5 Key Benefits of BIM for Plant Design

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For many years, the architecture, engineering, and construction industries have relied on building information modeling, or BIM, to design and engineer buildings and infrastructure projects. Because of its benefits, BIM adoption is growing rapidly for plant projects as well.

At its core, BIM is a collaboration framework that allows designers, engineers, architects, and contractors to come together around a “single version of the truth.”

In and of itself, BIM is not a tool or a software solution. It’s best to think of BIM as a better way of managing project information in a shared repository where the same set of plans and designs can be prepared, viewed, updated, modeled, and finalized by any and all project stakeholders simultaneously.

BIM starts with the creation of intelligent 3D models using tools like Autodesk’s AutoCAD Plant 3D and Revit that integrate with plans and designs from many AEC and plant design disciplines and software.

These models serve as the focal point around which document management, design collaboration, and coordination come together in a single place throughout the project’s life cycle — from design through construction and operations.

From urbanization to increased regulatory pressures, plant designers are being challenged to deliver better and safer facilities on time and on budget.


There are a lot of good reasons to move to BIM and many are interrelated. Better design and collaboration, for example, begets fewer errors and omissions, which in turn reduces clashes during construction. That’s why so many companies across the plant design and construction business are moving to adopt BIM.

Here are the five main reasons you should move to BIM:

1.Minimize errors and omissions

According to the Dodge wastewater study, 73 percent of respondents using BIM said that reduced errors and omissions was a top project outcome benefit. This is consistent across disciplines.

“Analytics, both in other sectors and in the US and globally, have demonstrated that having other project team members experienced with and using BIM amplifies its benefits, and these findings demonstrate that the water sector is no exception,” the report states.

Quite simply, errors occur when designers, architects, and engineers from the different disciplines and backgrounds fail to communicate effectively. When construction teams go to install pipes and there is a wall in the way, that’s a problem.

BIM tools like Revit, AutoCAD Plant 3D, and Navisworks not only help keep designs coordinated and up-to-date with capabilities like data validation — checking to ensure designs are consistent and adhering to project-specific requirements — they also actively assist in clash detection and remediation.

Likewise, many omissions, where something is simply left out of the plant designs only to be discovered during construction, can be avoided by using up-to-date models that can be checked and cross-checked by everyone involved. In this way, as plans are updated by other disciplines like architects or civil engineers, plant designers are alerted to those changes and can make adjustments as needed.

2.Better design through visualization

One of the other big benefits of using BIM is being able to combine information, plans, and designs to create visuals that can accurately represent what the final plant will look like and to easily share them. Ultimately, this leads to better, more innovative designs.

According to the Dodge wastewater survey, 68 percent of respondents said better design solutions was another key benefit of using BIM. “This makes sense since these benefits cascade down through the rest of the project lifecycle,” the report states. “Use of BIM tools can yield a more well-reasoned design, informed by analysis and simulation that can more effectively achieve project goals. This can encourage more innovation on projects as well as save time and costs.”

3.Improved collaboration

The main benefits of BIM begin with collaboration. It is consistently listed as the No.1 reason designers, architects, and builders adopt BIM.

According to the Dodge wastewater study, 58 percent of respondents said enhanced collaboration was the top business benefit of BIM. This is because BIM acts as a focal point and clearinghouse for all plans, designs, build sheets, specification data, costs, and schedules.

But BIM takes collaboration a step further by allowing multidisciplinary teams of plant designers, architects, and building engineers to co-create in near real-time. This minimizes the constant back and forth that typically goes on using email. It saves time and effort, while reducing the number of friction points in the process.

4.Improved cost management

Like errors and omissions, BIM can help reduce requests for information (RFIs) by improving the ability of all stakeholders to see and work with 3D models even before construction begins.

This allows for better cost controls and even cost reductions, and it also plays a big role in improving constructability.

5.Faster project startup

While many of BIM’s benefits stack up quickly once the project is underway, a more integrated design solution also enables a project to kick off faster.

For example, in urban areas where space is limited and existing plants must be refurbished, a lot of the information about these facilities is either missing, wrong, or out of date.

Using reality capture technologies, designers and engineers can image the plant inside and out and then feed the BIM model with accurate 3D images to create a digital twin. The model can then be populated with up-to-date information about elevations, pipe runs, instrumentation, etc. that also includes meta-data about each.

In greenfield environments, designers can bring together land survey and GIS data, to quickly see how they will bring in pipes from the outside.

With BIM, all of these tools talk to each other. It’s an integrated design that brings together structural engineers and architects working on the outside of the plant and connects them to what plant designers are doing on the inside.

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