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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The Current Status of OMNICLASS – A Critical BIM Requirement

(source: OmniClass Development Committee Status Report – April 16, 2013)

To:        OmniClass Development Committee members
From:   Dianne Davis, OmniClass Development Committee Chair
Kelly Sawatzky, OmniClass Development Committee Vice Chair
Greg Ceton, OmniClass Secretariat

These OmniClass Status Reports will be issued every few months through this review cycle. They are
designed to keep you apprised of ongoing OmniClass development work and afford you the opportunity
to ask questions or get involved. The report is organized to give updates on the development work
being performed by the three Working Groups (WGs) that are each independently working on a
different area of OmniClass development.

We are just commencing the 2012-2014 review cycle. Generally speaking, WGs are just beginning to
identify review issues and set priorities for areas of work needed.

OmniClass Spaces WG (Lead: Alan Edgar)
(Table Responsibilities: 13 – Spaces by Function and 14 – Spaces by Form)
The Spaces WG is charged with reviewing Table 13 – Spaces by Function and Table 14 – Spaces by Form
to determine the nature of any development work needed to expand or modify Table 13 contents, to
provide a baseline review of Table 14, as it has not been reviewed in depth since its initial
publication in 2006, and to harmonize the work of other existing space classifications with the revised contents
of both Tables.  The Working Group has commenced review work on both Table 13 – Spaces by Function and Table 14 –
Spaces by Form.  Table 13 review has been focused on laboratory space organization to start. Additional review of
medical spaces is also anticipated.
Table 14 review has begun with comparison of form-based aspects of other classification systems,
including those used as references in the prior work on Table 14. Some simplification of the table
to address purely formal concerns may be needed.
If you would like to participate in review work on either of these tables or have any comments to
share, please send them to Spaces WG lead Alan Edgar at and to Greg Ceton at

OmniClass Products WG (Lead: Robert Keady)
(Table Responsibilities: 23 – Products)
The Products WG is charged with examining the structure of Table 23 – Products and confirming that
the contents and organization support the needs of users.

Work has commenced with the examination of Table 23 – Products. The WG Lead, Robert Keady, has
started cross-referencing Table 23 with Tables 21 (Elements) and 22 (Work Results). Additionally,
there have been equipment additions (200 to date) proposed to Table 23. Currently there is an
effort being made to identify Work Group members who will focus on specialized areas for review
within Table 23. This review cycle, the Work Group will also be focusing on adding definitions for
Table 23 entries.
If you have any comments or resources to lend to this effort, please send them to Properties WG
Lead Robert Keady at and to Chris Gummo at
OmniClass Activities and Processes WG (Lead: Dianne Davis)

The Properties and Materials WG is charged with examining and revising content and organization of
Table 32 – Services, Table 35 – Tools, and Table 36 – Information in light of recent work on Table
31 – Phases, Table 33 – Disciplines, and Table 34 – Organizational Roles.

Work has commenced with the examination of Table 32 – Services. The WG has tapped Robert Keady,
CEM, CDSM, FMP for his specialized knowledge of tasks, and how they may be fit into the structure
of Table 32 while limiting the impact on the table as a whole. The group has agreed that any
changes to Tables 32 and 36 must be in response to intended or known table usage that currently not
being met. Adding content or improving the tables without reference to a real improved process will
not satisfactorily address the WG charge.
Definition creation and harmonization with existing OmniClass Tables and creation of transition
matrix for each reviewed table will be commenced further along in the review cycle.
Work on other tables will be initiated after the work on Table 32 – Services has progressed
If you have any comments or resources to lend to this effort, please send them to Properties WG
Lead Dianne Davis at and to Rob Holson at

If the work of any of these Working Groups interests you, or you would like to participate
in their development work, please contact Greg Ceton at

Open BIM Standards – COBIE, OMNICLASS – IFC / COBIE Report 2012

BIM adoption remains a challenge due to the fact that its many supporters don’t focus upon it’s true relevance, the efficient life-cycle management of the built environment.

While any new technology has  barriers to adoption, changing the “status quo”, the fundamental nature of how a business sector does business requires a major event.   The cultural and process changes associated with BIM, namely the need for all stakeholders to collaborate, share information in a transparent manner, and share in risk/reward, remain chasms to be crossed by many/most.    Fortunately, those currently or previously involved with Integrated Project Delivery and Job Order Contracting (the latter a form of IPD specifically targeting renovation, repair, sustainability, and minor new construction) have experience with these “novel” business concepts.  Both IPD and JOC have proven track records and have clearly demonstrated the ability to get more work done on-time and on-budget to the benefit of all involved parties.

A key aspect of BIM, collaboration, can only be efficiently accomplished with a commonly understood and shared taxonomy including terms, definitions, and associated metrics.

So called “open BIM”, such as buildingSMART International’s Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs), are important to enabling collaboration as well as interoperability between BIM software applications.     COBie, a naming convention for facility spaces/components, etc., and its counterparts OMINCLASS, including MASTERFORMAT and UNIFORMAT,  etc. … can be leveraged and generated by IFC appears a goal worth additional focus on a local and global level.   That said, support for COBie, OMNICLASS, IFC, etc. varies and,  far from mainstream.

As noted in the IFC / COBIE Report 2012, BIM’s success depends upon the ability to:

  1. Create model data in a consistent format
  2. Exchange that data in a common language
  3. Interrogate the data intelligently.

There are multiple knowledge domains, technologies, and process involve in the life-cycle management of the built environment, all of which need a common data architecture, taxonomy, set of metrics, etc.

The IFC / COBIE Report 2012 correctly points out that pressing needs remain:

  1. The need for standards

  2. The need for guidance

  3. The need for enhanced IFC import export routines from BIM applications

  4. The need for agreed descriptions of who requires what data and when

  5. The need for an improved audit trail to allow greater confidence in collaboration.

Also, and I paraphrase / embellish…

  1. “Enforcement” of IFC by buildSmartalliance and all BIM “proponents”  is required.
  2. Domain experts must leveraged and queried to deliver structured data templates accordingly.  The industry needs well defined model view definition for each COBie data drop. From this can come clear guidance on the “level of detail” required at each COBie data drop. This will give a shared understanding of what information is required from and by whom and at what stage.  For example needs of Facilities Managers are required to inform the content of the COBie data drops. Facility management must be considered as early as the briefing process.
  3. Weaknesses in the IFC import /export processes exist in current software product implementation. These weaknesses make manual checking necessary and reduce confidence.  Improvement  is vital here.
  4. While IFC can be used when generating COBie data, people will use whatever works and is available. The market requires.  complete flexibility to choose what systems they use. Innovation should not be stifled by mandating a process to achieve the required data.
  5. COBIE is far from complete, but a good starting point.
  6.  Microsoft Excel  provides a view of the structured info of COBie data and one way 0f reporting data, however, in NOT a good authoring tool, nor does it support hierarchal relational data schema.





The “I” in BIM, OMNICLASS, and the Criticality of Getting it RIGHT…. Now!

In order to efficiently manage the life-cycle of the build environment, robust process, terms, and decision support tools are required that deal with physical and functional conditions, costs, priorities, risks, etc.

Business Case –  The classification and identification of equipment assets within a facility has to-date typically been accomplished through the use of internally developed legacy systems that do not integrate with other similar systems in use in other facilities, or new or existing technologies. Without an industry standard, users have been unable to cross reference data between organizations, agencies, industry, disciplines, and software solutions, creating inaccuracies and inefficiencies that have a major impact on effective maintenance, operations, and management of assets and facilities. There are shortcomings in all existing industry standards that define or classify objects in a way that allows facility life cycle capture of data. – Inter-agency Federal Asset Classification Team (IFACT)

The ability to define a “thing”, and recall that “thing”, and be able to discuss that “thing”, and all of its attributes, and track it’s changes…both planned, and unplanned, is critical.   Yet, the capability is NOT present at this time.    Here’s a short list of what is holding us back.   The good news is that it’s not “rocket science”.    The bad news is that is will REQUIRE SIGNIFICANT CULTURAL CHANGE with the Architectural, Engineering, Construction, Operations, and Owners sector.

  1. Faceted vs. Hierarchical Data Structures / Architectures
  2. Object-oriented technology to support Faceted and/or Hybrid classifications
  3. Collaborative, cloud-based systems that are multi-language, multi-currency, secure, fast, and never delete information.
  4. A life-cycle vs. first cost mentality/approach for planning, decision-making, and resource allocation.

OMNICLASS and cloud-computing will enable BIM leap to the next level, that is…. life-cycle management of the built environment, vs. pretty pictures.

Here’s some related work on the Government side:

A National Building Information Model Standard Project Fact Sheet Inter-agency Federal Asset Classification Team
(IFACT) –   The National Building Information Model Standard (NBIMS) is a set of interoperable standards for exchange of facility and infrastructure data through the life-cycle of a project. NBIMS is a joint project coordinated by National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) in conjunction with the buildingSMART Alliance (bSA) and many other facilities-related associations and software companies.

Results to Date

  • Progress towards complete revision of OmniClass Table 23 – Products
  • Progress towards compiling new abbreviations to submit to the United States National CAD Standard® consensus process.
  • Construction Specification Institute is the key authoring authority on project.
  • Participating Agencies: General Services Administration, Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security
  • Future Applications – Enhancements to OmniClass and the United States National CAD Standard® will allow a higher degree of data integration for all related software solutions and facility management systems.

via – via – Premier cost estimating and efficient project delivery software featuring visual estimating, best representation of RSMeans Cost Data, contact, project and document management, for facility renovation, repair, sustainability, and minor new construction : JOC, SABER, IDIQ, IPD, SATOC, MATOC, BOCA, BOA, ….

The Business Value of BIM in North America 2007 – 2012

The Emperor is still naked!

Is the trend analysis of the Business Value of BIM in North America from 2007 through 2012  reality, or are many of us walking around with rose colored glasses?

I ask you, do you really believe the following statement ” Now in 2012, 71% of architects, engineers, contractors, and owners report they have become engaged with BIM on their projects …”.    If you define BIM as the life-cycle management of the built environment supported by digital technology, I can tell you that either the survey is flawed… a lot of people don’t know what BIM is… or we have a lot of folks inflating the truth.   There is NO WAY 71% of ANY of the groups are “engaged with BIM on their projects”…period, end of story.

Playing with Statistics?   The 71% average appears to have been calculated by taking a simple average of the “adoption rate” from architects, engineers, and contractors” from three size classes of firms “small, medium, and large”.   If I am correct, this is just plan WRONG.   Most firms in the U.S. are small business, thus a weighted average must be applied.   The “adoption rate” for small firms 50%… a number I also believe to be inaccurate.

I just came back from the NIBS Conference.   This is without question, the most valuable, authoritative meeting relative to BIM in the United States.  How many people were there you might ask?   A few hundred at most.

So, what does any of this matter?   Simple really.   Until our industry stops the hype and focus on important issues relative to BIM, we will continue to be mired in inaction.   The AECOO is the most unproductive business sector and also has the lowest rate of technology adoption.  These are facts….   if one wishes to be interested in facts that is.

Here some thoughts as to where emphasis must be placed:

  1. Greater adoption and use of collaborative construction delivery methods:  IPD – Integrated Project Delivery, and JOC – Job Order Contracting.  The later is a form of IPD specifically targeting renovation, repair, sustainability, and minor new construction projects.   Let’s face it, 80% or more of all funding for the built environment will be going in renovation, repair, and sustainability.
  2. Emphasis on business process, strategy, and standardized terms, metrics, and data architecture vs. technology.   Technology is NOT the problem, is the lack of clear, robust business strategy and processes, and domain knowledge… largely on the part of Owners that is the primary obstacle to progressive change.   Owners write the checks, they are “where the buck stops”.
  3. Focus upon life-cycle costs / total cost of ownership, vs. first costs.
  4. A bit more on data standards….   OMNICLASS, UNIFORMAT, MASTERFORMAT, COie, IFC, et al… all have there roll.  Some will survive, some may not.   The point is that unless we have standardized terms, definitions, detailed reference and actual cost information (localized materials, equipment, and labors), physical and functional condition metrics, etc. etc. etc.    …  we can’t collaborate or improve productivity!
  5. Participation by all stakeholders – Owners, AE’s, Contractors, SubContractors, Building Users, Oversight Groups, Regulatory Bodies, Building Product Manufacturers, Communities, ….






2013-WSP Group
2013-WSP Group

BIM Evolution

In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.
– Charles Darwin

BIM, the life-cycle management of the built environment supported by digital technology, requires a fundamental change in how the construction (Architects, Contractors, Engineers) and facility management (Owners, Service Providers, Building Product Manufactures, Oversight Groups, Building Users) sectors operate on a day-to-day basis.  

BIM, combined and  Cloud Computing are game changers.  They are disruptive technologies with integral business processes/practices that demand collaboration, transparency, and accurate/current information displayed via common terminology.

The traditional ad-hoc and adversarial business practices commonly associated with Construction and Facility Management are changing as we speak.    Design-bid-build and even Design-Build will rapidly go by the wayside in favor of the far more efficient processes of Integrated Project Delivery – IPD, and Job Order Contracting – JOC, and similar collaborative programs.  (JOC is a form of integrated project delivery specifically targeting facility renovation, repair, sustainability, and minor new construction).

There is no escaping the change.   Standardized data architectures (Ominclass, COBie, Uniformat, Masterformat) and cost databases (i.e. RSMeans), accesses an localized via cloud computing are even now beginning to be available.   While historically, the construction and facility management sectors have lagged their counterparts (automotive, aerospace, medical, …)  relative to technology and LEAN business practices, environmental and economic market drivers and government mandates are closing the gap.

The construction and life-cycle management of the built environment requires the integration off several knowledge domains, business “best-practices”, and technologies as portrayed below.   The efficient use of this BIG DATA is enabled by the BIM, Cloud Computing, and Integrated Project Delivery methods.


The greatest challenges to these positive changes are  the CULTURE of the Construction and the Facility Management Sectors.  Also, an embedded first-cost vs. life-cycle or total cost of ownership perspective.  An the unfortunate marketing spotlight upon the technology of 3D visualization vs. BIM.   Emphasis MUST be place upon the methods of how we work on a daily basis…locally and globally  − strategic planning, capitial reinvestment planning, designing collaborating, procuring, constructing, managing and operating.  All of these business processes have different impacts upon the “facility” infrastructure and  construction supply chain, building Owners, Stakeholders, etc., yet communication terms, definitions, must be transparent and consistently applied in order to gain  greater efficiencies.

Some facility life-cycle management are already in place for the federal government facility portfolio and its only a matter of time before these are expanded and extended into all other sectors.

BIM, not 3D visualization, but true BIM or Big BIM,  and Cloud Computing will connect information from every discipline together.  It will not necessarily be a single combined model.  In fact the latter has significant drawbacks.    Each knowledge domain has independent areas of expertise and requisite process that would be diluted and marginalized if managed within one model.   That said, appropriate “roll-up” information will be available to a higher level model.   (The issue of capability and productivity marginalization can be proven by looking a ERP and IWMS systems.  Integration of best-in-class technology and business practices is always support to systems that attempt to do everything, yet do not single thing well.)

Fundamental Changes to Project Delivery for Repair, Renovation, Sustainability, and New Construction Projects MUST include:

  • Qualifications Based or Best Value Selection
  • Some form of pricing transparency and standardization
  • Early and ongoing information-sharing among project stakeholders
  • Appropriate distribution of risk
  • Some form of financial incentive to drive performance / performance-based relationships

BIM vs Information Silos

 BIM is not about software or technology but about CULTURE CHANGE and CHANGE MANAGEMENT.

BIM is about simplifying and adding visibility to the life-cycle management of the built environment.  You are either “on-board” or “not”.  It’s up to you.

BIM and FM are synonymous.  Unfortunately there are very few instances of BIM.

The biggest mistake made by most people new to BIM is to assume that BIM is all about technology, and so focus all their efforts on mastering the technology rather than considering the impact that the application of this technology will have on the processes among Owners, AEs, Contractors, Subs, Business Product and Service Providers.

IFMA BIM Lifecycle Operations Community of Practice (BIMLO COP) Kickoff Meeting Video –

BIM requirements:

  1. Organizational Commitment
  2. Collaborative, Efficient Project Delivery Methods (IPD- Integrated Project Delivery, JOC – Job Order Contracting …)
  3. Standards (OMNICLASS, COBie, IFC), Common Terms, Definitions, Metrics, Cost Data (Standardized Cost Data, example-RSMeans)
  4.  Life-cycle Information
  5.  Open digital technology supporting the above
  6.  Continuous Training and Improvement

via – Premier software and services for construction cost estimating and efficient project delivery – IPD, JOC, SABER, IDIQ, SATOC, MATOC, MACC, POCA, BOA…featuring the best representation of RSMeans Cost Data, exclusively enhanced 400,000 line item database.

BIG DATA, BIM, Life-cycle Management of the Built Environment

BIM Strategy and Change Management II

BIM (Building Information Modeling) is the life-cycle management of the built environment supported by digital technologies.  As such it is a process of collaboration, continuous improvement, transparency, and integration.   3D distractions aside,  achieving optimal return-on-investment (ROI) on BIM requires focus upon change management, first and foremost.  Ad-hoc business practices, traditional construction delivery methods, and legacy software must be cast aside.

BIM is managing information to improve understanding. BIM is not CAD. BIM is not 3D. BIM is not application oriented. BIM maximizes the creation of value. Up, down, and across the built environment value network. In the traditional process, you lose information as you move from phase to phase. You make decisions when information becomes available, not necessarily at the optimal time.  BIM is not a single building model or a single database. Vendors may tell you that everything has to be in a single model to be BIM. It is not true. They would be more accurate describing BIM as a series of interconnected models and databases. These models can take many forms while maintaining relationships and allowing information to be extracted and shared. The single model or single database description is one of the major confusions about BIM.(

The principles of BIM:

  • Life-cycle management: Process-centric , longer term planning  and technologies that consider total cost of ownership, support decision making with current, accurate information,  and link disparate knowledge domains and technologies.
  • Collaborative Delivery Processes:  Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) procurement and construction delivery processes that consider and combine the knowledge and capabilities of all stake holders – Owners, AEs, Contractors, Business Product Manufacturers, Oversight Groups, Service Providers, and the Community.  (i.e.  IPD, Job Order Contracting/JOC)
  • Standards and Guidelines:  Common glossary of terms, metrics, and benchmarks that enable efficient, accurate communication on an “apples to applies” basis.
  • Collaborative, Open Technologies and Tools:   Cloud-based systems architectures that enable rapid, scalable development, unlimited scalability on demand, security, real-time collaboration, and an full audit trail.

(Johnson et al. 2002) – There is an interrelationship between business goals, work processes, and the adoption of information technology. That is, changes in business goals generally require revising work processes which can be enhanced further by the introduction of information technology. But we also recognized that innovations in information technology creates possibilities for new work processes that can, in turn, alter business goals  In order to understand how information technology influences architectural practice it is important to understand all three of these interrelated elements.
Business Goals…   Work processes  ….   Information  technology
require/create               require/create                    require/create

(Via – Premier cost estimating and efficient construction project delivery – JOC, SABER, IDIQ, SATOC, MATOC, MACC, BOCA, BOA.  Exclusively enhanced 400,000 RSMeans Cost Database with full descriptions and modifiers.)

Sustainability –  “to create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.”  – US Executive Order 13423

Ceasel – Patents Pending

BIM Framework