Application of BIM in Steel Structures Design


Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a novel modeling idea and technology that has penetrated domestic and foreign building projects in the design, construction, cost accounting, and other stages to produce value for a construction project. The increased use of advanced technology and automation such as BIM in building design and construction is assisting in greatly improving or streamlining operations. While 3D modeling has been used in the steel industry for many years, recognition of BIM capabilities as a necessity is a relatively new development in construction. Fabrication-specific software is rising in popularity, simplifying processes with BIM data and enabling optimum schedules in steel buildings.

Structure designed using BIM
Fig 1: Structure designed using BIM

How is BIM Implemented in Steel Design?

Software to automatically generate drawings and reports, extract CNC data, and individual process parts were established in the 1990s with the evolution of 3D modeling. During the 2000s, fabricators started using BIM to address even more difficult problems, such as the time-consuming and costly assembly process. They were able to draw information directly into parts using unique interfaces that could harness the power of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines. 

When automatic layout marking technology became prevalent in 2004, this amazing development improved. The industry began to understand the enormous potential of employing BIM to boost efficiency from this point forward. The market required an automated assembly phase. With further advancements, material handling has become more productive thanks to automation. Robotic welding has grown commonplace, even though it is not always research- and cost-effective. Fabrication-specific software is on the rise, simplifying processes with BIM data and enabling more efficient schedules.

However, as the industry evolves, the tools must evolve as well. Robotic welding, for example, is more complex than simple reproduction, and as a result, the need for data sharing has changed. Tools such as proprietary interfaces have been further created to convey information between model and workshop to fulfill new needs.

The need for more modeled information soared due to the success of these breakthroughs. As a result, as a solution, suppliers developed proprietary software with a bidirectional interface. 

It was past time for a new benchmark. Leading vendors collaborated in 2009 to improve the workflow for the whole steel manufacturing sector. Some construction companies have also opted for the no-residual construction concept in steel bridge design, even in bridge design. With BIM technology as technical support, it will be possible to transform the traditional steel structure bridge production process, increase manufacturing accuracy and efficiency of steel bridge zero component factory, and reduce construction costs.

BIM Application in Steel Structures

BIM improves productivity, and users gain a lot of benefits. Some of the biggest benefits of BIM will be realized through its ability to reduce rework, such as re-keying information into models or making modifications in the field. The following are some of its applications in the steel structure design.

  • Creating an ascribing interface for steel projects

The BIM interface eliminates all of the time-consuming workshops, similar to how the outline of a stamp is placed on envelopes to indicate their intended position. Instead of going to the fabrication drawings, welders may simply weld the fittings in the correct spot with all the reference information and weld requirements on the member, eliminating another interface for error.

  • Joint detailing in steel

The connecting detail of structures joints defaults in various software modeling procedures, which means that the connecting detail is undetectable. However, joint designs provide convenient and humanized support. It supports manual input joints parameters and generation joints, making the model building approach more user-friendly. Following the date reading, automatic checking can determine the construction concerns that will arise in the future.

  • Steel structure life cycle management with BIM technologies

Multiple project management processes define and generate data and information throughout the lifecycle of a steel building project, from design through conception to facility management. A way of organizing and storing information that takes into consideration information needs at later project processes is required to enable processes across the project lifecycle.

  • Steel rebar Information fragmentation

If we have any information classification system, it might be integrated into the database structure of BIM applications to allow users to input project-specific information. Steel rebar is calculated and stored to make decisions during the estimation, scheduling, and procurement procedures. For an estimate, steel rebar is commonly measured in total tons. The estimation method’s goal is to compute a total quantity of steel that can then be multiplied by a unit cost to get a total cost estimate.

  • BIM in Cold-Formed Steel (CFS) Structures

Cold-formed steel construction (CFS) has proven to be a worthy alternative to traditional building systems due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, dimensional precision, and sustainability. BIM can improve the efficiency of this construction system by integrating information. During the various project phases, programming techniques particular to CFS residential structures can assist BIM deployment.

BIM in Existing Structures

Some examples of BIM in real life structures are:

  • Shanghai World Financial Centre, Shanghai, China

This complex, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox of the United States, was set to begin construction in 1997 when the foundation stone was laid. Due to funding constraints caused by the Asian financial crisis, the project was briefly halted. Shanghai Tongqing Technology Co. Ltd and Shanghai Rightfly Building Technology Co. Ltd built and used the BIM model for design coordination, drawing development, fabrication information, and NC data production for steelwork contractors.

Shanghai World Financial Centre
Fig 2: Shanghai World Financial Centre
  • Egypt’s New Alamein City

The goal of BIM implementation for New Alamein City was to build a centralized shared knowledge repository that houses all of a project’s design and operational data. With no meaningful on-site application and no culture of cooperation among team members to promote its utilization, 3D technology was utilized to offer design suggestions. The steps implemented in the project construction consisted of software like Tekla Structures, BIM 360, Revit, Infraworks 360, and Navisworks.

New Alamein City
Fig 3: New Alamein City


BIM implementation within steel structural engineering methodology demonstrates how to carry out implementation clearly and objectively and covers processes for analysis and diagnosis, rethinking objectives, identifying requirements, planning, and monitoring the project. Nearly half of all users agreed that BIM might provide significant benefits to structural engineers as users typically model elements such as steel columns, beams, and trusses. Contractors are the most likely to see structural engineers reap considerable rewards.


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