Civil-izing BIM

by: Guest Author | 01/20/2015
Estimated Reading time: 4 - 6 minutes

Guest Author: John Rodriguez, BIM Manager at Fuscoe Engineering, Inc.

iNFRANEA_civil-designI recently joined Fuscoe Engineering, Inc. as BIM Manager, serving all six of the company’s Southern and Northern California locations.  For 20+ years, Fuscoe has delivered civil engineering, survey & mapping and stormwater management services for many notable California landmarks. Fuscoe’s brand is “full circle thinking®” and it’s this unique approach that got my attention. The fact that a civil engineering firm was interested in adding a BIM Manager and not a CAD Manager was enough of a draw for me to make the leap back into the civil engineering industry.

BIM for Civil?  Well, certainly there are some hurdles to master and BIM concepts to solve! Let’s face it, in the architectural and construction industries, the term “BIM” has virtually replaced the term “CAD” for quite a few years now. Expert knowledge and usage of BIM processes is a prerequisite for participation in these industries. However, when it comes to the civil engineering industry, the same cannot be said. With more robust and stable 3D software becoming widespread among the architectural and building community, we are only now starting to see civil engineers asking questions about the role that building information modeling (BIM) might play in their business processes.

How do you define BIM for Civil?  For me, the definition is very much the same as it is for the architectural, mechanical-electrical-plumbing and/or structural industries, except we aren’t referring to the physical building, but rather the infrastructure outside of the building, including roads, parking lots, access walkways, walls, grading slopes, irrigation and sewer, water and storm drain utilities that connect to building systems.

Why aren’t Civil Engineers using BIM? It certainly seems logical to me that civil engineering designs would be required for a true BIM collaborative environment, yet until recently, civil engineers haven’t always been asked to participate in the overall BIM coordination efforts. Is this just an oversight by other industries or is it related to the lack of proactive engagement of BIM by civil engineers?

What are the factors that held back BIM for Civil?  There may have been specific reasons that have kept civil engineers questioning BIM collaboration, such as:

  • Is the technology ready for engineering primetime?
  • Is the civil engineering industry prepared for BIM?
  • Are the customers demanding or requiring BIM?
  • Can civil engineers make the transition from CAD to BIM?
  • Can CAD and BIM play nicely together?

I believe it is becoming more and more apparent that the answer to these questions is “yes”!

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Bill Barwick
Bill Barwick

The civil industry will be always be slow to embrace unless a complete BIM model is the expected deliverable.  I've been involved in several projects where we, the civil engineering firm, have lead the AEC design team using BIM softwares for coordinating dense utility design and urban development projects.  Because we've embraced BIM and incorporated 3D into our standard workflows, we've positioned ourselves to be on several prestigious projects in which BIM is required in the RFP because of the standard we've set.

We've decided we weren't going to wait for the industry to catch up.