Thinking about investing in Building Information Modelling (BIM)? Consider including a shared data standard, writes Nick Harris from UK technology service provider CADline.

In my previous article I talked about the confusion we are encountering from small and medium sized organisations as they consider their options for adopting Building Information Modelling (BIM). Many companies are finding themselves under increasing pressure to develop a BIM strategy in response to client and competitive pressures.

CADline continues to field enquiries from customers wishing to buy BIM, but the type of organisation contacting us in this way is widening. Significantly, an increasing number of component manufacturers in the construction industry supply chain, which traditionally use software such as Autodesk Inventor to create product designs, are being asked if they can provide BIM data by their customers.

I have talked about our approach to simplifying the adoption of BIM within an organisation by deconstructing the process and focusing on the aspects that have the most impact on developing an effective BIM capability. In most cases the company will have identified the BIM toolsets that will deliver improved productivity to the organisation and will have given training requirements some serious consideration and decided on a comprehensive training and support programme.

The third piece of this jigsaw is process: how to create, manage and communicate this new BIM data. More importantly what data will be shared? To what extent is collaboration with customers and partners using BIM data necessary?

Whatever the answer is to these questions a BIM standard is advisable — as well as a library of reusable components that conform to a quality and format specified by the standard.

The complexity of the standard and how far reaching it is in guiding BIM activity depends on the extent to which BIM data is shared.

Companies that continue to deliver ‘lonely BIM’, which is mainly concerned with adopting 3D modelling tools to streamline a company’s own processes and whose output is not consumed by other parties, have less need for a shared data standard.

The question we ask then is: What BIM deliverable do you anticipate your customers will require of you?

The problem in the past has been that it has not been clear what is expected of a BIM deliverable. Is it a subset of the source model in Revit format, is it published data such as a Navisworks file or a PDF or DWF? What exactly is your BIM data going to be used for? Will it be used to continue to develop the design of the asset — in which case there needs to be a robust standard for co-ordinates, grids and levels?

Alternatively it may be used for estimating or construction planning activities where the consistency and quality of component data is important.

What about your existing standard? A firm may have made some investment in introducing BS1192:2007, which provides detailed guidance about file naming and layer names in an effort to aid the consistent collaboration of traditional CAD data, as well as proposing the Common Data Environment based upon a definition for a consistent shared data structure.

The answer, it appears, is coming from the UK Government. It has been well publicised as part of the government’s 2011 Construction Strategy that most, if not all, centrally procured projects will use BIM by end 2016.

Of course, if BIM is going to be mandated, then it needs to be well defined in terms of expected deliverables. That is exactly what the BIM Task Group, a government initiative, has been looking to achieve over the last couple of years.

Early on the task group established that the Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) asset data schema would play an important part in delivering value to owners and operators as a result of using BIM. Go to COBie at

The COBie dataset is a readable format of structured asset data that builds as the project is delivered, with the ultimate aim of delivering a complete register of component and structure data about the asset. This should enable the owner to understand how they will operate and maintain the asset to a very fine level of detail.

The standard is loosely based on a Microsoft Excel workbook with individual worksheets for recording data as comprehensive as the original instruction, spaces, zones, components and systems, and there is belief that some of the information will be added directly using Excel. However, in anything but the smallest project information it will be too complex and change too regularly to maintain the dataset using anything other than BIM workflows. So the requirement for COBie drives the need to use BIM through the government’s new procurement process.

It is not unreasonable to expect that many of the organisations winning government tenders will be the big name main contractors that regularly have their names on the side of roads and buildings as they are constructed and that they are well on the way to developing their BIM capability. However, to deliver a complete COBie dataset in the detail required, they will need their supply chain including consultants and component suppliers to be delivering information in a similar format.

The relevance of BIM to the component manufacturer becomes more obvious as a result of COBie and, arguably, a manufacturer which provides models of its components with COBie compatible data attached may find its products used in preference to those that do not.

COBie has a detailed schema for the data that may need to be produced from a BIM project and so the basis for identifying a standard that will inevitably become a requirement for most public projects procured in future.

For many of our customers COBie is relevant and processes should be developed to support the delivery of the dataset in anticipation that it is adopted across the industry as a whole, regardless of project type and customer.


COBie is only one aspect of the standardisation of BIM workflows that the BIM Task Group is delivering to support the Construction Strategy. The group has also worked closely with BSI to produce the Publicly Accessible Standard (PAS) 1192-2:2012, which builds on BS1192:2007 to provide guidance on the project delivery aspect of the asset lifecycle. It also introduces a new term — Project Information Model (PIM) — to represent the data produced through BIM workflows through design and construction.

Later this year PAS1192-3 will provide guidance on the use of the Asset Information Model (AIM), the BIM data that is ‘handed over’ to clients.

These two standards provide comprehensive guidance on the collaborative aspects of BIM and clearly define important aspects of information sharing, such as the Employer’s Information Requirement (EIR) document where the employer is the client, and the Supply Chain Information Execution Plan (SCIEP) document, where suppliers will be expected to provide details explaining how the information modelling aspects of their part of the project will be carried out.

Any company expecting to work on a government project will have to ensure its processes and standards documents are aligned with some, or all, of these topics. Standards PAS1192:2 and PAS1192:3 are designed to plug straight into processes that adhere to BS1192:2007.

However, if like many organisations looking to adopt BIM your standards may be of the ‘light touch’ variety and may have deviated from the spirit of the original, we have templates which can be adapted to your workflows while maintaining compliancy with the official standards developed by the BSI.

A BIM standard from many organisations goes beyond ensuring quality and collaboration compliance and actually provides detailed guidance for operating specific BIM toolsets. Companies considering adopting an Autodesk Revit or Bentley Building product should take a look at the BIM standards developed for these specific products by the AEC (UK) committee. Original contributors included some of the most high-profile early adopters and they give the type of guidance that a new adopter may need to set up the basics of the BIM workflow including templates, styles and documentation formats. Download the documents at:

In my next article I will discuss in more detail the importance of component libraries and to the standardisation and productivity of BIM processes. Reusable components are the building blocks of BIM models from which, ultimately, BIM data will be derived.

If your intention is to deliver COBie data from the digital model of your asset then the digital components will need to provide the supporting data.