What are BIM and BEM? | Jargon buster

Building design and delivery often start with BIM – building information modelling. In recent years, these digital representations of buildings have started to focus more heavily on energy performance, which is where BEM comes in. Patricia Kusumadjaja of cove.tool explains the importance of both.

What are BIM and BEM, and what is the key difference?

BIM and BEM each have three definitions: for BIM, they are:

  • building information modelling
  • building information model
  • building information management

For BEM, they are the same, but we swap out information for energy.

The key difference here is BIM is generic and takes a holistic view of information across a building’s lifecycle, while BEM is focused on energy-related information, including energy simulation or energy performance.

What are the core benefits of using BIM?

One core benefit that applies to both BIM and BEM lies in simulation: it is being able to build everything on a project before you even put a shovel in the ground.

Everyone has something to gain from these processes, from architecture teams, engineering firms, and contractors to owners.

They can save time by identifying potential risks for a project early and save money by knowing exactly the type and quantity of materials you need ahead of time. This ultimately helps you optimise your processes and operations.

And, with BEM, adding energy data allows the user to better understand the relationship between design and performance.

How widely adopted are BIM and BEM?

BIM has existed for quite a long time, and it’s more widely adopted currently. However, we see adoption of both continue to increase. BEM has entered the conversation more recently, and teams are becoming aware of it and starting to adopt it.

It’s important to note that BIM is the first step in adopting BEM. Since BIM is already widely adopted by large architecture and contracting firms, we’re starting to see more adoption of BEM as they adopt sustainability-focused initiatives and become more aware of the climate impacts of their built spaces. This helps you make adjustments early in the process to confirm your decisions and design choices are aligned with the overall goals of a project.

How do you create BIM models?

Teams use popular software platforms to create BIM models, like Revit or ArchiCAD. We’re seeing teams become more comfortable with this software and technology, resulting in models being created in earlier stages of a construction project.

Determining which platform is right for your business depends on your personal preference, your team size, and your budget. The software works similarly, but it’s important to identify which fits your company and teams today.

cove.tool is a useful platform for those looking to gain further insight into the performance of their building. We take BIM and BEM models and run simulations to give teams calculations on overall performance. So, we can pull out the quantities of a specific material being used in a building and do calculations to determine the estimated performance result, how much it will cost, and the potential carbon impact.

If you already work with BIM models, how do you add BEM?

It’s as simple as adding an extra layer of performance-related data and values for the various elements of a room or building, like the walls, flooring, roof, etc.

Are BIM and BEM standardised in any way?

Yes, both are standardised. In the US there is a national standard for BIM and a BEM standard that a lot of industry associations have been working on. Adoption of these standards is common – typically, a company uses these national standards as a base upon which they can modify certain aspects to create a more customised company standard to fit their needs.

Patricia Kusumadjaja is virtual design and construction director at cove.tool

Also in this series

What is the Internet of Things?

What is generative design?

What are blue, green and grey hydrogen?

What is modular construction?

What is machine learning?

What is an API?

The edge vs the cloud

Jargon buster | Digital twins

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