Civil-izing BIM

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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Get AIA Continuing Education course credits

  1. How BIM Changes the Game for Transportation [Access course] – This PDH takes stock of the current adoption of BIM for civil projects and documents some of the advantages of BIM for transportation projects and practice. There are benefits along the lifecycle of an asset, which translates to growing acceptance of BIM for new projects as well as ongoing operations.  
  2. [Register for webcast] Practical Steps to Take Control of BIM Before it Takes Control of You 


What could Civil Engineers gain by integrating BIM? There always has to be a compelling factor for change. If BIM is going to alter how a civil engineer conducts business, there has to be some “value” to the effort. BIM integration can potentially provide:

  • Increased project ROI
  • Increased/enhanced collaboration
  • More accurate documentation
  • More efficient and effective project delivery
  • Improved visualizations and enhanced communication
  • Client support and client relationship-building
  • Enhanced value to the customer
  • More accurate project cost estimates
  • Improved project performance measurements
  • Optimized design through BIM and BIM analysis
  • Enhanced control of project coordinates between architect & engineer

This is just a short list of the possible benefits that can be achieved through BIM integration for civil engineering industry professionals. Could the tide be turning for BIM for Civil as we see the popularity of such products as Autodesk InfraWorks opening the door to simple and easy to use 3D software platforms that utilize data that civil engineers already have at their disposal? Time will tell as to how BIM will alter the face of civil engineering, but if you take a look at how it has improved the lives of architects, MEP and construction professionals in a very short time, I can only imagine great things to come!