchro and Fuzor help simulate construction before it happens. They help predict what-if scenarios and also plan materials and logistics in a visual manner. A lot of these concepts even were non-existent in historical times. They would definitely have added value to these remarkable monuments.

Developing multiple design options

The AEC industry today is moving towards concepts of Artifical Intelligence and Generative Design. That is because customers today expect a whole lot whereas that wasn’t the case earlier.

Whatever the architect designed and approved from the client became the de-facto standard for other teams to follow without much questioning as compared to the collaborative approach via BIM that is promoted today.

Generative design options example
Source: https://www.autodesk.com/solutions/generative-design/architecture-engineering-construction

Viewing models & drawings on the go

With mobile technology, it is very much possible to take a tablet or phone and view the latest drawings and models using an app. That could have been super convenient on complex architectural marvels like the Taj Mahal (it took 12 years to build!).

Even if we consider print media, we take them for granted today but in the years past there weren’t tools to cyclostyle or photocopy the same drawing or documents, and everything had to be recreated for someone else to refer. Imagine what would happen if these got lost or succumbed to a fire. Months of hard work could go to waste. Today we simply use cloud solutions like planBIM and have various options to keep data backups with us.

Safety Criteria

In today’s world, lives are valued significantly as compared to the past. Safety is a very important priority on construction sites and there is a lot of personal as well as site equipment that is used to ensure the same.

This really wasn’t the case hundreds of years ago. The idea of doing safety planning during construction using BIM is relatively new but quickly picking up.

Safety is an important aspect of modern construction

There could have been a lot of lives saved in the past had new technologies been used to plan and execute projects.

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All in all, there are various facets of BIM which could be useful while building these historical structures. However, if we now snap out of our though experiment, let’s take a moment to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of these masterpieces and know for a fact that technology is just an enabler but not a necessity. If you’d like to get the best of technology in construction project planning and standardization, try out planbim.io!


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