Three BIM Essentials for Clients

On many occasions I am asked by client organisations the following question:

“from your discussions with many of the top BIM enabled clients worldwide, what are the top 3 things we need to do?”

Looking at the major capital projects and also those clients wishing to extract better decision making abilities with their existing assets there are 3 things that come to light. They are mutually supporting and form the foundations of what we are all striving for.

1. Asset breakdown structure

The first thing is to concentrate on mapping your asset hierarchies into a breakdown structure, concentrating on how those assets interact or function with others. This asset breakdown structure must always look with the end in mind or in more simplistic terms, how would the operator or maintainer want their information presented? From experience gained at the academy we recommend the following:


This is the top level and contains everything that the client owns.


These are the hubs and connectors in any client’s portfolio. A rail station, a road, a reservoir, highway junction, a power station, an office building, a waterway or a pipeline are just a few of the examples of a facility.

Entity (and potentially Sub-Entities)

These are the functional groupings that are contained in or along the facility. It could be an earthwork, an HVAC system, a lift, a drainage system or a structure such as a bridge. When there is great complexity with these functional groupings it may be beneficial to split them down into sub Entities along discipline lines.


These are the lowest level of maintainable asset. To help us understand this, think about a window. We maintain the window itself, not the pane of glass, the locking mechanisms, hinges, sealant etc.

2. Asset tagging strategy

When we think about our assets, we must think of them in a whole life way, even before we have decided what material, product, equipment or service will fulfil the need, we have to concentrate on the functional requirements. These are generated by creating an Asset Tagging Strategy.

Asset tags are not physical labels that are attached to things and they are not CAD labels associated with objects. An Asset Tag is a collection of information that assists in defining the functional requirements and describes the thing.

The tagging strategy should have an answer (or the means to answer) each of the following questions:

  • What type of thing am I?

  • What functionality do I carry out?

  • What functional grouping or system do I belong to?

  • What do I need to know at each stage?

  • What locations grouping do I belong to?

  • How am I identified?

When we get to the location stage, this will be specific to the instance of an asset, so we just need to know how this will be answered in each case.

3. Asset Information Requirements (AIR)

This will undoubtedly be the biggest challenge faced by any client. It needs to be led by those that are paying for and need to see value from the information required.

This herculean task is best tackled through looking at the questions that are asked on a day to day basis during the lifecycle of the asset.

There are two things that will happen during the lifecycle;

  1. Someone will need to make a decision

  2. Someone will need to carry out an activity

Whether that person is deciding on what materials to select, what options have a better impact of society or simply how to gain access to the asset for maintenance or emergencies, they need information that they can trust, is of a good quality and is presented in a way that they can easily understand. Get this right and your AIR is world class!

In Conclusion

Before you even consider technology, try to get these three things right as they will deliver you a greater long term benefit and business outcome than any pretty 3D picture ever will!

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