BIM Explainer

Hello BIMfans,
For years I have enjoyed the science-based comic strip XKCD, by Randall Monroe.  Many of these comic strips, like 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’ only using the one thousand most common English words.  As the convenor of the CEN TC/442 and ISO TC/59 SC/13 BIM terminology working groups, author of the UK BIM Alliance‘s Constructing Plan Language Charter (#ConstructingPlainLanguage!), 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 Information Management and Building Information Modelling (BIM); I hope you enjoy.


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


BIM Explainer

When we build, things can often go wrong.  Ordered parts might be the wrong part, the wrong size or put in the wrong place.  Things like this happen often and have happened for years.  This is because when we share information we only share just enough, instead of sharing the information needed to help others.  This means when we try and use this information, it’s often confusing or missing bits; meaning we make bad choices because of this bad information.

To make better choices using better information, we can use information management using building information modelling (BIM).  To make sure we all do it the same way, papers were made explaining how [ISO 19650].

First, owners need to work out what information they need by talking to the people who pay for, look after and use their builds [Appraisal and need].  They collect these needs and use them to ask for the right information:

[Exchange Information Requirements]

  • What information they need [information requirements];
  • How much of this information they need [Level of information need]
  • How they check information [acceptance criteria];
  • What they already have [existing information and share resources]; and
  • When information is needed by [key dates].

By agreeing what they need along with how they want information made [information standard, information production methods and procedures], as well as how to share [information protocol] owners are ready to ask a team to help [invitation to tender].

Each team that wants to help writes back [tender response] saying how they will make their information:

[BIM Execution Plan]

  • Who they will use [names of indivduals];
  • Who does what bits [outline responsibility matrix];
  • What information they will create [information delivery strategy]; 
  • What changes they need to how information is set out [information standard, information production methods and procedures]; and
  • What tools they will use [schedule of software, hardware and IT].

By planning how they will make the information along with an understanding how good they are [capability and capacity assessment summary], how they will set up for the build [mobilzation plan] and how they will stop things going wrong [information delivery risk assessment] each team can be checked before they start.

After a team has won and are told they can build [appointment], they plan even more around who does what bits [detailed responsibility matrix]as well as how information is given to the owner and when [master information delivery plan].  The owner and their team then make sure everyone follows this plan [appointment documentation].

As they build and make information [collaborative production of information], everyone drawing, building or fixing [task teams] follow the agreed plan, checking that their information lines up [spatial coordination] with the work of others before sharing. After checking their work [check, review and approve] they share their information for everyone else to use, following the agreed plan on how to name and control information [common data environment]. Before giving the owner this information [information model delivery], the team also checks the information [lead appointed party authorization] before it is also checked by the owner [appointing party acceptance].

At the end of the job [project close-out], the team shares all the information [project information model] with the owner.  The owner keeps this information to check what their team did and uses some of it for looking after the build [asset information model].  When needed, the owner may have to add new information after changes to the build [trigger-events] to keep their information right.

And that’s it.

By following these steps, teams can work together to give an owner the information they need. By creating an agreed plan, there is a better chance that the parts ordered for the job won’t be wrong, the wrong size or put in the wrong place. That means less money and time are spent on problems, meaning more money and time to finish; best of all, a happy owner.

Note: This text was written using the XKCD Simple Writer Tool.

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

9 thoughts on “BIM Explainer

  1. Lovely stuff!! It is about time someone used good old plain English when talking about BIM. Some of the so called experts sound like they are from another planet which turns people off. Construction is made up of normal every day people, we don’t want a load of jargen thrown at us. Excellent work and well done!!


  2. Well BIM explained! I’ll share this with my fellow non-BIM expert colleagues.

    If you could name the types of roles involved or give examples at each stage, that would be helpful. E.g. “owners (housing developers)”, “the people who pay for their builds (councils)” – it can be hard to keep track of who owns what at each step.

    Plus you could keep going with facilities maintenance and maybe even go on to BIM explain digital twins!


    • Hi Julia, thank you.

      I did originally put in types of roles, but it became fairly limiting and got quite complex near the middle. I’ve simplified the text a little, so it should only now talk about owners (any sort of client) and teams (any sort of supplier).

      I’ll be happy to add FM once 19650-3 has been published. Sadly both “digital” and “twin” aren’t in the top 1000; making it a real challenge to include!


  3. Hi Dan – I really like what you’ve done here. But is there a way in the simplified dictionary to explain that “builder” encompasses everyone involved in a project? I presume “designers” etc aren’t in the top1000 words…


    • Thank you David. Yes, I used “builder” because “designer” and a few other choice words aren’t available (project being an annoying one) but you are right that builder isn’t ideal.

      To remedy this, I’ve changed builder to ‘team’ and where I referred to task teams they are now “everyone drawing, building or fixing”. This helps neutralize the piece and also provide a reference to maintenance activities. Thank you the suggestion.


  4. This article resonates so much with me as a fan of XKDC myself! I also appreciate how well and simply you broke down the function of BIM in a workflow. I often find myself explaining the benefits of BIM services, especially here in the USA, in a similar manner.


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