The origins of BIM (building information modeling) can be found with Russian nuclear physicist Leonid Raiz, and his creation of 3-D computer-aided design (CAD) software.

We have Raiz to thank for 3-D printing, the Boeing 777 jet, and Revit: the $20 billion industry standard today in BIM, where 3-D building models are designed and built. Raiz founded that corporation and sold it to Autodesk in 2002.

Now Revit and CAD are being applied to the fine art of collaboration.

Via social teamwork sites like Slack, Google Docs, Trello, Asana and Stack Overflow, today’s online business world is far more collaborative and interconnected. BIM, in its essence, is a downstream technology. Architects, engineers and building designers want to control access to CAD files and their host designs.

The fact remains, though, that designs do require team adjustments now and then, which is why tools to facilitate upstream communication between construction teams are greatly needed. This issue is made more complex by the few people who possess the special skills needed to access models and info in complex software.

If we can make online tools that connect the concepts and plans defined via 3-D models with those who construct them, and if we can imbue BIM with communication, planning and modeling tools, then we can integrate simplicity through the building and construction ecosystem to bring our industry together by way of collaboration.

Collaboration must be a primary focus for BIM innovations. By perhaps devising CAD designs in a gaming environment, we can develop a final and immovable 3-D model that can be amended and annotated by construction managers, owners and executives alike.

With improved communication and collaboration, fewer change orders would be needed, and any required changes could be performed upstream and downstream. The whole industry would increase in terms of speed and efficiency. A recent McKinsey analysis of sizable investment projects found that 80% of average cost overruns can be attributed to change orders.

Furthermore, if architects, engineers and construction teams conceptualise and cooperate on shared, collaborative 3-D models of buildings when those structures are constructed, then why should we not use the same BIM tools to manage the building’s overall life cycle? And why not correlate the building’s smart features into the BIM? Why not give these buildings’ owners and managers interconnected, real-time tools that permit them to view their Ring doorbell status, their Nest cameras and their Hue lightbulb information in a single location?

In this ideal BIM model, each building is modelled, with model access shared—and with permission given for everyone involved in the project to make changes and adjustments. Cities even can draw upon these designs to monitor power usage, water and other civic concerns. Why not devise interconnected, 3-D models to use and even share? Why not connect citizens with their cities and businesses?

When one thinks about the rich possibilities of a connected, modelled city that reflects its real-life community counterpart, the options are never ending. Even recycling and waste problems can grow in efficiency, and community institutions could accommodate growing populations. Overall, the world would be better—and smarter.

We must learn from the past. We must be able to connect and unify each component of any building project, to create a complete story—one made of stories, not coincidentally!

The starting point in this grand plan is the increased accessibility of information and communication. By promoting a cohesive, well-managed environment that promotes informed strategies and decisions, enhanced technology is needed.

Through the manufactured magic of 3-D modelling tools and BIM practices, we already have the tools to create smart cities—now all we need is a little teamwork to complete this high tech, future-thinking recipe. But then again, don’t we always?