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Bridges & Structures

 

Building Information Modeling (BIM) for Bridges and Structures

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a set of technologies and processes used to create a 3-dimentional virtual model of a project. This 3-D virtual model contains all project information that may be from more than one source. The information from that 3-D virtual model can be shared, used, reused, and exchanged among stakeholders of the project.

The application of BIM in infrastructure projects is growing both nationally and internationally, based on information from a pooled fund initiative. As BIM matures with voluntary and non-binding Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) data schema and exchange file format being established, the bridge design and construction industry is recognizing the benefits of digital bridge project delivery. Bridge owners are interested in those benefits as well including reduction in both initial cost of construction and the whole life cycle cost of bridges; reduction in the overall time from planning and preliminary design to completion for new construction followed by inspection and maintenance of bridges; and increase of return on investment of BIM in infrastructure.

FHWA Resources

FHWA Efforts in Advancing BIM for Bridges and Structures

FHWA Ongoing Research

  • Demonstration of Bridge Project Delivery Using BIM
    • Objectives:
      • Conducting a case study of a bridge project that used digital delivery
      • Providing information for consideration when drafting technical specifications for BIM for bridges
      • Creating a utility that exchanges AASHTOWare BrD data into IFC data.
      • Converting a library of bridges to IFC and viewing the bridges in viewer software
      • Creating an IFC model of the case study bridges
      • Developing a BIM object template framework for extensions to the standards
  • BIM for Bridges and Roadways – Project Delivery Workflow and National Library
    • Objectives:
      • Study the opportunities and obstacles in transition to BIM-based workflows for delivery of highway bridges and roadway projects
      • Develop suggestions to support ongoing BIM initiatives of FHWA and AASHTO
      • Develop a framework and process for creating and maintaining a possible National BIM Transportation Library (NBTL)
Diagram of IFC data structures for bridge geometry. The figure is a organization structure chart illustrating the IFC bridge geometry data structure breakdown showing the heirarchy from IfcAlignmentCurve to IfcOffsetCurveByDistances for a steel superstructure. The heirarchy for the IfcSlab element definition is shown with arrows from IfcSlab to IfcSectionSolidHorizontal to IfcArbitraryClosedProfileDef sub-elements. Arrows connect thefcAlignmentCurve, IfcOffsetCurveByDistances, IfcSlab, IfcSectionSolidHorizontal, and IfcArbitraryClosedProfileDef components to their application on a sample bridge model superstructure superimposed in the background.
The figure is an organization structure chart illustrating the IFC bridge geometry data structure breakdown showing the hierarchy from IfcAlignmentCurve to IfcOffsetCurveByDistances for a steel superstructure. (Source: FHWA)
IFC export with tessellated geometry. The figure is a screenshot of the steel bridge model with tessellated geometry shown as meshed surfaces.
The figure is a screenshot of the steel bridge model with tessellated geometry shown as meshed surfaces. (Source: FHWA)

External Resources

Updated: 02/02/2021
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000