How Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Wayfinding Can Work Together
Building information modeling (BIM), a method used during the design and construction phases of buildings, helps planners visualize, by means of digital representation, how buildings will come together functionally and aesthetically. BIM is increasingly used as a part of design, construction and renovation of facilities, and for good reason: it models how buildings will look and function before they’re actually built or altered. Problems can be worked out ahead of time and their resolutions integrated into buildings as they take shape. Since effective wayfinding solutions ideally should be worked into the process of designing and constructing facilities, planners would do well to consider how BIM and wayfinding can work together.
Much BIM technology allows planners to view aspects of a building-in-progress in three dimensions, including possible wayfinding solutions for that building. In this way, designers can see how different signage solutions will work depending on the architecture of the building. A building’s architectural aspects and structure help determine what kind of wayfinding solution will best serve the facility’s unique needs. BIM helps designers see, in three dimensions, where and how signage can provide optimal wayfinding solutions, whether the signage is to be fixed on walls, mounted from ceilings or integrated with the building’s other structural elements.
BIM technology offers tracking capability, which can also prove useful for visualizing wayfinding solutions while designing a building. Since architectural components can be tracked using BIM, it follows that designers can use the technology to track locations and possibilities for signage installation and see how these will work in the building model. Designers can use BIM to brainstorm wayfinding solutions by keeping track of the architectural components on which signage will be mounted or into which it will be integrated, and the information can be shared among all the people who are working on a project.
Large, Complex Facilities
Making wayfinding a part of BIM is particularly useful for the planning of large, complex facilities. Modeling extensive facilities as part of the design process saves time and money, and when wayfinding possibilities become part of the modeling process, signage placement in the actual building or buildings can be rendered far more effective for the people who will eventually make use of those facilities. Over time, BIM will likely branch out and become a part of building design for smaller, diverse facilities. And wayfinding will remain an important aspect of the big picture of architectural design and modeling.
Currently, there exist limitations on the integration of wayfinding into BIM technology. For example, planning for wayfinding in the context of many BIM platforms can be quite time-consuming. Signage is a complex element in its own right, and working it into BIM databases can prove difficult. As with all technology, however, advances are inevitable, and as planners seek to make building design more streamlined, wayfinding will be more smoothly integrated into efficient, high-technology modeling techniques.