BIM Basics

Do you work in construction? If so, then please complete this BIM Survey. It will only take a few minutes & will help inform the BIM debate.

In one form or another BIM has been around for many years. For most companies working in construction it is just a case of formalising the processes, standards and information that they have already been delivering.


However, it is not an easy transition for everyone. Most of the public information and education provided so far has been aimed at the owners, operators and main contractors involved in the bigger projects.


With the mandate in place for all government projects to be achieving level 2 BIM by 2016, smaller organisations cannot afford to sit back and not create their own "BIM strategy". No matter what part you play in such a project, even if you are the single manufacturer of what seems to be an insignificant widget or a 5-man sub-contracting team, the BIM mandate will affect you.


If you are new to BIM then a good starting point is the BIM FAQ's section of the BIM Task Group website and the Government Construction Strategy document along with the update.


For a useful perspective on the benefits of BIM from the point of view of various industry stakeholders, then Building Information Modelling - Government & Industry in Partnership (2012) is also a good read.


For an up to date view on how the industry is tackling BIM a great place to go is the new UK BIM Alliance website and join the team.


You are also advised to sign up for the BIM Task Group Labs Space. Registration is free and will give you access to work-in-progress information from a variety of BIM work streams.

So what is BIM?


Building – A terrible start as it’s not just about buildings, or about just construction. Nor is just about the creation of information. So it’s probably best to replace this with Better.

Information - which is the most important thing here.

Modelling – a bad way to finish. This word leads to people believing that 3D CAD is BIM, it’s a very small part of the bigger picture. Some point towards it meaning Data Modelling, which is better but it’s probably easier to replace this with Management.


So think of it as Better Information Management and we’ll be on the right track eventually!


The meaning of BIM has moved far beyond its acronym and encompasses much more than anyone initially thought. It is all about the collection and utilisation of information throughout the lifecycle any asset. A detailed description of BIM depends on who you are what part you play in that lifecycle.


Broadly speaking BIM information passes through 12 stages...


  1. Operations and Maintenance: Why start here? Well many of our assets are already there. We need to monitor them, understand their performance, function and condition so that we can make an informed decision whether they need replacing, upgrading, decommissioning or augmenting.

  2. Strategy: The above observations combined with both political and financial information will help form a strategy to give us a goal or outcome that needs to be achieved.

  3. Brief: At the beginning of a project information allows the client to brief the design contractor on what they already have, outline what they want and how it should perform. In the future, the client should just be able to request an outcome rather than an asset.

  4. Concept: Knowing how the client will decide on which option to pick is very important, but this information must be specified so the contractor knows what to deliver.

  5. Design: Further into the design phase this information will allow the client to be reassured that the brief has been answered in full and to understand a little more about how the asset will be run once it has been completed and handed over.

  6. Construct: The largest volume of information is required and generated at the point of construction. This extends down the supply chain - to the manufacturers, fabricators, sub-contractors and so on. Data on how it is built, with what, by whom and to what specification is required for each of the assets on the project. This information must be coordinated, federated and combined across multiple disciplines and from multiple sources. However it must be understood that a good proportion of this information has little or no value to the client.

  7. Commissioning: When we hand over a BIM enabled asset we hand over both a digital and a physical asset. Commissioning a physical asset is business as usual for most, but how you commission a digital asset needs to be thought through and documented.

  8. Handover: The information here is the handover to the client, not everything used above has value to them and is needed. We must also think of more efficient ways of conveying information rather than a drawing or document, how about a video or animation?

  9. O&M: The information for operations and maintenance has a significant value to the client as this allows them to do both these long-term tasks efficiently and ensures the assets delivers value for money. This information will probably answer questions like, where is it, how do I identify it, how do I access it, what PPE do I need, what tools do I need and what consumables should I take with me?

  10. Decommissioning: At the end of an asset’s life there is much information that is needed apart from just how to take it apart. The asset may have a resale value, recycling instructions and disposal costs, that should have been considered during the design phase!

  11. Disaster: Finally, the information which we hope to never use. If there is a fire, flood, earthquake or terrorist action, the emergency services will need quick answers to help them react. A delay here searching for data to create information could be costly in many ways.


We’ve been doing that for years....


Yes, some companies have, but the difference now is that collecting and validating the information during the project and ensuring it is in a coordinated, contextually mapped electronic format - where you pull one string and it shows you the knock-on effect of who, where, what and why throughout the whole lifecycle - is no longer a “nice to have” but an essential part of the hand over.


How do I do that then?


To get to a level of BIM that is right for you, three things must be addressed:


  1. People: You must get your workforce to understand what you want done and most importantly WHY. They really need to know how important that one vital bit of information they are providing is. Without a collaborative supply chain, you will never truly achieve your BIM goals (as Automotive and Aerospace who have been doing this for years can attest).

  2. Process: You must adhere to the standards set out by the UK government (BS8536, AIRs, PAS1192 and its parts etc.). These give you a good starting point, but you must also have good procedures, Asset, CAD, GIS and Document standards that are clear, easily understood and simple to follow that encompass your entire supply chain.

  3. Technology: Never put this first, it will support whatever you do above. Always choose the right tool for the job and never hang your hat on a single vendor if it is not right for the job. It is important that technology helps, rather than adds to the workload. A system that links all the elements of CAD, Asset, Document, Procurement, HR, Finance etc. is vital. Try not to double handle information. A wonderful solution that does not link with your other back end systems will introduce unnecessary risk. The CDE or Common Data Environment is central to BIM delivery getting this right like Crossrail have is a make or brake scenario.


These three elements are like the triangle of fire – Oxygen, Heat & Fuel. Remove one and the others will just not work. The most important and frequently overlooked is the cultural/people aspect. Get that right or fail!


So what does it mean for me?


The details depend on the role you play in the asset lifecycle and where you are in the supply chain. As a member of COMIT you can book into the Crossrail academy to talk through how they have achieved level 2 BIM and what your organisation might do to better prepare itself (it is free to COMIT members).



As part of the manufacturing supply chain you may need to provide accurate “as-built” models and drawings of your fabrications (whilst they do not need to be as detailed as your CAM model, it will need space, volume and interface accuracy). To avoid interoperability issues consider delivering any models in IFC format. You will also be required to complete information in a COBie spreadsheet about the materials, parts, maintenance and the method of construction.



As a supplier of standard parts generating a library of 3D objects should be a high priority. But when modelling, consider what visual information is needed to design around, build and maintain your item. Keeping it simple, delivering in IFC if possible and supplying a standard COBie spreadsheet for each will be essential. You may also want to consider opening up parts of your IT system to that of the contractor's. That way instead of you having to supply information it can be “sucked” into a bigger project asset information repository as required. Think also about how you can supply information in different ways. Have you considered maintenance instructions delivered by video?



The sub-contractor usually brings specialist skills to a project and will need to be comfortable consuming and creating information in 3D electronic format. If carrying out design work you must collaborate with the rest of the project team and the earlier the better. The contractor will want to federate your design into their master model, identify clashes and ensure everything is coordinated.


If you are on the construction side, you must consume information from other sources. Ensuring your team understands how to access information, processes and understand it will help. One of the biggest problems encountered is poor IT support or connectivity, so ensuring this does not impact on your delivery is essential.


You must provide information using the project standards, so your team will need to understand these and the need to deliver accurate information throughout the lifecycle of the project. Knowing what information is required and when to deliver it is important. Getting involved in the IADD4UK group will help to standardise this pattern of information handover.


At some point in the future, you will also be required to handover information about the embedded carbon of an asset. So capturing the information about each trip to site, the equipment used and the power consumed will become increasingly important.


Materials supplier:

What has BIM got to do with me? It is important to track and record the batches of bulk materials being used in the construction of an asset. That way if a problem is found with a material in the future during the maintenance regime, other assets within a facility constructed with the same batch can be checked. It is also important to know the lifespan, embedded carbon and a good few other things about your product. So when asked to supply a COBie spreadsheet you want to be able to do so easily.


Installation team:

Initially as a consumer of information and then as a creator, you will need to consider mobilising your workforce’s IT to ensure information is accurately and timely used/ recorded. One of your most important tasks is to ensure that As-Built models, drawings, photographs and data is accurate and delivered to the main contractor’s system quickly. This will form the basis of the Asset Model during handover.



The designer needs to think about how their outputs will be used. The 3D model they generate needs to be high quality (but only at a level of detail that is of value) and the basis of the 2D extractions that will be turned into drawings. Collaboration is the key and you will need to share information at all levels regularly during the project with other disciplines and parts of the supply chain. The data drop you create needs to convince the client that you have understood the brief and tell the construction contractor what they will need to deliver.



BIM enables a digitally-managed solution to optimise the procurement of physical assets, assemblies and components and their subsequent distribution and delivery to site. From the analysis of vehicle movements (is the route on which the vehicle is travelling suitable? Can the vehicle navigate the streets?), tracking of goods to site to provide certainty of delivery or optimising the maintenance/construction programme to avoid peak travel times, BIM provides an improved logistics solution through better insights and interventions.


With information about physical sizes and weights we can define methods of transportation, incorporate knowledge of vehicle locations through GPS for improved site efficiencies (e.g. geospatial data identifies the delivery is still 30 minutes away – so we can continue to work) or use a combination of the data available to optimise traffic management solutions. Linking geometric objects with asset information, geospatial data and delivery programmes leads to a better and more efficient logistics solution.


Facilities Management: 

FM professionals must engage with the developing building information modelling (BIM) agenda to realise the full potential that BIM holds for delivering value and cost savings over a building’s lifetime.


Essentially, BIM can help create and maintain facilities that are more efficient, have lower carbon emissions, cost less to run and are better, more effective and safer places to live and work. However, this will not be possible without the involvement of integrated delivery teams and facilities management must be a part of this; collaboration is critical. To date BIM has largely evolved from the construction and design side of the built environment but if BIM is all about lifetime value and whole life costings the knowledge and expertise of the facilities management profession must be utilised in the development of this technology.



For this to work, everyone must trust the information you create, so someone in your organisation must take responsibility for ensuring the standards are followed and the information you deliver is of the required quality. Without trust, your information has no value.

Webinar | defining the digital railway - turning data into information

BIM Resources

Quick links:

Government Construction Strategy (2011)

Government Construction Strategy update (2012)

BIM - Government & Industry in partnership (2012)

An overview of Industrial Strategy

An EU funded project to help SME's with BIM and GSL

Quick links:

PAS 1192-2 in 5 minutes

David Philp, UK Cabinet Office, at The B1M Event

"As a member of COMIT you can book into the Crossrail academy to talk through how they have achieved level 2 BIM and what your organisation might do to better prepare itself (it is free to COMIT members)"

If you are a COMIT member then you can use the form below to contact Iain Miskimmin directly about attending the BIM academy.

Employer's Information Requirements

© 2017 - 2020 by COMIT Projects Ltd.


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