My BIM experience

by Dr. Regina Ruschel, Senior Researcher and Collaborating Professor at the Graduate Program in Architecture, Technology and the City at the University of Campinas

My experience in BIM is essentially academic, both in teaching and research. I came to BIM naturally because of my focus on digital transformation. I was a pioneer and led two major digital transformation processes in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction in the Brazilian academy. In the 1980s, I locally implemented the transition from analog to digital,  of drawing board design to computer-aided design, in the civil engineering course at the University of Campinas. Since the mid-2000s, I have worked tirelessly to transition from computer-aided design to information modeling, across the entire building and infrastructure development cycle in education. This effort was first locally at my university and recently nationwide.

I’m a civil engineer. It was during my master’s degree that I was introduced to informatics. I learned to program in FORTRAN and transitioned from mainframe computing to microcomputing between 1984-1985. I completed a master’s degree at the University of Arkansas in soil mechanics. When I returned to Brazil, I came across a country in recession, especially in the construction sector. It was exactly my experience in microcomputing that gave me my first two jobs. The second one was at Hidroservice’s Data Processing Center. I found bugs in FORTRAN dam calculation programs and trained all engineering teams in productivity applications (text editor, spreadsheets, and presentation editors). Talking about this today seems trivial, but it meant abandoning the pencil in everyday office work back then.

In 1986 I joined the University of Campinas in computing in the Civil Engineering course. There, I built my professional life. I started teaching programming, then CAD, and finally BIM. We were the first civil engineering course in Brazil to introduce CAD syllabuses in the curriculum as mandatory. Already in 1989, I taught to model in 3D and extract the 2D representations from the model. I also taught LISP to automate CAD routines. I left the HTML content of my LISP classes in open access, which were used throughout Brazil. 

Concerning BIM, in 2005, we received licenses for REVIT 5.0, for the Civil Engineering (EC) and Architecture and Urbanism (AU) courses at UNICAMP. I attempted to introduce it in the syllabus of applied informatics, but I found it difficult. The modeling mindset in REVIT was very different from what I was used to, and I could not make in a short time transition solely with a self-taught effort. So I chose to understand BIM through research, then punctually in advising students’ final course work, and finally in the undergraduate teaching of EC and AU, from 2009 and on.

I started introducing BIM in design studios, then in simulation classes, and finally in modeling syllabuses. The design studio was called Collaborative Desing for Architecture and Urbanism. The studio had a paperless and remote collaboration footprint. We discussed design by doodling over models or images on electronic boards and used a collaborative environment to share design solutions. Then I introduced BIM for clash detection and site planning in a mandatory class for Civil Engineering. Finally, we taught BIM modeling in applied informatics syllabuses for EC and AU undergraduate courses. I stopped undergraduate teaching at UNICAMP in 2016. However, this framework of introducing BIM in the training of civil engineers and architects remains, being added by dispersed insertions at the initiative of professors in multiple disciplines. I am currently collaborating at UNICAMP as a senior volunteer professor.

In BIM research, my focus has always been on the design or use of the building, that is, at the extreme ends of the building’s life cycle. I have been exploring the uses of BIM applicable in these phases of the project’s life cycle. Thus, I supervised masters and doctorates who developed: object libraries, process maps, metamodels for collaborative design, digital twins, informational handover for asset management, among others. The vast majority of these researches were awarded or had their respective articles awarded at conferences. I will list some:

  1. Romeo Neiva Neto. BIM production design of molds for reinforced concrete structures. 2014. Dissertation.
    1. Received the first Sinduscon Academic BIM EXCELLENCE AWARD, 2016.
  2. Natalia Nakamura Barros. Impacts of the adoption of BIM in the assessment of energy and GHG emissions incorporated in the life cycle of buildings. 2016. Dissertation
    1. Develop the process map for LCA with BIM
    1. Best article on Sustainable Development at the XVI NATIONAL MEETING ON BUILT ENVIRONMENT TECHNOLOGY, National Association of Technology in the Built Environment.
  3. Paula Pontes Mota. BIM model for asset management. 2017. Dissertation
    1. Details the information required for asset management, identifying in which components, by whom, and when they must be inserted in the model
    1. Received an honorable mention at the 2019 ABRAFAC Best of the Year Award
  4. Fernanda Almeida Machado. BIM and Internet of Things for monitoring building energy consumption. 2018. Dissertation
    1. Received an honorable mention from the Sinduscon Academic BIM EXCELLENCE AWARD in 2019. Received the ABRAFAC Best of the Year 2019 Award.
    1. Developed the first Brazilian academic model for digital twin with an emphasis on energy consumption.
  5. Marcel Kater. BIM in automated rule-based verification of fire safety standard for multifamily dwelling. 2020. Dissertation.
    1. Demonstrates how to translate fire safety measures into automatic verification in SOLIBRI.
    1. Best Scientific Paper on Information and Communication Technology in Construction XVII NATIONAL MEETING ON BUILT ENVIRONMENT TECHNOLOGY.

In 2018, I created the ENCONTRO NACIONAL DE ENSINO DE BIM (ENEBIM) together with my colleague Prof. Mariana Lima from the Federal University of Ceará. The annual meeting, promoted by the National Association of Technology in the Built Environment (ANTAC), brings together Brazilian academics to share experiences in BIM teaching for undergraduate Civil Engineering or Architecture and Urbanism, as well as in technical courses. There have already been 3 highly successful editions of ENEBIM. We unintentionally provided a great showcase for efforts to introduce BIM into teaching, as well as establish a network for sharing know-how. ENEBIM showed BIM introduction in education in Brazil occurs in large centers, in all country regions, except for the North. The teaching focus is mostly on modeling; however, recently, we have observed the teaching of BIM uses of quantitative takeoff, cost estimation, and planning. However, efforts to incorporate BIM into the curriculum come from professors in specific subjects, lacking a collective institutional approach.

Since 2020, I have been collaborating in the Construa Brasil Project of the Ministry of Economy coordinated by RECEPETi – Santa Catarina Innovation Network. The project aims to promote the National BIM BR Strategy. I lead the development of university BIM Cells that aim to stimulate the application of new technologies related to BIM in the training of civil engineers and architects. We created guidelines for developing BIM Implementation Plans (BIP) in curricula in a holistic way. Two federal public universities already follow the guidelines, developing BIPs and initiating their application actions. This effort led to creating the BIM CELL ANTAC NETWORK, which aims to apply these guidelines at the national level. We have approximately 30 universities in the network. Imagine the impact of including BIM in the curriculum in an integrated way that we will have in the coming years. 

Nothing said would be possible without the collaboration of students and colleagues.


Dr. Regina Ruschel is a Civil Engineer with, Master’s in Soil Mechanics and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. She is currently a Senior Researcher and Collaborating Professor at the Graduate Program in Architecture, Technology and the City at the University of Campinas. She is editor-in-chief of PARC Journal of Research in Architecture and Construction and a member of the editorial board of Building Research and Information. She leads the BIM University Cell of the Construa Brasil Project coordinated by the Santa Catarina Innovation Network with the Ministry of Economy. She actively participates in the international BIM Excellence initiative and in the BIM Special Studies Committee at ABNT. She is the coordinator of the Scientific and Technical Committee of BIM Forum Brazil. She develops research on Building Information Modeling and Machine Learning applied to the design and operation of buildings and in teaching, having graduated numerous masters and doctors with consecutive awards.