BIM & Efficient Life-cycle Management of Facilities & Infrastructure

bim and efficient life-cycle facility management

Efficient life-cycle management of facilities and other physical infrastructure is impossible until real property owners are better educated and truly capable in their role as stewards of the built environment.

LEAN best management practices and associated collaborative construction delivery methods (Integrated project delivery – IPD, Job Order Contracting – JOC, etc.) are REQUIRED in order to deliver quality renovation, repair, sustainability, and new construction projects on-time and on-budget.

Most Owners do not have the educational background or professional experience needed to consistently deploy LEAN construction delivery methods and/or life-cycle management.

job order contracting

job order contacting - JOC

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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BIM Generic Content – UK

National BIM Library generic content release 2

BIM objects are as much about the embedded data and information as they are about the spaces and dimensions that they represent graphically. Here Stefan Mordue, NBS Technical Author and Architect, looks at the thought process behind the National BIM Library’s next phase of generic content.

Laying the foundations

Since the inception of the NBS National BIM Library in 2011 we have been laying the foundations for a robust library of quality BIM objects that are applicable to the UK construction industry. The library is produced with input from Autodesk, Bentley, Tekla, Nemetscheck and Graphisoft as well as comments and suggestions from a number of user groups and forums.

The next phase of generic content includes floor finishes, panel partitions, panel cubicles, signage, sanitaryware and hard landscaping.

Graphical data

The National BIM Library includes objects with sophisticated and consistent graphical and parametric control. These objects all carry varying degrees of graphical data such as size, shape and area, and feature different levels of parametric control to manipulate them graphically. We have considered the level of information which is represented. For example, the detailed modelling of a toilet flush lever could include many facets and extrusions, and at the early stages of design generic objects have little need for very high levels of detail.

Aside from the dimensions of the objects themselves we have further considered their relationship to other objects and zones of clearance. For example, an accessible WC package is made up of a number of items such as WC, sink, hand dryer. These are available in a number of sizes that can be grouped within a data set. However, when assembled to make an accessible WC package, we have considered further dimensional information such as wheelchair turning circles, clearance zone and tolerances. The clearance zones for the accessible WC package are based on documents such as BS 6465: Part 2 Sanitary installations and Approved Document M of the Building Regulations (E&W). Standards and regulations have been taken into account in a number of other objects, for example vision panel layouts, effective clear widths and side clearances in our doors have observed BS 8300.

Non-graphical data

Performance information is perhaps the most important non-graphical data as it defines a product by its output characteristics, and assists the designer in with product selection. While we may use an in-built application within the BIM platform or an add-on plug-in to analyse, say, structural or energy performance, we must remember that this data has to come from somewhere, therefore the more information we put in the more we will get back. The intention of the National BIM Library objects is that they follow the construction work flow. So as a project develops, the specifier uses concept objects, detailed objects and (based on our work with manufacturers) proprietary objects. Evolving from generic to proprietary objects during the design process and not, as often happens, during the construction phase, means that we have the opportunity to see in real time the effects on project objectives such as performance and cost.

Consistent maintained data

We have added a rich set of properties for construction and Facilities Management that are presented in a consistent and structured manner. Pour layer based objects are created using a database through IFC which provides consistency of nomenclature etc.. across the board and also allows for automated checking before information is disseminated into objects across all BIM platforms.

When considering the properties behind each object we included the following:

  1. The IFC international standard property sets for that type of object
  2. The COBie UK 2012 properties that have been defined by the UK Government’s BIM Task Group for Facilities Management
  3. Our own standard National BIM Library properties as defined by our technical teams.
IFC International property sets

Each National BIM Library object has IFC parameters embedded within it, the definitions of which have been obtained from the BuildingSMART IFC2x3 website ( In the case of a shower object, for example, information includes data such as drain size, tray and shower type.

COBie UK 2012

Once installed, products need maintenance, replacement or upgrade and so attributes such as lifespan and replacement costs become beneficial when planning scheduled maintenance. Examples of the type of data in National BIM Library objects includes details of warranties, start date, production year and replacement costs. The objects also include COBie parameters for which we have sought guidance from BuildingSMART. Through their work on COBie UK 2012, the objects will be updated in this and future releases, for example our Phase 2 content now incorporates parameters for accessibility, Code and sustainability performance.

When we consider installation information it may not be practical or necessary to add step by step instructions regarding the installation of a component. In many cases installation information is a reference to NBS workmanship clauses or the manufacturer’s installation guide. When we change from a generic to a proprietary object we have the opportunity to include manufacturers’ installation instructions as a hyperlink.

National BIM Library properties

In addition to the IFC and COBie properties we have added our own National BIM Library parameters. Data must be categorized and arranged so that it can be easily retrieved otherwise it is difficult to use – it is standard formats that drive the ability to use the data outside the BIM project file. In order for the information to be meaningfully reused it requires a consistent set of parameters and attributes, with consistent naming conventions. As a bare minimum, a product can be identified by a trade name or model number. However, the National BIM Library parameters provide a consistent set of attributes across all objects, giving information such as version number, issue date, Uniclass title, section and clause number and system outline reference. This work is backed up by a team of Technical Authors comprising architects, structural engineers, landscape architects and service engineers.

Relevant to the UK construction industry

As these objects are intended for the UK market, we have incorporated sizes that are typical of UK standards. We have added commonly available optional items that would often be associated with sanitaryware such as enclosures to showers, screens to baths and gratings to cleaner’s sinks. We have also looked at rationalization of how components are structured. We’ve carefully considered how the objects are used and provide useful ways to configure a variety of sizes quickly, accurately and robustly. For example multiple sizes for signage can be selected from one object. We have started to develop our signage objects with the inclusion of fire and safety signage. In determining signage sizes and taking into consideration observation distance we have referred to BS ISO 3864-1 and BS 5499-4.

In looking at how users will be using the objects we have added parameters that control the visibility of the 2D detail symbol of the sign on plan. This representation of the sign in plan view is purposely not to the scale or to the measurement of the actually sign object itself as its intension is for a graphical symbol and reference on the drawing. We have further considered which dimensional parameters will be user configurable and which parameters are set by formulas and cannot be altered. For example the width of the border surrounding the sign is fixed with a formula 0.025xHeight and so will be always proportional and sets the minimum requirements for the signage boarder width. Our shower screen on our shower bath has the ability to amend the height. However due to the shape of the bath the screen can not be controlled parametrically and therefore this parameter has been locked. The length of the shower screen is fixed and changes automatically when the bath size changes.

To make the objects as user friendly as possible we have considered how objects are hosted and relate to their surroundings. Our ceiling mounted signs are automatically hosted to the ceiling and have further parameters to define the hanger length and spacing while WC assemblies that are fixed to a wall will host to a wall when inserted into the model. Similarly while our panel cubicles will host to a vertical surface we have incorporated a parameter to activate an offset. If the panel cubicle was to be used with an integrated plumbing system then the user has the ability define the distance between wall, and rear extremity of the panel cubicle component to accommodate an integrated plumbing system.

Mind the gap

The National BIM Library objects complement the information that is included within NBS Create. One important principle of BIM is to say it once.. If we take our new floor finishes for example, the user may define the dimensions in their chosen BIM platform. However when compared to the specification we can begin to appreciate the level of detail that is included , such as adhesives, fasteners, accessories, and that is before we have even begun to discuss workmanship, execution and system completion. National BIM Library objects are designed to work with NBS and the more integration between these two tools the easier the building design becomes..

Useful links

NBS Create

Related NBS information:


July 2012

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New National BIM Library – UK

A National BIM Library for the UK was introduced at Ecobuild 2012.  Accessible online, the BIM Library is intended to all Architects, Engineers, Contractors,  Designers, Owners, Business Producte Manufactures – BPMs, locate and download generic and proprietary BIM objects.

The National BIM Library has been launched with 200 generic BIM objects covering the main elements of a building, available at no cost.


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