BIM Explainer

Hello BIMfans,
For years I have enjoyed the science-based comic strip XKCD, by Randall Monroe.  Many of his comic strips, such as the one on Standards, really resonate with me.  However, my favorite of Randall’s creation is the book ‘Thing Explainer’ and its premise, to explain ‘things’ using the one thousand most common words in the English language.  As the convenor for both the CEN working group and the ISO task force for BIM terminology as well as the author of There’s No BIM Like Home, I was inspired by this book.  Using the same one thousand word constraint, I have written this piece about Building Information Modelling (BIM); I hope you enjoy.


Urrgh!  Some Hatboys just want to watch the world burn….


BIM Explainer

When we build things, they often go wrong. Parts ordered for the job may be the wrong size, put in the wrong place, or even just be the wrong part. This has been happening around the world for years. The reason for this is because when we share information, we only share enough to help us, and don’t share enough to help others. This means when we try and use information from others, it is often confusing, missing bits, or is just wrong.

Our leaders saw this problem too and wanted to help. They wrote papers telling us we were not building as well as we should be. These papers said we fought too much instead of working together; we didn’t listen. In 2009, when the banks broke, building owners didn’t have enough money to build things, so our leaders told us (again) that we needed to work together to build better; we (still) didn’t listen. Our leaders had to think of a way to make us listen. So, they told us that if we wanted to work for them, we would have to work together. Telling us that we had to use Building Information Modelling (BIM).

Our leaders chose BIM because they saw how working together can help us make, share, and use other people’s information better. To help even more, new papers were made explaining how to share information. They explained what owners needed to say when they wanted a job done:

[Employer’s Information Requirements]

  • Who shares the information; [outline responsibility matrix]
  • What information is needed; [information requirements]
  • When information is needed by; and [project milestones]
  • Why owners need the information shared. [information purposes]

By having owners say this, builders could write back in a letter saying:

[Pre-contract BIM Execution Plan]

  • Who they will use to help them; [project implementation plan]
  • What information they will share; [PIM deliverable strategy]
  • When information will be shared by; and [project milestones]
  • How they plan to work together. [project goals for collaboration]

After the builders have won the job, they then sit with their team to plan what parts of the job they will do [responsibility matrix], what information is needed and by when [master information delivery plan], as well as how information being shared needs to be set out [standards, methods, and procedures]; writing all this into a single agreed plan for everyone to follow [post contract-award BIM execution plan]. To make sure everyone can follow the plan, the builders check their team’s skills [supply chain assessments] before starting the job.

As they do the job, each team follows the agreed plan on how information needs to be set out [task information management] and owns their information; making sure that their information lines up [clash avoidance]. The teams do this by sharing their work in one place for everyone to use and follow the agreed plan on how to name everything, making it easier to find information [common data environment]. The builder also checks with the owner at the end of each stage to make sure what they are building is right for the owner and that they have all the information they need about the job [employer decision points, supplier’s information exchange].

By planning out what information needed and when by, the builder can be sure that no information goes missing [project delivery management]. Also, by planning how information is created, the builder can be sure that the information is right and can be used by everyone who needs it [project information management]. Finally, by planning how information is shared, the builder can make sure that all information has been checked before it is shared [check, review, approve].

At the end of the job, the builder shares all the information needed by the owners to look after the build [asset information model], and the owner checks to make sure that this information is set out as they asked for [asset information requirements]. If this is agreed at the start of a job, the builder can make sure his team creates the right information as needed.

Finally, to make sure the owner’s information stays clear, right and without missing bits, the owner must look after this information until the next job. When needed, the owner may have to add, change, and remove things [trigger-related events] to keep their information right.

And that’s it.

By following these steps, builders and their teams can work together to give the owner what they wanted. By creating an agreed plan there is a better chance that the parts ordered for the job won’t be the wrong size, put in the wrong place, or even just be the wrong part. That means that when the job is finished there is less of a chance that money will be a problem, or that it’ll take more time to finish. Best of all, the job finishes with a happy owner.

Note:  If Building Information Modelling (BIM) and construction information terminology are still causing you difficulty, then the free BRE BIM Terminology Tool should be able to help.

Note:  If you have any comments about ‘BIM explainer’, then please let me know either on Twitter or by commenting below.

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