Next Generation Cloud Construction Cost Estimating and Efficient Project Delivery Solution in Beta

4Clicks Solutions, LLC is currently beta testing Ceasel, a next generation cloud computing application to enable collaborative construction cost estimating and associated efficient project delivery.

Cloud computing is more than a catalyst for change, it is a DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY, that will significantly enhance productivity within the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, and Facility Management sectors.


Different form legacy client/server applications or “web-enabled” systems that tend to automate existing ‘ad hoc’ and inefficient business process, Ceasel and other “built from the ground” true cloud computing applications enables embed business best practices and drive true collaboration among Owners, Contractors, Architects, Engineers.  The core focus ends up being upon  CHANGE MANAGEMENT and how to best leverage cloud computing, vs. the technology itself.

Here’s just a few benefit of Ceasel’s cloud computing …

1. Collaboration – True cloud computing (vs. cloud-washing or simply posting legacy applications to the cloud) lets users work concurrently on projects in real-time…virtually anyone, anywhere, anytime in multiple languages and currencies.

2. Data Integrity – Information is NEVER deleted. This is potentially the best form of security available. “Who” does “What” and “When” is always tracked and changes can be “rolled back” at any time by authorized administrators.

3. Data Protection – It is YOU, the user who determines how, when, and where to publish data. For example, you can maintain information in your private area, publish as read only to specified members within a private cloud…or publish to all members in a private cloud, or publish information to all members in public cloud and enable rights to use and modify data.

4. Visualization – DATA visualization and the associated development and implementation of collaborative construction delivery methods such as integrated project delivery – IPD, and job order contracting, JOC, enable shared information earlier in the project life-cycle and among more participants.  This enable errors to be found and corrected and/or changes to be accomplished earlier in the project timeline.  This results in few change orders, faster project timelines, and virtual elimination of legal disputes.  Cloud computing will accelerate data visualization and transparency among all stakeholders of physical infrastructure and promote multiple forms of performance-based processes.

5. Agility – Our work and natural environments are changing at an accelerated pace. Rapid deployment, monitoring, and the associated continuous modification of processes and policies are becoming increasingly important. Cloud computing deploys processes faster than any other method currently available. There is no longer a need to rely upon internal “IT” for deployment or applications specific changes, computing power, storage space, etc.

6. Mobility – It is neither cost effective, nor efficient, to have everyone working in offices or specified work settings. Resources need to be tapped from multiple locations enabling use of “the best of the best”. Cloud computing allows direct, transparent access to local resources while also communicating centralized processes and procedures.

7. Centralization of Information – While information can be scattered among several data centers, it also can be instantly consolidated to provide global management in support of an organization’s mission as well as associated, efficient local action.

8. Business Continuity – While Internet access is required (unless you host the “cloud” internally), would you rather store your information at your location and risk catastrophic failure, or at a location with multiple redundancies?


If you are interested in becoming a beta partner, please contact

Construction Productivity must be Owner driven – BIM, IPD, JOC

One thing is clear, the construction sector (architecture, engineering, contractors, owners, operators, users, suppliers) has been lagging virtually all other business sectors for decades with respect to productivity improvement.

I believe that the cause is largely cultural, however, any major improvement must be driven by Owners,and/or mandated by governmental regulation.

My reasoning is simple, Owners pay the bills.  Thus as long as Owners remain satisfied with the status quo and/or remain “uneducated” with respect to proven business “best practices” and lean management processes, as well as supporting technologies, economic and environmental waste will continue to be rampant.

Currently, my outlook is somewhat pessimistic.  If one looks at  capability and knowledge specific to life-cycle  facility management from an industry perspective, most has originated with the government sector, followed by higher education, state government, healthcare, process-based industries, etc. etc.    Basically, Owners whose mission is dependent upon their built environment tend to create and follow life-cycle management practices. These are Owners that can’t adopt a “churn and burn”, or “run to failure” approach to facility management.  These sectors can’t easily pack up and move if their facilities and physical infrastructure fail.

That said, even government owners, for the most part, have failed in any sort of department or agency-wide adoption of standardized best practices.  This is true even for  “simple” areas such as facility repair, maintenance, and renovation.  Only the Air Force appears to come close to having any true adoption of robust, proven, best-practices in this regard, as well as associated training, etc., most notably with their SABER construction delivery structure.

In order to effect measurable productivity improvement in the “construction” sector, , I have put together a core requirements “checklist”.

1. Robust Ontology – Cost effective information management and information reuse can only be accomplished with a detailed set of terms, definitions, metrics, etc.  This aspect is also critical to improved strategic and tactical decision support mechanisms.

2. An understanding of life-cycle management of the built environment from a collaborative, best-practices, process perspective as well as associated supporting technologies.  Forget the traditional strategy-design-construction-demolish approach.

3. Commitment to a total cost of ownership perspective including both economic and environmental costs vs. our classic “first-cost” mentality.

4. “Trust but measure” – Owners MUST conduct their own internal cost estimating and associated capital planning and compare these to contractor estimates, with each party using the same  data architecture (examples: RSMeans, masterformat, uniformat, omniclass).

5. Adoption of collaborative construction delivery methods such as Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, and Job Order Contracting, JOC, in lieu of antagonistic and inefficient design-bid-built, or even design-build.

6. STOP reinventing the wheel.  Nothing noted here is “rocket science”.  Many, if not most, processes, procedures, and technologies are readily available for anyone who does a bit of basic research!!!   Also, stop with the focus upon BIM from a 3D visualization perspective!  3D tools are great, and add value, however, INFORMATION and PROCESS drive success.



What is BIM?

If you can’t see the whole picture… you can’t appreciate BIM.

elephant BIM

Hard to believe…perhaps to some… but many /most of us in the Architecture, Construction, Owners, Operations sector still don’t know how to define BIM.

Anna Winstanley and Nigel Fraser of Lean BIM Strategies Limited provided the most likely reason in a recent perspective…  if you can’t see the whole picture… you can’t appreciate BIM.

BIM Definition – Short – The life-cycle management of the built environment supported by digital technology.

BIM ToolsBIMF - Building Information Management Frameworkvia –  Premier cost estimating and efficient project delivery software supporting JOC, SABER, IDIQ, SATOC, MATOC, MACC, POCA, BOA … and featuring integrated contract, project, document management, visual estimating/quanity take-off. QTO, and an exclusively enhanced 400,000 line itme RSMeans Cost database.

BIM Strategy, Collaboration, and Interoperablity… Getting it right from square one.

The construction industry (architecture, engineering, construction, operations/facility management, business product manufacturers, oversight and regulatory groups), like most other sectors, is in a state of rapid change.

Construction delivery methods are at the center of  this ongoing transformation as they dictate the structure, tone, and legal requirements of any project.  Thus, whether you are involved with construction, renovation, repair, and/or sustainability projects… Integrated Project Delivery – IPD, for new construction, Job Order Contracting – JOC, for minor new construction, renovation, repair, and sustainability and Public Private Partnerships – PPP, are examples of collaborative construction delivery methods that are rapidly replacing traditional and somewhat dysfunctional methods such as Design Bid Build (DBB).

While collaborative construction delivery methods have been in existence for decades and are well proven, they are only recently being more readily adopted.  The drivers for change include environmental, economic, and technology factors.  We are all aware of shrinking resources whether budgetary or non-renewal energy related, as well as associated environmental regulations relative to global warming, the latter of which will become increasingly stringent.     That said, disruptive technologies such as BIM (Building Information Modeling) and Cloud Computing are also a major causal factors  as well as enablers  relative the  business process change so desperately needed with the construction sector.
As collaborative construction delivery methods become more common, the need to share information transparently becomes paramount. Project teams need to adapt to early and ongoing information sharing among distributed team members and organizations.   In the case of JOC (also known as SABER in in the United State Air Force), technology has been available for over a decade to support virtually all aspects of   collaborative project execution from concept thru warranty period.  An example is 4Clicks Project Estimator combined with RSMeans Cost Data, and/or organizational specific unit price books.  With all parties leveraging the same data and following robust, collaborative processes from concept, thru site walk, construction, etc., the net result being  more jobs being done on-time and on-budge with fewer change orders and virtual elimination of the legal disputes, the latter be unfortunately common with traditional methods.

Job Order Contracting Process
Job Order Contracting Process

IPD vs. Traditional

How built environment stakeholders share information and work together will continue to evolve.  The methods in which we, as Owners, Contractors, AEs, etc. participate in this exchange within our domains will determine our ultimate success or failure.

As show in the following graphic, the project delivery methods, while a fundamental element, is just one “piece of the BIM pie”.

Multiple “activities” , business processes” , “competencies”, and “supporting technologies” are involved in BIM.

BIM is  “the life-cycle management of the built environment supported by digital technologies”.

BIM Framework
BIM Framework

BIM Objects, Data, and Information – More than a 3D Pretty Picture – Soooo Much More!

A picture paints a thousand words,

but never underestimate the power of text

(Adapted from Source:

Stefan Mordue, Technical Author and Architect

BIM objects are much more than just graphical representations. Using them as placeholder to connect to a wider source of information provides for a powerful and rich source of information. 

‘Author it once, and in the right place; report it many times’

Information in the Building Information Model (BIM) comes from a variety of sources, such as 3D visualization tools ( Autodesk Revit or Nemetschek Vectorworks, Archicad, Bentley Systems …) as well as cost estimating, computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), capital planning and management systems (CPMS), geographical information systems (GIS), building automation systems (GIS),  model checkers and specification software.

All BIM objects have properties, and most also have geometries (although some do not, for example a paint finish). To avoid duplication, information should be both structured and coordinated. 

Some information is more appropriately located in the ‘geometrical’ part of the BIM object while other information is more suited to the ‘properties’ part, such as the specification. The specification is part of the project BIM, and objects live in the specification.   In traditional documentation we would ‘say it once, and in the right place’, however with BIM, we want to ‘author it once, and in the right place, to be able to report it many times’.

Figure 1: Appropriate location of information

Figure 1: Appropriate location of information

‘A picture paints a thousand words, but never underestimate the power of text’

Let’s take an analogy of a BIM object representing a simple cavity wall. The object will tell us the width of the brickwork and height of the wall. However at a certain point in the project cycle it is the written word that is needed to take us to a deeper level of information. It is within a textual context that we describe the length, height and depth of the brick. It is words that are used to describe the mortar joint and wall ties.

BIM objects are as much about the embedded data and information as they are about the spaces and dimensions that they represent graphically.

It is this connection to a wider source of information that really empowers the object, making it a rich source of information. Think of BIM objects if you will as a ‘place holder’ – not only a physical representation of the real life physical properties of the said object but also a home for non-graphical information such as performance criteria, physical and functional condition data, life-cycle data, detailed and current cost data (materials, equipment, and labor),  and operational information.

‘A new generation of specifiers is being empowered by BIM. We can begin to specify at a much earlier stage in the process’

Specifications were once undertaken by the specification expert, often once the detail design was completed. A new generation of specifiers is being empowered by BIM. We can begin to specify at a much earlier stage in the process.

In reality “specifiers” are now a team of stakeholders – Owners, Contactors, Subs, AE’s, Oversight Groups ….

By connecting the BIM object to an NBS Create specification, a direct link can be made to NBS technical guidance and standards, at the point where the designer most needs them. For example,  if the designer is a subscriber to the Construction Information Service (CIS), then any technical documents cited in the specification that are available can be downloaded instantly.

Figure 2: NBS Revit tool bar

Figure 2: NBS Revit tool bar

‘We have recently integrated geometric BIM objects with the corresponding NBS Create specification clauses to achieve a greater connection between the two’

BIM and BIM workflows are consistently being refined and updated as they become more commonplace and as standards and protocols emerge.   While we can never solve all coordination issues, we hope to improve coordination by linking databases, objects and eventually coordinate key property sets.

Traditionally, a value that was represented on a drawing may not correctly corresponded with the value within the specification simply due to a ‘typo’. An example being where a ’60 minute fire door’ has been recorded on the drawing but has been recorded as ’90 minutes fire rating’ within the specification. Aside from this coordination debate, practices will also need to decide and establish office policies on where information is recorded. While the specification system has detailed guidance and links to standards, regulations and suggested values, geometric BIM software has great visualization analysis and instance scheduling functionality.

Figure 3: Connection to a wider source of information empowers the object

Figure 3: Connection to a wider source of information empowers the object

At present, the NBS National BIM Library objects are classified using both the draft Uniclass 2 Work result code and the System name to give a deeper link between the object and specification. The NBS National BIM Library contains a number of objects that connect at a ‘product’ level (e.g. hand driers, baths, individual doorsets) while others work at a ‘system’ level (e.g. cubicle, partition, door and signage systems). Yet other objects are at an ‘element’ level (i.e. made up of a number of systems) such as external walls.

Following a period of industry consultation, Uniclass 2 is now being finalized for publication during 2013. Classification of content in the National BIM Library and NBS Create will then be updated.

National BIM Library Parameters

NBSReference NBS section/clause number 45-35-72/334
NBSDescription The full description of an object Hand driers
NBSNote Where a second system which is related to the BIM object can be described =[Blank]
NBSTypeID A reference to the object for the user if one or more is used with the project
Help URL of a website where additional help notes are available
Uniclass2 Uniclass2 Product Pr-31-76-36
IssueDate The issue date of the object 2012-12-06
Version The version of the object 1.1

A hand drier is an example of an object that links nicely to an associated product clause (NBSReference=45-35-72/334). Using tools such as NBS Create and the NBS Revit plug in tool, the corresponding product will automatically be captured; it can then be used to enrich the object with information such as power rating and noise levels.

A doorset is an example of an object that maps beautifully to an NBS Create System outline clause. For example using WR 25-50-20/120 Doorset System, we can then specify system performance, component and accessory products (e.g. glazing type, fasteners and threshold strips) as well as execution.

Certain NBS National BIM Library objects are at an ‘element level’ where they comprise a number of systems. In this situation we give a primary work results classification, the NBSReference. In addition, to help the user, we add the Uniclass 2 element code in an extra parameter field.

The following example is a Unit wall element comprising 100 mm thick stone, 100 mm mineral wool insulation batts and 100 mm concrete block, lined with 12.5 mm gypsum plasterboard on 25 mm dabs.

WR 25-10-55/123 ‘External multiple leaf wall above damp proof course masonry system’ has been used for the primary reference. From this System outline we can specify the stone facing, insulation and concrete block, together with DPC, lintels, mortar, cavity closers (which all in turn have product codes). A further system outline, WR 25-85-45/140 Gypsum board wall lining system, is given, from which the lining can be specified.

‘This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the launch of NBS and we are now seeing project information being coordinated through intelligent objects’

An object could potentially relate to two different systems. An example of this would be a rainscreen cladding object. The following example is an aluminium cassette panel rainscreen system with metal frame, weather barrier, insulation, concrete block and plasterboard lining. This particular system could be either a ‘Drained and back ventilated rain screen cladding system’ 25-80-70/120 or a ‘Pressure equalized rain screen cladding system’ 25-80-70/160. The detail which would differentiate between the two is not shown in the geometric object itself but rather in the detail that would be found within the specification. When used in conjunction with the NBS plug-in tool, you are presented with the option to select the most appropriate system, and then to specify it to the appropriate level of detail.

Figure 4: Technology is enabling better processes and connection

Figure 4: Technology is enabling better processes and connection

We are now beginning to see project information being coordinated through intelligent objects.  The classification system, structure of data and technology are enabling better processes and will allow us to move a step closer towards full collaborative BIM.

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OmniClass™ Work Results: a critique (source:

It has been suggested by some that, rather than developing or implementing Uniclass2, we in the UK should switch to OmniClass, used in North America. John Gelder, Head of content development and sustainability, takes a critical look at the OmniClass Work Results Table, comparing it throughout with the Uniclass2 Work Results Table.

OmniClass is the North American equivalent of Uniclass2 and is promulgated by CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) and CSC (Construction Specifications Canada).

Broadly speaking OmniClass is in a similar position to Uniclass 1997, with much the same general limitations, though it is rather more unified. Uniclass articles corresponding to this one include Reclassification and The new Uniclass Work sections table. For a review of OmniClass in general, refer to the separate article OmniClass: a critique.


Like Uniclass Table J (aka CAWS), the OmniClass Work Results Table (aka MasterFormat) is geared mostly to the specification of systems and products, and so is focused on the construction phase. It doesn’t serve the whole project timeline, as it doesn’t have homes for high-level (early-stage) objects such as Complexes, Activities and Elements. This means that the Table can’t properly serve design-build and design-build-operate procurement (which, in the latter case, typically requires the contractor to be involved from the very beginning of the project, as part of a consortium). Other Tables within OmniClass must be used to structure specifications for Entities, Spaces and Elements. Tables outside OmniClass must be used for other object classes. These would then need to map to each other and to the Work Results Table, in order to properly integrate the specification component of the building information model (BIM) along the project timeline. Given the lack of congruence, this won’t be easy.

The Uniclass2 Work Results Table has homes for objects of all classes from Regions down to Products, so can fully serve the project timeline, and all procurement routes. See Table 5.*

Even mapping between systems and products is problematic because, read with the non-OmniClass SectionFormat, there are no homes for System outline (or compositional) specifications. Indeed, Systems and Products are conflated. This means that the Work Results Table, plus SectionFormat, can’t properly serve BIM, which requires mapping between objects of different classes in the object hierarchy (e.g. this product is part of that system, this system comprises those products). Making this explicit in the specification requires outline specifications. We can’t rely on this mapping being delivered through the geometrical part of BIM (CAD) since many systems and products are not modelled geometrically at all.

The Uniclass2 Work Results Structure Table provides for outline (compositional) specifications all down the object hierarchy, including Systems-to-Products, so fully supports BIM. Table 5 illustrates this (left-hand column).

Table 5: OmniClass and Unclass2 Work Results Tables – scope

Item OmniClass Table 22 Work Results 2011 & SectionFormat 2008 Uniclass2 Work Results Table & Work Results Structure Table
Project management Division 00 Procurement and contracting requirements + Division 01 General requirements Group 00 Project management + Management Table
Region outline Not included Group 02 Regions + Regions Table
Region performance
District outline Group 04 Districts + Districts Table
District performance
Complex outline Group 06 Complexes + Complexes Table
Complex performance
Entity outline Group 08 Entities + Entities Table
Entity performance
Activity outline Group 10 Activities + Activities Table
Activity performance
Space outline Group 12 Spaces + Spaces Table
Space performance
Element outline Group 14 Elements + Elements Table
Element performance
System outline System sections: System outline subsection + Systems Table
System performance Work sections: SF Products subsection System sections: System performance subsection
Products System sections: Products subsection + Products Table
Custom-made products System sections: Custom-made products subsection
Execution Work sections: SF Execution subsection System sections: Execution subsection
System completion Sub-group XX 08 00 Commissioning System sections: System completion subsection
System FM Sub-group XX 01 00 Maintenance System sections: System FM subsection

SectionFormat has a home for the specification of performance and design criteria of products, which in turn are defined as including systems, assemblies, manufactured units, equipment, components, product types and materials. That is, SectionFormat doesn’t really distinguish between products, systems and materials, though OmniClass at large does (in the Products, Work Results and Materials Tables). ‘Performance’ at a higher level was in sub-group 01 80 00 Performance requirements in the 2004 edition of this Table, but this has been dropped in the 2011 edition. As it was actually mostly about elements rather than systems (e.g. 01 83 16 Exterior enclosure performance requirements), the idea is probably that this is specified using a specification aligned to the Elements Table.

The Uniclass2 Work Results Structure Table provides for performance specification of objects all down the object hierarchy, so fully supports contractor (and other) design. It also makes a clear distinction between Elements, Systems and Products (and so on) – this is essential for a rational approach to hierarchical object modelling. Table 5 illustrates this (left-hand column).

In the OmniClass Work Results Table, the commissioning and maintenance of systems (elements, actually) are not described in the system sections, but in separate sections in sub-groups 08 and 01 of each group, respectively, e.g. sub-group 09-08-00 Commissioning of finishes and section 09-01-70 Maintenance of wall finishes (see Table 6). This is rather inconvenient for those wanting to have everything about a given system collected together (though of course this could be managed through reporting in a digital specification tool such as NBS Create).

All aspects of each system, from design to operation, are collected in each of the System sections in the Uniclass2 Work Results Structure Table. Table 5 illustrates this (right-hand column).


The general sequence of sections within each Group doesn’t fully reflect construction sequence. For example, operation and maintenance should be last, and commissioning should be second-last, but this isn’t the structure at all. All of this is held in sections that precede those describing the thing yet to be designed and built. See Table 6.

The System section structure in the Uniclass2 Work Results Structure Table fully reflects construction sequence. See Table 5 (right-hand column).

Table 6: OmniClass Work Results Table – section sequence

Fabric example Services example
08-00-00 Openings 23-00-00 Heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC)
• 08-01-00 Operation and maintenance of openings • 23-01-00 Operation and maintenance of HVAC systems
• 08-05-00 Common work results for openings • 23-05-00 Common work results for HVAC
• 08-06-00 Schedules for openings • 23-06-00 Schedules for HVAC
Not used • 23-07-00 HVAC insulation
• 08-08-00 Commissioning of openings • 23-08-00 Commissioning of HVAC
Not used • 23-09-00 Instrumentation and control for HVAC
08-10-00 Doors and frames 23-10-00 Facility fuel systems
Not used 23-20-00 HVAC piping and pumps
08-30-00 Specialty doors and frames 23-30-00 HVAC air distribution
08-40-00 Entrances, storefronts and curtain walls 23-40-00 HVAC air cleaning devices
08-50-00 Windows 23-50-00 Central heating equipment
08-60-00 Roof windows and skylights 23-60-00 Central cooling equipment
08-70-00 Hardware 23-70-00 Central HVAC equipment
08-80-00 Glazing 23-80-00 Decentralized HVAC equipment
08-90-00 Louvers and vents Not used

The OmniClass Work Results Table has deficiencies, specifically with respect to serving the entire project timeline and all procurement routes, and supporting BIM. It has a construction phase focus, and so has no homes for the specification of high-level objects such as Complexes, so it can’t deal with early project stages. System operation and maintenance specifications are isolated from descriptions of the systems themselves, so it doesn’t serve the occupancy phase as well as it might. Together this means that the Table is not well-suited to non-traditional modes of procurement, such as design-build and design-build-operate.

The Work Results Table conflates systems and products, and has no homes for outline or compositional specifications. Together these mean that the Table doesn’t support hierarchical object mapping, a key requirement for a BIM specification. This is exacerbated by the Table – and OmniClass as a whole – not supporting classification of high-level object classes and systems. Without these object classes we cannot produce a complete ‘building’ information model.

Finally, the basic design-build-operate sequence is not implemented fully in the Work Results Table, nor in SectionFormat (e.g. a proposed FM subsection has not eventuated; system-wide performance requirements are not distinguished from those for ‘mere’ products). This makes the default structure rather messy.

BIM requires a unified approach to classification if it is to work well, e.g. with simple mapping between classification Tables. OmniClass cannot deliver this, as it stands. Uniclass2 can.

* Note: Tables 1 to 4 are available in OmniClass™: a critique

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When is BIM not BIM?

BIM, Building Information Modeling, actually consists of three M’s…. BIM3 if you will…  Modeling, Models, and Management.

Since the “accepted” definition of BIM is the life-cycle management of the built environment supported by digital technology, it’s easy to see that BIM is part process and part technology, with the goal of developing and using current, accurate, shared information to optimize proactive decision-making.

Unfortunately the AECO sector (Architecture, Engineering Construction, Operations) sector is currently “silo” and “first cost” centric, not to mention relatively technophobic.   Major culture change across all stakeholders must take place before BIM can be understood, let alone practiced, on a widespread basis.

Building Information Modeling: A BUSINESS PROCESS for generating and leveraging building data to design, construct and operate the built environment during its life-cycle.  Stakeholders  have access to accurate, shared information  on demand, enable via interoperability between technology platforms and common terms, definition, metrics and benchmarks.

Building Information Model: The DIGITAL REPRESENTATION of physical and functional characteristics of the built environment.  As such it serves as a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility, forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle from inception onwards.

Building Information Management: The strategic vision for ORGANIZATION, COLLABORATION, andCONTROL of the business process by utilizing principles and guidelines for Information  Architecture  (i.e.a digital prototype) to effect the sharing of trustworthy information over the entire life-cycle of a physical asset. The benefits include centralized and visual communication, early exploration of options, sustainability, efficient design, integration of disciplines, site control, as-built documentation, etc.– effectively managing the digital decision support model of an asset from conception to retrofitting to final retirement over the course of a century or more.

Thoughts? Comments?

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