The components of BIM

Since writing my earlier blog on Building Information Modelling (BIM)  ( I have been contacted by a number of interested observers in the UK and beyond.  This is clearly an important topic, but from my point of view, as an Engineer and Project Manager, it does appear that there is a lot of “hot air” and mischief out there.  I don’t claim to have specialist knowledge, but have an overview and from my perspective I believe there are three important components to BIM:

  • The Client’s required Output
  • The Technology
  • The legal and cultural framework.

All three are inter-related and consistent with the ethos of BIM, to remove silo data, should be considered as a whole.  However, the practicalities of producing a blog means I will be preparing a series of blogs on all three components.  However, a few thoughts as tasters for you:

The Client’s required Output – A fundamental question has to be who is the Client for the BIM enabled project, the ultimate owner or are there enough advantages that the Contractor building the project would use it regardless of the ultimate owner’s intention?  My last blog commented on the UK Government Strategy and the BIM maturity level, setting the objective of central government construction projects being BIM Level 2 compliant by 2016.  However, this doesn’t specify the details of how BIM is undertaken or what the Government or any other Client wants as the Output.  Development of the Output requirement will mature with the BIM maturity level, but as a flavour of what can be achieved I suggest viewing:

The Technology – Both software and hardware need to be up to the job to service a BIM project.  It is commercially unwise for there to be only one piece of BIM software, but there is a need for software to communicate openly and accurately.  There have been examples of the Architect’s and the Engineer’s software failing to exchange fundamental geometry or the Engineer’s analysis software not seamlessly working with the geometry software, hence wasting time and money correcting or looking for errors. Clash Detection is often cited as a reason for using BIM, but it can be argued that the collaboration of competent designers encouraged by BIM should avoid clashes anyway.  Does this mean that everyone involved in the project needs a major investment in training, hardware and software, or at the SME level does it just require the systematic organisation of existing information?  Ultimately the BIM database is likely to be hosted on a single server with fast internet connections to the team (pre-construction, construction & maintenance) allowing phone, tablet and desktop interrogation of the data.

The legal and cultural framework – The fundamental legal question is; who owns the model? However, there are other issues raised by BIM adoption. To quote from an article in Building Magazine ( – free login) – “You can’t impose BIM on people – they have got to want to do it”.  This is probably the greatest challenge.   BIM does require collaboration and it is rare that a client procures a construction project from a single supplier.  So legal arrangements will be required between the various parties, which knowingly attributes the duties, payments and risks within this collaborative process.  It is a consensus view that BIM level 2 can be implemented with minor changes to existing contracts and appointments, but BIM maturity level 3 may require less adversarial and more collaborative contracts and appointments and require the much earlier detailed involvement of the end user.

And finally I will be posting some useful links if you wish to explore the subject in greater detail.

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