02 October 2017

Use a Revit Road Map to get to BIM

Unless you want to get hopelessly lost all journeys require a road map. Sure you can wing it and see where it gets you, but using a road map means you will not only get there faster, but also arrive at the correct place, not a place that might or might not be where you need to get to.

BIM is new and still evolving. Pretty much everyone is on a journey to implement BIM into their work practices. We all have need of a road map.

BIM may be a process, but it is a process that is not possible without software. You can't create models, or extract information from them, without software. So the beginning of any road map starts with the software being used. And you can't do anything if no model exists, so the obvious starting point is BIM authoring software. Revit is my example, for no other any reason than I know it well. The specifics may differ but any BIM authoring software will require similar milestones in their road map.

Not all software is BIM capable

It may seem obvious, but it is worth stating: Make sure the software you are creating a road map for is BIM capable.
And be aware that BIM authoring software works differently from CAD and 3D drawing programs. For a start in BIM capable software many people work together in a single file. What they do will have an effect on everyone else working in the model. Things are shared - where a particular wall is required the same wall component has to be used by everyone.
The model is also used for more, much more, than just drawing or image production. It is used as a repository for information about the building. A fire rating is given to a wall not just so its tag will be correct, it is so anyone using the model, from fellow designers, other engineers, and contractors, can tell instantly from within the model (or exports of that model) that the wall is fire rated.
And because it contains this information the model can be used for checking. Fire rated walls and fire rated doors can be colour coded to check fire compartmentalisation and that fire walls have corresponding fire rated doors.

If your authoring software can't do these things then it is not BIM capable. Not all software that do 3D modelling is BIM capable. A BIM add-on to a CAD (whether 2D or 3D) program is unlikely to be BIM capable to any degree of sophistication. Also it can be difficult to get users to model BIM if they have the opportunity to just draw. Don't waste your time on these softwares.

There is nothing particularly unusual about a BIM software road map. If you use proper BIM software the way it was designed to be used the result will be a good quality BIM model suitable for others to use. Indeed you can do no more than this. We are not software engineers, none of us should be expected to delve into the innards of our software to get a particular result. If that is a requirement it is beyond the scope of design professionals and should be paid for, so someone else can do it.


I said above any BIM road map begins with software. Not entirely true. First you need the people in place to make the road map and to oversee the journey. No journey is going to happen by itself. Just buying software and making it available is no different from dumping a whole lot of unicycles in the office and expecting people (who?) to ride them (how?) to get somewhere (where?).

First there needs to be someone on the executive team responsible for making it happen. Just reporting to senior management on progress will not work, someone senior has to actively push it.

There needs to be an expert responsible for implementation, usually a BIM Manager.

Project teams need to be restructured.
Every project must have a Model Manager responsible for the well being of project models.

Team responsibility must be adjusted.
Individuals must be made responsible for the totality of parts of the building, each being responsible for managing the drawings and schedules their part of the building requires. For example the Facade: from window including elevations, details, material schedules, Interiors: walls, including wall types, doors, door schedules.

To assist on-going implementation there should be a component (called Families in Revit) manager responsible for creation and management of component libraries.

And finally there should be a system of "experts", people who gain expertise in particular aspects of the software and/or BIM processes. Like a stair expert, railing expert, wall expert, etc.

But perhaps the most important issue to do with people is a cultural change across the organisation. The acknowledgement that the task at hand is no longer to produce drawings, pictures or standalone schedules, but to produce a virtual model of a real building, a 'Digital Twin'. This is why project teams need to be restructured.
Non-users of the software must also change their approach. Rather than asking for a particular drawing or set of drawings, senior architects and engineers should be asking for information about a particular part of the building. If they are seeking to validate or check something ask for that information. Traditional drawings may not be the most efficient way to present it. In the fire rating example above a coloured coded set of 3D views will provide more digestible information than a black and white plan with wall tags. Quicker to produce and less tedious to check.


After defining who will do what the next milestone is to set a communication strategy. There is no point going on this journey alone, the whole organisation has to come along as well. And the strategy must ensure stragglers don't get left behind. After all, not everyone wants to move forward.

A communication strategy may tie in with existing processes, so can vary from office to office. But as a minimum there needs to be:
  • In-house BIM Software Manual
  • Regular Training (at least initially)
  • Regular Seminars (where 'experts' can shine)
A regular newletter to keep everyone informed, and hopefully interested, could also be added to the list.

BIM Software Manual

The BIM Software Manual must be instantly accessible to everyone, and be searchable. It must be easily updated and added to, and allow users to comment.
The only thing I know of that fits this criteria is an on-line wiki. Word documents printed to PDF are not even close, even if those PDF pages are added to the office intranet. I once worked in an office where the original word file for the BIM manual had been lost, making it really, really, hard to update.

Creating a wiki these days is trivial. It can be done with any of the many web site creation services available. You can lock it down with passwords, or keep it in-house by creating it on your own servers. WordPress.org is a free version that can be installed on your office's servers. I've installed Wordpress many times, it is not hard or time consuming. You can probably use a Sharepoint Intranet (don't use it to 'share' word documents as a manual though) if you already have it, although the last time I tried that it was so time consuming I gave up. Maybe it has improved.
If you can't, or have trouble, getting official permission set up a demonstration wiki on a free web creation service, like Wordpress.com, or free hosting service with a wordpress.org install. Just make sure you use one that can export the site (i.e. not Google Sites)

Because a wiki is interactive you don't have to wait until you have all the information available before setting it up. Just set up it's headings and progressively fill in the information, in any order. If you already have a CAD manual you might have a whole lot of drafting standards you can immediately put in it. And don't worry about getting headings right, you can easily change them later on, including their order. It is not like you will have to cut and paste enormous amounts of text within a word document.
What ever you do don't fall into the trap of "we'll do when we finished the manual". The reality is the manual will NEVER be finished. As the office becomes better at using the software processes should be changed, things that don't work should be revised, and then there is the fact software changes with every new version. You will never get on top of it so just accept that and work with it.

The type of headings you might start with could include:

Protocols for managing Revit
In-house standards, including naming, to follow when using Revit.
Explanations and procedures for workflows
Guidelines for best practice.
Tips and tricks for using Revit.
Sources of help, specific problems, bugs, and their solutions.

Regular Training

You can't expect people to be able to use software without some training. Even if they know how to use the software new people will need to be introduced to the way your office does things.
For new learners short bursts of training of no more than 4 hours are better than a whole day, or multiple day long sessions. Also no more than 5 to 6 people at a time, any more and some will get left behind. For more experienced users keep sessions to an hour and on specific topics. They will be busy and won't be able to spare more time than that.

Regular Seminars

Set up regular seminars, with the emphasis on regular so people can plan to attend them. Lunch times are best as you are more likely to get people attending. Provide lunch and even those not that interested will attend.

Newletters or Regular Posts

I have found a good way to keep everyone informed and somewhat interested is a regular email newsletter, or if your organisation uses social media, regular posts. Include things to do with the software and its use, titbits about general IT, BIM and your industry.

So that is the soft start, setting up the framework to make it happen. Now for the hard information you will need.


Anything involving computer files requires some way of organising them. Unless you are a brand new start up or moving from paper straight to BIM you will already have a way of organising computer files. But it is worth at least reconsidering the way you organise files to suit your BIM software.

I find many design offices have electronic filing systems based on archival storage, usually following the paper filing system that predated computers. But we also need somewhere to store files currently being worked on - Work in Progress (WIP).
The requirements for WIP is different from archival storage. People are opening, saving and closing files much more often; linking of files makes the location of file and paths critical; long folder and file names become a productivity hindrance.
So it is worth developing a folder structure exclusively for WIP that is not embedded within the archival system.

Another missing part of most computer filing systems is that there is no place to keep current documents. For drawings that is the equivalent of the old project drawing stick set. As drawings change so quickly now it is impractical to rely on a printed set of drawings, so there should be a place in the filing system where the latest drawings can be kept for anyone to access.
Of course if you use a document management system (like Newforma, Aconex, BIM 360, etc.) you will have that functionality and not need it in your filing system.

It is also worth putting some thought in to file naming. Because of the way BIM authoring software files are shared and linked together file names can be a help or a hindrance. Overly long file names are a pain for everyone, as are highly codified names. One thing worth putting in Revit file names is the version, but keep it short: R18 somewhere in the name is quite adequate.


Unlike CAD and 3D drawing programs BIM software have a lot of things that are named by users. When I say a lot, I'm not exaggerating. Here is a list from Revit 2017:

Area Schemes
Beam Systems
Browser Organisation
Cable Tray Fittings
Cable Trays
Color Schemes
Curtain Panels
Curtain Systems
Design Options
Detail Groups
DGN Export settings
Duct Fittings
Duct Systems
DWG/DXF Export settings
Family File names
Family Type names
Fill Pattern
Filled Regions
Flex Ducts
Flex Pipes
Foundation Slab
Handrails, Top Handrail
IFC Export settings
In-place Families
Legend Names
Line Patterns
Line Styles
Linked Files
Model Groups
Phase Filters
Pipe Fittings
Piping Systems
Print Sets
Print Settings
Project File name
Reference Planes
Repeating Components
Schedule Names
Scope Boxes
Selection Sets
Spot Coordinate
Spot Elevations
Spot Slope
Stacked Walls
Stair Parts (10 in total)
Stair Path
View Filters
View Names
View Tags
View Templates
View Types

This list excludes naming and numbering required for normal document production - Sheet numbers, Sheet titles, codes for tags, etc. So you can't just take your existing CAD manual and "adjust" it.

The important point here is that users should NEVER be in a position where they have to make names up. If everyone is making their own names up with no guidance how an earth can you expect anything other than a massive mess? Where users are unable to find what they need (e.g. a wall type) so create a new one, leading to multiple components for the same thing.

It is critically important that every single thing that can be named has guidance on how it should be named, and that guidance has to be articulated as a standard that must be followed.

But that doesn't mean naming has to be rigidly defined. Defining a naming structure with guidelines will have more chance of being followed than a fixed list that has to be referred to, or worse, memorised. The same guidelines can even be used for naming multiple types of things.
As long as the guidelines are not too ambiguous. I have seen a manual where the naming guideline for components was a prefix that described what it was, typically its category. But it didn't have a list of standard prefixes so I found casework family names prefixed with Case_, Casework_, Casement_,  Join_,  Joinery_  & Joineries_. Not very helpful!

I've written about naming before (The Nature of Naming), but I'll repeat the important points here.
  • Be literal - names should be understandable to anyone not working on the project
    (pb13, not P01 or L13).
  • Keep name lengths to the minimum necessary to still be understandable, abbreviate and truncate where possible. 
  • Avoid padding.
    (Line-Xhatch   not   Line - Xhatch;    pb13/stud92/pb13   not   pb 13 / stud 92 / pb 13)
  • Use Major-Medius-Minor name schema
    (Glass Clear not Clear Glass)
  • Define structure but be flexible on specifics
    (plasterboard13,   plasterbd13,  pbd13,  pb13 are all acceptable)
  • Consider how names will list alphabetically
    (Light, Medium, Wide not Light, Medium, Heavy)
  • Use CAPITALS purposefully
    (e.g. use capitals for views on sheets, sentencecase or lowercase for all others; capitals for fixed prefixes.)

There are a few of other points to consider when naming in BIM software.

Names are for your purposes only, it is NOT project data:

Names are what I call HUIDs - Human Understandable IDentifiers. They are for the humans creating the model, for everyone else there is the data within objects for them to use.

This means that names must be human understandable. Highly codified naming systems (like using Omniclass numbers or IFC names) defeats the purpose of having names in the first place. It is also pointless because that data can be part of the data within the object anyway.
This is why I refuse to follow any outside demand to use their naming scheme, typically from contractors, but also by COBie. Happy to provide a parameter for their name, but names in our software are for our purposes only.

Name what something IS, or name for what it is FOR:

When deciding on a name it seems easier to name it by what it is, (Text 2.5, Solid Grey, Line 05, pb13/stud64/pb13). This is a carry over from hand drafting which found its way into CAD. You didn't draw using a wall, you used a 0.5 pen. But in BIM software you do "draw" using a wall, and not only that, you can name it what you want.
So in BIM software if you want you can name things after what they are for. Instead of naming a wall type pb13/stud64/pb13 you can name it Internal Stud-Typical.

There are a number of advantages to doing this. It is easier for users to identify what to use - there is less likely to be duplicates for the same purpose, and it is easier to change later.

Say you have two people working in the same project, one thinks internal walls need insulation, the other doesn't. One creates pb13/stud64,insul50/pb13 the other pb13/stud64/pb13. The project becomes a mixture of the two types. If the name was Internal Stud-Typical from the start they would have had to fight it out (or actually do some research instead of guessing) before it got to that stage. And even if they made the wrong decision no big deal. As all internal walls are the same type so just the properties of that type need to be changed. If they each used their own walls someone would have to find all instances of the wrong walls and changing them to the correct type.

This follows through to annotation objects. Name a Filled Region Clearance-Disability instead of Xhatch Red and it is trivial to change all instances of filled regions used to show disability clearances to something else, just change the parameter values of  Clearance-Disability. It also makes it possible to create view filters that only hide disability clearances. If you don't do this and you need to make a change then every occurrence across all views have to be found and manually changed, and forget about using a view filter.

That said it can be difficult to enforce naming strictly based on what something is used for. It can also get messy when projects become complex, particularly during documentation. Indeed some projects end up without a "typical" internal wall at all.
A good solution is a hybrid - usage and content: INTstud_pb13/stud64/pb13. Or one I use during documentation - code and content: W.S01_pb13/stud64/pb13.

Yes, a bit redundant, and yes, more management as the name has to be changed if the content changes. But remember names are HUIDs, they are there to help users do their job. And if a bit of redundancy, or indeed management overhead, helps, then it is perfectly justifiable.

Published Standards

I hear you all saying about now, "Can't we just use existing published standards?" Sure, you can try.
Firstly they don't cover everything that needs naming, secondly keep in mind BIM standards are not created to make your work easier, but so it is easier for those that use your models. Remember that names are for your users, not for others, so what is the point following a standard created for some-one else?
That said it may be worth reviewing standards and using the bits that are useful to you, or altering it to make it useful to you.
For those interested have a look at bimblog.house as Dan tries to force his house to follow published BIM standards.


Besides all the things built-in to Revit that have to be named, there are things that users create that must be named, such as parameters.

Parameters are used to drive parametric behaviour (Width in a door family), for tagging, (Mark and Type Mark), and scheduling (Width, Mark, Type Mark).
There are Family parameters that are created to work within a family only (typically for parametric behaviour), and Shared Parameters which work across all families and projects (only Shared Parameters can appear in tags).

Not all parameters require naming, some are built-in to the software, like System Parameters that behave like Shared Parameters but can not be renamed.

Besides naming there are other things that users require guidance on:
  • Parameters have a data type: Integer, Number, Length, Material, etc.
  • Parameters are grouped under built-in parameter headings: Dimensions, Materials, Construction, Graphics etc.
  • Parameters can be Type driven (different types of things vary), or Instance driven (each item can vary even if the same type).

Managing parameters is beyond the scope of this post, but things that should be considered are:
  • Define what built-in parameters are to be used for.
    For example Type Mark is tag code, Type Comment is drawing note, Description is schedule description.
  • Create naming standards for parameter names.
    Major-Medius-Minor using CamelCase is popular. Don't use math symbols in names (like dashes or slashes).
  • Create a different naming standard for Shared Parameters.
    Shared Parameters are seen by everyone who gets the model. It is polite to identify it as your parameter.
  • Guidance of parameter type heading to be used.
    e.g. Dimensions for gross parametric changes, Model Properties for changes to parts, Visibility for changes to object, Graphic for changes to representation.
  • Guidance on data type.
    e.g. dimensions must be Length, array values Integers, materials Material (never Text), when Text may or may not be used.
  • Guidance on when to use Type or Instance.
    e.g. Objects that are schedule by type should use Type parameters, Materials are always instance.
  • Guidance on Project Parameters
    When should be used, when should instance parameter vary between groups. 
  • Methods for managing Shared Parameters.
    Protocols for adding new parameters, location of Shared Parameter file, etc.
  • Establish standard Shared Parameters that are required for schedules.
    Review your standards schedules and document which parameters are required to create them.


As mentioned above parameters hold values used in tags and schedules. To improve accuracy, efficiency and readability of tags and schedules it is worth revisiting the tag type codes you currently use and how your schedules are structured. Methods used in manually created schedules may be cumbersome in Revit, and there may be things you can now do that were too difficult to do manually.

For example paragraphs of descriptive text are difficult to manage in Revit schedules. Data should be kept concise as possible and separated in to multiple parameters.
This is not a quirk of Revit, it is a requirement for BIM. Computers don't understand descriptive sentences, they only understand precise data. Including the manufacturer, model, colour and supplier address all in one sentence, as one piece of data, will prevent anyone using the advantages BIM brings.

One of the things I find in manual schedules is that there is often duplicates, or close duplicates, in codes within different schedules. For example CO used for - concrete wall; to identify columns; and as prefix for material colours (CO01). Or WB for - masonry block wall; whiteboard; and weatherboard.
It is worth creating a unified list of standard codes for everything to prevent this happening. Now, I realise this is not actually possible, no-one can predict every code that may possibly be used in to the future. But it is possible to develop a naming system that divides up codes so duplicates are less likely.
I use a system that uses a category prefix. The examples above become W.CO,  C.CO  and  M.CO01. W.WB,  I.WB  and  M.WB. (I wouldn't actually use these codes, but you get the idea).

Another thing I commonly find is a confusion between what is a material (e.g. plasterboard) and what is a construction system (e.g. plasterboard stud wall). Then you see both the material and wall type are tagged PB in a project. But they are clearly different, and Revit makes it explicit because walls and materials are completely separate things.
To avoid confusion I use a totally different naming schema for materials than construction types (no prefix as per my example above). I also make sure material tags are graphically different from type tags.


Components, called Families in Revit, are separate files that are loaded into a project file. In Revit files are also different categories - Casework, Doors, Plumbing Fixtures, Windows etc.
Besides guidelines for naming the files there should be guidelines on how they are to be constructed, and how parameters are to be used in them. They appear in schedules which means the data between families must be consistent. And families are used by multiple people, so must not be overly complex to use.

Creating Families requires quite different skills to working in a project model, which is why I suggested above that a Family Manager be appointed. In fact I would go further and say that not everyone should be expected to create families. There should be a dedicated office family creator, or an elite of family authors (probably more realistic).

Even if handled by experts it is still worth documenting guidelines for creating families, a separate Family Creation and Management manual. Of course it should still exist within the office BIM Software wiki, still be searchable, still be commentable. But it talks to a higher skill level than the rest of the office manual.

There are a few standards available on Family creation. The AEC (UK) Revit Standard and ANZRS for example. If you involved in mechanical engineering you should definitely be referring to  BIM-MEP [aus].
But as I said above I wouldn't just absorb them whole, take from them what will work for you.


To me printing and document control can be a massive time waster. It often takes hours to produce a print set with transmittal, all because there is no work process in place to automate what is an extremely simple task.
So it is really important to have a standard procedure in place for preparing drawings for issue, printing, and transmittal creation. One that any idiot can follow (then you might be able to get the project director to print their own drawings).

I don't know about other BIM softwares but Revit is crap at managing printing and document control (it doesn't natively print to PDF, nor can it add revisions numbers to file names when printing). The only realistic solution is a third party add-in to do it for you.
So pick one, make sure everyone has access to it, then document the workflow using your choice of third party software.


Another time waster is reinventing the wheel every time something has to be done. And then there are things in Revit that if not done the right way at the beginning are either impossible to fix (like physically move a model to new coordinates) or difficult and confusing (like unravelling how groups have been set up), or just time consuming (like moving things between worksets).
So it pays to document (and then enforce) best practice workflows, protocols and guidelines for as many things you can think of. As a start I suggest the following:

  • Project set up:
    Project Base Point, method to set Survey Point, CAD surveys etc.
  • Managing Linked files:
    When to use linked files, what they contain, which files which sheets live in, etc.
  • Worksets:
    Building breakup, which to have closed on loading, etc.
  • Phases & Phase filters:
    What to use phases for, filters to use, Graphic overrides, etc.
  • View protocols:
    When to use what type of view, managing working, management, temporary views.
  • Category use:
    When to use what categories
  • Group Protocols:
    When to use groups, groups and worksets, mirroring groups.
  • Options:
    When to use, when to remove.
  • Reference Planes:
    when to use, how to manage

Keep in mind this will be an unending task. Best practice is something that evolves, and should be constantly challenged. Comments can be valuable here if you encourage users to pitch in with their views (a.k.a. bitch and complain) when things don't work, or could work better. Just don't take it personally.


It is always useful to have a model constructed as best it can be. This section is where you can set out how to model well, and by extension modelling expectations. Some of the things you might start with:
  • Degree of Detail:
    e.g. only model what is visible at 1:50.
  • Simplify - diagram rather than realistic representation:
    e.g. use model lines for joints and casework doors & drawers
  • Hosting:
    on Levels or Reference Planes not object faces
  • Best Practice for all system components:
    Walls, Stairs, Railings, etc.

Like Project Model Protocols & Guidelines this section will be forever a work in progress.


Once naming, protocols and guidelines are in place it becomes possible to define whole workflows - what is the best process for getting particular tasks done. And once you know what a workflow involves it is possible to automate all, or at least some of it.

This is when you start reaping the benefits of BIM.

Workflows can involve - model checking; for compliance with your manual; for checking completeness and accuracy of the model. Like the fire rating check mentioned above.
They can also involve tasks usually done manually, such as automating room numbering; door numbering; sheet and view creation; management tasks like renaming views.

But you can't do any of this if your models are not set up in a known and consistent manner. If you haven't got to your destination, the end of your road map.

Of course the end of your road map is not the end of your trip, you will continue to travel back and forth over that road. Those workflows and automations that are now possible need to be integrated into your BIM Software manual, replacing the old methods.

Indeed this Revit road map is not the whole journey, it only gets you an airport, the beginning of your next adventure that will take you to places you have never seen, or imagined. The journey to true and pure BIM.

29 April 2017

BIM Model Safety

Over the last decade or so the construction industry has become more concerned with safety. With good reason, building sites can be dangerous places. 
A building site can be made safer by keeping it clean and orderly. Store rubbish where it is out of the way, remove rubbish in a timely manner; store materials in an orderly fashion; sign post and label so the workforce knows what is going on.   

BIM models are virtual computer simulations of real buildings, so to an extent the process of creating a BIM model mimics that of constructing a real building.

So just like real buildings keeping models clean and ensuring clear labelling leads to models less likely to suffer from accidents.
Mind you the accidents that happen in a model won't kill you (although the BIM Manager may threaten to), they nevertheless cause unnecessary extra work and stress.

In the good old CAD days it wasn't as critical, although still pretty frustrating. All we had to worry about was layers and filenames. 

Now in BIM models everything has a name. From Fill Patterns to Views to Groups to Parameters. Revit thankfully doesn't have that amorphous thing called Layers which can mean whatever anyone wants it to mean. But never the less there are many, many more things that have names. (ArchiCAD has the misfortune of many things to name as well as Layers). 

Another difference is that BIM models, just like real building sites, have multiple people working in the same space on the same elements. 
This wasn't a problem in CAD. One person would draw a wall in plan in their own CAD file, another person would draw the same wall in elevation in their own CAD file, another person draw it in section, another person schedule it, etc.
Now in a BIM model that wall is shared by everyone, including people who didn't create the wall in the first place.

So the need for model cleanliness and clarity is just as critical as it is on a real building site.

I would go as far as saying it is impossible to create an accurate, error free model (and by extension documentation) with an unclean model. And that is because it is extremely difficult to check such a model with any degree of certainty. When I come across a messy model I know no-one has checked it properly, and by extension that the drawings and schedules produced by that model will be full of errors and missing information.

The Principals of  Cleanliness

A clean model is a model that:

Doesn't contain things that are not used or will never be used.
e.g.  Asbestos Insulation

Has only one type of element for the same thing.
e.g.  CONC 200  and  Core Wall  and  S_CO_IN_3  which are all 200mm concrete walls 

Has names for things that clearly identifies what they are or what they are for.
e.g. doesn't have names like  Section 59  or  Generic 100

Look familiar?

Now these are not hard and fast rules, they are more principles that need to be intelligently applied.

Often you will want to keep things not currently used in the model in case they will be needed in the future. For example title blocks of different sizes. And at the beginning of a project there will be a lot of thing is that haven't been used yet but might be used - that is the reasoning behind Project Templates. 
But as things are locked down it is important to get rid of things that aren't going to be used. If this is not done there is the risk that people will pick out unused things and place them in the project. This extends from non-standard section reference heads to non-compliant doors and walls.

It may seem an oxymoron to state that it is important the same thing be used for elements that are the same, but it is surprising how often this doesn't happen. To be fair sometimes it is necessary due to software limitations. For example in Revit the way a wall wraps its materials at wall ends is driven by a type parameter so you end up with two wall types for the same wall; one that wraps and one that doesn't.
But otherwise if duplicates are not eradicated error free tagging and scheduling is nigh impossible.

Both of these issues hinge on the third principal of cleanliness - name things clearly. If you can't identify what something is it is difficult to know if it is likely be used or not on the project, nor whether it is a duplicate or not. It is also difficult for modellers to select the correct thing if they can't tell what things are from their name. Indeed they are more likely to create a new thing rather than trawl through an ever increasing list of things to select from, leading to multiple definitions for the same type of element.

Naming is the Key

Modellers interact with the model through the names of things. When creating something or looking for something they are looking through lists of names. Lists of views, lists of Wall types, lists of Line Styles, lists of Beam types, etc. While it is true there are other parameters (names are just one of many parameters an object has) that could better identify things they are not immediately visible to the modeller - they have to interrogate each object to see its parameters. 

This is not the case for other users of a model. They are not interested in what something is called within the BIM model, they just care about the data that is contained in it. A contractor may use the object's type code it has been tagged with, FM the manufacturer and model number, QS the material code. Indeed for the reasons outlined above it would be dangerous for them to rely on the names of things in a BIM model.

Therefore the names of things in a model are purely for the purposes of modelling. They don't have to suit anyone else but the team working at creating the model. I treat this as sacrosanct and refuse to follow naming conventions that contractors or clients try and impose. Happy to add extra parameters, but sorry, names belong to us.

Naming Strategy

I'm not a fan of hard and fast rules (probably because I also believe rules are made for breaking). 
My preferred approach is to define naming structures rather than codes to use for naming. Divide a name into fields with particular purposes, but give people the freedom to decide what to put in those fields.
The most basic structure is to follow a major-medius-minor form.
e.g. Door Swing Glazed  instead of  Glazed swing door
       Detail Section Wall
  instead of  Wall section detail

I'm not a fan of over-abbreviation, or being too rhetorical.  CO  is too ambiguous,  Concrete  is overkill,  CONC  is about right.

But the most important thing is to be literal. Name things so that someone who knows nothing about the project will understand what it is. This overrides all other rules.
I'd rather have a wall named  92 stud wall with 13 plasterboard both sides and 75mm insulation  than named  PSI03.

If you have these three features, a clear structure, minimal abbreviation, and literal descriptions, your naming system will be understandable just through examples. 
See if you can understand how this wall naming scheme works:


Now it could be:


and still be fine. Or even:


and still be understandable.

An alternative strategy is to name things after what they are for, rather than what they are. In the above example you might call the wall Standard Internal Partition Wall.
This works on very simple projects or at the beginning during early design, but I find it becomes difficult to manage once a project gets more complex. It becomes hard for all modellers to consistently name things.  For similar wall types you could end up with names like Standard Internal Partition Wall 1,   Standard Internal Partition Wall Level 4,   or    Standard Internal Partition Wall  Dean's office.

That said some elements are best named after what they represent. If Line Styles are named that way you can safely make global changes as well as select all being used for the same purpose. Use model lines named Control Joints for all representations of Control Joints and you can globally change their appearance, turn them off in specific views, and select them all in one go.

For a more detailed discussion on naming see my post The Nature of Naming

Management Strategies

This is all fine in theory but how can cleanliness be managed?

Office BIM Manual

Obviously a comprehensive BIM manual easily accessible to all users is critical.
Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, that can be named must have a defined strategy on how to name it.
A BIM manual HAS to be on-line, and searchable. A dump of separate PDFs doesn't work. A paper manual you might as well hang in the toilet because it will get more use there.

Office Standard Templates

Good, up to date template files for your BIM software of choice are very valuable. It is impractical to think it is possible to pre-load them with every element that might be used, or that it is possible to restrict modellers to using only pre-approved elements.
What is practical is to provide a few examples of every kind of element named to conform with your office standard. If that standard follows the principles above them just seeing the names should provide modellers with enough information to understand and mimic them when naming new elements.

Don't forget Designers

When people think of office manuals they invariably assume it is a documentation manual. Yet it is at the design stage when models get really messy. And it is usually designers, (or clueless graduates), who originally set projects up.

It is important to include strategies that modellers can use during design, and VERY clear instructions on how to set projects up.

It is best to assume designers will be messy and attempt to minimise rather than prevent. A rule of being literal gives them freedom to do things on the fly while still providing meaningful names. Getting them to name things after what they are for will have more success than forcing them to comply with specific rules. Remember the aim is to have an understandable model, not a model that strictly follows particular rules.


BIM newbies and wannabes will by now be saying "don't you just follow the standards". Well, you might if any of them were actually usable.

Don't get me wrong, l don't have a problem with following standards, it is just that I have yet to come across anything adequate. Some are just silly like the naming standard in the NBS National BIM Object Standard. Some are archaic and are nothing more than regurgitated CAD standards.

The best I've found are invariably software specific. For example the AEC UK BIM standards (https://aecuk.wordpress.com) which has Revit, ArchiCAD and other specific software standards. The ANZ Revit Standard (http://www.anzrs.org) is also pretty good, although doesn't seem to be very active lately.

So by all means have a look at public standards to see if they are useful. But keep in mind it is unlikely you will find a standard that will adequately address every naming requirement you have, so I recommend integrating the bits that are useful. Following a standard for the sake of following a standard is always a bad idea.


Geometric design and data extraction are the headline uses for Dynamo and Grasshopper. But they can also be used for model management including automated cleanup tasks.

For example I've written a Dynamo routine that can extract the username of the person who created an element. One of the uses is to rename views to include the user name of who created it.
Another I've created renames layered elements like walls with what materials they are made from.

There are also model checking softwares and add-ins. The open source Revit Model Checker (http://www.biminteroperabilitytools.com/modelchecker) is quite good, if a bit clunky.

Solbri is a dedicated model checker but the overhead of setting up checks and having to export to a different format for checking tends to kills its ROI.


Of course regular auditing is vital. The trick to make auditing work is to not make it too onerous. It is better to do a manageable audit that might miss some things than a comprehensive one that rarely gets done.

Audits should be treated as an active management tool done while work is being undertaken rather than an after the fact tick the box exercise that is too late to be helpful.
A regular quick look over view and type names in a model with some quiet words of advice will be more beneficial than creating a 20 page audit report at the beginning and end of a project.

I'm a fan of getting those doing the work to do the checking and report the results. This makes them more responsible for mistakes and gives them an incentive to avoid them. One way to do this is to ask for regular schedules that demonstrate the model is clean.

The Stature of Cleanliness

Just like a real worksite one of the biggest issues is getting everyone to take cleanliness seriously; that it is not a low priority, that "I didn't have time" is not a valid excuse.

It is important that it is appreciated that a messy model is an indicator of incompetence that leads to mistakes and inefficiencies and ultimately loss of profitability.

That means those at the top have to take it seriously as well and make cleaning up models, keeping them clean, and checking they are clean a part of everyone's job description, even if they do not directly use models.

Directors responsible for a project need to ask whether models are clean;
Project leads need to be confident their project models are clean;
BIM managers must regularly audit or oversee auditing all models;
Model manager must actively clean their model;
Those working in models must follow standards and protocols.

Assuming the BIM Manager is solely responsible for cleanliness will never be enough.
Although appointing a dedicated BIM Safety Officer is perhaps a step too far.

28 February 2017

The Axioms of BIM

BIM can seem complicated at times, but is it really?
Certainly BIM processes and procedures can end up being complicated, just try and and understand some of the standards that are being pushed.

If only there was a way to cut through the guff, to have a simple set of principles that could be applied in any situation where BIM is at issue.

Like in Mathematics. Mathematics is all about logic, but that logic has to be based on something, has to start somewhere. This is where Axioms come in. An Axiom is "a self-evident truth that requires no proof". Maybe that is a step too far for BIM. But what about a "universally accepted principle or rule".

Axioms have to be basic otherwise they are hard to apply. Euclid's first for geometry is "A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points.", the second "Any straight line segment can be extended indefinitely in a straight line."

Could we do the same for BIM? Have some "universally accepted principles."


First we need to be clear about what we are talking about, what we mean by BIM.

I wrote a post about this back in 2012 - What Does BIM Mean to You?
Hopefully by now we are beyond arguing about personal interpretations. Also back then discussion was more centered on buildings and the particular form of model used. BIM has moved on since then so I think a more universal definition is warranted.
BIM is a generic term for anything that involves software that directly associates data with geometric information.
The term BIM is used to describe the thing - the Building Information Model, the process - Building Information Modelling and management - Building Information Management.
Usually BIM applies to buildings, or facilities, but may be applied to other things like infrastructure and GIS (Geographical Information System). Really anything in the built environment that has a physical form and meaningful data.


So now we are on the same page what are the essential axioms we can use to apply to BIM topics and issues.

1.    BIM can be used by anyone for anything.

BIM is not limited to certain purposes or particular groups.
BIM is not just for design, construction or operation. It is not just for design analysis, clash detection, facilities management. Nor is is just for buildings, infrastructure or GIS. The data in BIM models is agnostic, it doesn't care who uses it or for what purpose.
It can be used to educate, to inform, in contracts, to create VR, for disaster planning, even preparing terrorist attacks (hence the need for PAS1192-5).

Allied with this is there is no theoretical limit to the type of data. If there is data that you would find useful you can add it (or pay someone to add it). Just don't expect someone else to do it for free - see Axiom 2.

2.    The BIM you do directly benefits what you do.

If not, you are doing someone else’s work for them.
The reason you use BIM software and processes is to improve the efficiency and quality of the work you do and are responsible for.

If you don't think you are, apply Axiom 1 - BIM can be used for anything, and work out how it could benefit what you do.

This Axiom is not just about personal gain. This is an important aspect of BIM. Processes where each participant is benefiting will always be more robust, have greater take up, and longevity.

But more importantly it is critical participants only work within their area of expertise and responsibility. Architect's should not use BIM to do structural analysis. Design professionals and contractors should not be responsible for providing data that is specifically structured for FM purposes.
Providing data to others is fine, but providing data that is fit for someone else's purpose is a step too far.
And unnecessary. Structured data is accessible no matter how it is structured. Standards may help if those standards are adequate, but lack of standards does not make it an impossible task.

Contractors should be responsible for extracting the data they need for construction from design consultants data, FM consultants should be responsible for extracting the data they need for operations from contractor's data, realtors responsible for extracting the data they need for sales from FM data, etc...

So if you find yourself in a situation where what you are doing is of no benefit to what you do, you are within your rights to say no, - we don't do that, or demand to be paid to do it.

Conversely, if you are doing it for your own purposes and someone else is benefiting from it, you give them free access to it, after all it is not costing you anything.

3.    BIM replaces or enhances something you already do.

BIM is something you do instead of other less efficient and less accurate methods.
If you are following Axiom 2 - you are using BIM for your own benefit, you will be using it to do things you were already responsible for.

You don't draw in Autocad AND model in ArchiCAD, you don't manually create a schedule in Excel AND create the schedule in Revit.
You don't do a structural design by linking an analysis package to your model AND calculate it all out with pen, paper and calculator.
You don't use a BIM model and a total station to set out ceiling hangers AND measure them out with a measuring tape.
You don't have a room full of drawings & folders AND have an integrated FM database.

This also applies to management. There may be a new position called BIM Manager, but it isn't a new profession. It's a manager who uses BIM to do the things managers do already.

BIM is a tool to get things done. It is not a thing in itself. If you are doing BIM for no measurable purpose you are wasting your time.

4.    BIM is not possible without BIM capable software.

BIM is fundamentally a technology of a particular type of computer software.
BIM capable software is software that, as a minimum, can store and manipulate geometric information and associate data to that geometry. Software that only does geometry (CAD, SketchUp, Rhino, etc) or just manages data (databases, spreadsheets, etc) are not BIM capable.

BIM is often described as a process, but it is a process of managing BIM capable software. It may involve only managing the output and exchange of that software, but to do that effectively you need an understanding of the abilities and limitations of the software involved. BIM Management ignorant of software issues is nothing more than management by wishful thinking.

There are some who think mandating "OpenBIM" means software becomes irrelevant.
OpenBIM may be developed by committees with high ideals, but it is still software (or software format), it still has a fixed form that people have to try and use to get things done. BIM softwares that are used in the real world have to be able to interact with "OpenBIM" formats or BIM processes will not be possible.

When it comes to BIM you always have to consider the impact of the softwares being used.

5.    BIM works best with Collaboration.

Sharing your data means others share their data with you.
BIM works best if your combine it with collaboration with others, but you can still use BIM without any collaboration.

An architect can use Revit to just create drawings and schedules but never give the model to anyone. The architect is still doing BIM, benefiting from it by being more efficient and accurate, even though there is no collaboration.

If you think about it BIM can't just be collaboration. If none of the collaborators produce or can offer BIM, how can there be any collaboration? There is nothing to collaborate with.

Collaboration is a secondary consideration. Establishing what BIM will be done (Axiom 1), that there is a benefit (Axiom 2), and that it is doing something that it is required because it is already being done (Axiom 3), has to be done first.

But once that happens collaboration is definitely low hanging fruit.

Consider the example above. If the architect share their model with, say, a quantity surveyor who uses the model to measure quantities, the architect will get costing advice much quicker and more often (as will the client), leading to the architect wasting less time on abortive work.


Of course there are other considerations than just the Axioms when looking at BIM.
Some examples I've seen are:
  • Whether the effort or expense is worth the outcome.
  • Whether it is possible with current technology and skill sets.
  • Whether there enough time in the program for implementation.

But these are not principles about BIM, they are problems to overcome.
  • If it is not worth the effort, how could the effort be reduced, or the outcome enhanced to make it more valuable? 
  • If it is not currently possible when will it be possible, or what is possible now, what is practical now?
  • Compare how much extra time is required against the benefits. Can the program be adjusted to allow more time upfront?


So next time you are in a discussion about BIM keep in mind the BIM Axioms, they may provide a quick answer to a silly proposition.

To recap the BIM Axioms are:

  1. BIM can be used by anyone for anything.
  2. The BIM you do directly benefits what you do.
  3. BIM replaces or enhances something you already do.
  4. BIM is not possible without BIM capable software.
  5. BIM works best with collaboration.

Have a go at this quiz to see how easy it is (answers below).

Which axiom applies to each of the following:

A.   You wouldn't use BIM for that.
B.   It's your job to give me the data I need.
C.   BIM is a whole lot of extra work.
D.   It doesn't matter which software you use for BIM.
E.   We can't use BIM because the contract doesn't have collaboration clauses (is not IPD).

(A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5)

Supplementary quiz for the dedicated:

A.   You can do BIM with CAD software.
B.   It is extra work to get our schedules out of Revit.
C.   The primary purpose of BIM is for facility operations.
D.   We can't use BIM because there is no BIM Execution Plan.
E.   COBie doesn't cost anything.

(A=4, B=3, C=1, D=5, E=2)

06 December 2016

Where is BIM in Education

Recently I went on-line and had a look at the subject offerings of the four university level design schools in my home town. I wanted to see what they were offering in terms of BIM education, and by extension what could I expect from new graduates.

I could not find any mention of BIM at all - not a thing.

Mind you there was little or no detail information on individual subjects, so there may be BIM buried somewhere. Still, I wonder how a prospective student who wants to get a good grounding in BIM chooses where to go.

But I get the distinct feeling there is no, or only cursory BIM. You can tell from the subject offerings.

The "Computing" major at one school is described as for:
"... students who want to develop strong professional capabilities in programming and development of digital artifacts. You will develop strong technical skills in the areas of media computation, data manipulation and visualisation, interaction design, and usability."
Subjects include Calculus, Algebra, WEB technology and Graphics and Computation. Nothing about virtual construction or building data management.

Another major, "Digital Technologies" has:
"a special focus on digital media artefacts such as web-based media, mobile media, and interactive media."
Again, nothing remotely like BIM. Although this major is no doubt useful for presenting "artist's impressions" digitally. Which is, apparently, quite useful for marketing. I'm surprised they don't have social media in there. Perhaps they haven't caught up with that yet, after all its only been around for 12 years.

Another subject at another school, "Design Communications (Digital)" equates CAD, BIM and graphic softwares as achieving equal outcomes:
"... students will be asked to work through 3 software packages: AutoCAD, Revit Architecture and Photoshop."
which is not surprising because the expected outcome are drawings and geometric models:
"Computation and representation; 2 and 3 dimensional computer models of forms – solids, surfaces; number – dimensions, text; geometry – point, line, plane; scale – proportion, composition, reproduction; and material – hatching, texture, shade. Navigation and scale, perspective and point of view; ordering and referencing drawings, simple rendering and lighting." 
There is no appreciation that Revit can do so much more than merely create drawings. The depressing thing is this subject is flagged as a BIM subject, presumably because it includes Revit.

Some schools even have subjects like "Drawing Studio" and "Architectural Drawing". I can't help feeling that there is this belief in academia that the core skill required for architects is to understand drawing conventions. Drawing may be useful, but surely it is just one of the many tools now available to communicate a design to others.
Of more concern is their belief that the sole use for digital technology is to do drawings, whether archaic technical drawings from CAD, or 3D rendered "artists impressions".
The idea that computers could be used to mimic reality, to create virtual architecture, seems to have bypassed the practice of teaching in academia.


The lack of BIM could just be the conservatism of universities, a lack of awareness of anything new. Or the belief that anything new, while worthy of research, doesn't apply to them.

But it seems deeper than that. BIM software is actively resisted.

I came across a blog post at revitpure.com, Should Architecture Students use Revit? It spoke of the US but resonates with what I see in my home town. Some quotes from architecture students:
"The professor who runs the second year is pretty anti-Revit for her students"
"Some professors strictly forbid it. [...] They did mark down projects that would use the base Revit doors, windows and railings."
I didn't realise architecture involved the designing of custom doors, windows and railings. I though it involved the arrangement of spaces, form composition and satisfaction of user requirements (among other things).

The difference between a building drawn with SketchUP, Rhino or 3D Max and one modelled with Revit or Archicad is that the latter is a closer representation of an actual buildable building, while the former is just a representation of an idea.
Now sometimes a representation of an idea is all that is required. It depends on what is being taught, and what is being assessed. And I can understand the argument that BIM software can sometimes get in the way.
Students obviously have limited skill sets, they can't learn everything at once. So a choice has to be made. Either let them explore concepts and ideas and then teach them how to turn them into buildings, or teach them the skills they will require (the craft) first, and then let them explore concepts and ideas that they can apply their craft to.
In the first case you would initially ban BIM software, in the second you would initially accept boring designs with "base Revit doors, windows and railings".
Most schools use the first method, because concepts and ideas are fun, and they don't want to put new students off. Which is fine. The problem is they don't seem to get around to properly teach the craft of architecture, how to turn an idea into a buildable building.

It might be argued BIM is only suitable for advanced students, those in upper years or doing a masters. But the offerings in postgraduate courses are limited to parametric design, including at one school "designing sonic spaces".
The problem is parametric design is not necessarily, and rarely, BIM. Although it is kind of BIM, it uses associated data just like BIM, it is not necessarily BIM - a representation of a buildable building. It maybe of just planes, it may not be supported, how it integrates with the rest of building may be unresolved. A whole lot of other stuff has to be done to turn an algorithmic design into a piece of architecture or a real structure that is buildable.


Let's face the elephant in the room - BIM is boring.

After all, BIM is just another way of doing things that have always been done.

Sure BIM does things a little better - once you know how to use it. Like being quicker, reducing errors and leaving fewer things unresolved. But surely these things can be done just by being more competent, being more careful, spending a bit more time, by "talking to each other more". Why learn (or teach) a whole new way of doing things for such an unexciting outcome?

Yes, BIM, in itself, is boring. The softwares are complex and take time to master. Dealing with rows and rows of data is boring. Having to think about how high things are, what level they are on, what a wall is constructed of when all you want to do is a plan is tedious. Not being able to use a window or a piece of joinery as a door is annoying.

But there is a pay off.

When you use BIM software to model you are creating a building. Not a real building mind you, a virtual building, but still a building. When you use CAD or 3D modelling software you are only creating drawings or geometric models, a representation of what a building might look like. With BIM it is what it will actually look like. Much more exciting. Something I would have thought valuable in an educational context.

I don't understand why educationists haven't jumped on BIM as way of teaching. Take architecture; using it as a tool to show students how buildings fit together, as a way of assessing what a student's design will actually look like as a building (rather than what they imagine it would look like). Likewise structural design; BIM can link analysis with a model of structural elements directly. Change either and the effects are immediately obvious. Similarly for MEP. Surely that is a fantastic teaching tool.

I appreciate the BIM software we have doesn't always make this that easy or that smooth a process, particularly for the engineering disciplines. But where are the people in academia that are excited about the possibilities? Excited enough to actually use it, rather than just write research papers?


The four schools in my town is not a big sample so I did a bit of research looking at papers on BIM Education. It is quite depressing.

Many are just surveys. Australia based NatSpec have an annually updated report, The International BIM Education report which is a compilation of  responses from "a global group of parties". It is a compilation of expert opinions rather than a comprehensive survey, but provides a good over-view.

A recent paper (May 2016), BIM Curriculum Design in Architecture, Engineering and Construction Education: a Systematic Review published by the US based Journal of Information Technology in Construction provides a review of published papers on BIM Education. One of its findings is that:
"the number of AEC programs that offer elective BIM courses is significantly higher than programs that require BIM courses for a degree."
It seems academia is treating BIM as an "extra", not a core skill required by future construction professionals.

Here in Australia there has been a serious attempt to progress BIM Education. Their web site codeBIM.com has a range of resources and the start of a systematic approach. Unfortunately it seems to be in abeyance. References are quite old, and the last active initiative was in 2010 when they had a one off grant from the federal government Office of Learning and Teaching.  They have their own survey of BIM education in Australian schools, but it is from 2011.
The main focus of this group is (was) in the collaborative aspect of BIM, where students of different disciplines do a group project together. While a valid part of BIM education it is not the only aspect, and probably one of the most difficult to introduce due to the required coordination across departments.

The feeling I got from the limited papers I read is that BIM education in academia is going backwards. Initiatives started years ago didn't develop into anything permanent, one-off pilots never seem to go anywhere.

Is it just all too hard?


BIM is a broad term and means different things to different parties. To some it is the process that makes BIM, to some a container of information about a building, to others the data that can be extracted. To an architect BIM is a model, to a facilities manager it is data about equipment.
Not all aspects have to be taught to the same level to everyone, although everyone should be aware of what others require.

In general BIM can be divided into three broad categories:


Virtual Design & Construct is what is sounds like. BIM software is used to create a virtual building, then that virtual building is used to inform and manage construction.
A Revit or ArchiCAD model is a VDC model. A CAD file is not, a 3D SketchUP or Rhino model is not. VDC models not only have data embedded in them; a door knows what its fire rating is, they also have intelligence; a door knows which wall it is in and what floor it is on.
VDC models can be used for analysis. The virtual building can be tested before it is built, from thermal performance to crowd behaviour. And all this testing means designs can be optimised. Instead of just "doing a design", many alternatives can be tried and assessed to get the best outcome.


Collaboration is an ideal rather than a thing. The idea is that if VDC models are shared, or constructed together cooperatively, there will be greater integration of the various skill sets brought to the building by the different parties involved.
Each participant incorporates their work into a VDC model so that others can use the combined information in the VDC model to inform their work.
If the architect can see the mechanical engineer's ductwork in their model it is easier to ensure their ceilings accommodate them, conversely if the mechanical engineer can see the architect's ceiling and structure above they can work towards their ducts fitting within the space between them.

BIM Management

BIM Management covers the management of BIM processes, and the management of BIM data. There is overall BIM Management, the process of coordinating all the participants "collaborating". This extends from BIM Management Plans to novel contractual arrangements like Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).
BIM data management is the managing of data structures, extraction and formatting. The skills needed for estimating and facilities management, to name a few.


BIM Management

BIM Management is probably the most advanced area of BIM education. Students are not going to be going straight into BIM Management roles on graduation so it is a 'need to know' rather than a 'need to do' subject. Economical lectures and reading assignments are generally adequate to cover it. Guest lectures by unpaid industry lobbyists even cheaper.

Because it is so easy to provide there is a danger BIM Management education goes too far. Understanding esoteric standards that no-one actually uses in practice is pretty much a waste of time.
As are the ravings of BIM evangelists on the Utopian future that their brand of BIM will bring.

As this is the only BIM most students are exposed to it is not surprising the majority of BIM research done by postgraduates has little relationship to actual BIM use in the industry, not withstanding the unending LinkedIn requests by students and researchers to fill out BIM use surveys.


Typically Collaboration subjects create multi-disciplinary teams, for example students of architecture, structure and/or construction, and get them to work on a single project or task. For educators Collaboration is the least boring part of BIM, it is just like the real world the students will soon be working in.

Except it is not really about BIM. Collaboration subjects can be run without BIM. There is no reason they can't use CAD, or hand drawings for that matter, and still collaborate.
I suspect this is why Collaboration subjects have gained some initial traction. People ignorant of BIM can see the benefits without having to understand the BIM part of it.

When BIM processes are used - sharing VDC models and data, there are BIM education aspects to it. Learning to create models others can use, and how to deal with the models of others is a necessary BIM skill. But not as fundamental as VDC.

I suspect the failure of  Collaboration subjects to catch on is not entirely due to logistics of coordinating the timetables of several disparate courses (the usual excuse). The lack of competently created VDC models by participants, who would have had very little education in VDC model creation, have a large part to play. Then add in the novelty of working for the first time with other disciples (these subjects are only ever run once). I'm not saying these programs were a failure, just that by themselves they seem to not have inspired enough confidence to progress BIM education.


VDC is the core of BIM. Without VDC models BIM is not possible. And no-one can fully comprehend BIM without an understanding of how VDC models work.
So even if you ignore the fact that future design professionals will need VDC skills to get a job, to teach BIM you have to teach students how VDC models work, and the best way to do that is to get them involved in making VDC models.

It is not about learning a particular software, any proper BIM authoring software (and there are many which claim to be but are not) will be adequate to teach the fundamentals of BIM.

The problem is many in academia treat BIM authoring software as if it is another version of CAD. It is not. It is fundamentally different. CAD is so dumb BIM software can print CAD files just like it can print PDFs or paper drawings.

When you teach BIM using software like Revit or ArchiCAD you are not merely instructing students on the commands required to produce lines or 3D solids, you are teaching them fundamental concepts like what a door is, that a wall is not the same as a roof, that stairs have limits on their dimensions, that if you remove a column the building will fall down.

Academia has to get away from the current practice of teaching BIM authoring software to merely create drawings or geometric models. To stop churning out graphic artists and mathematicians and start producing building design professionals. Professionals with a good understanding of their craft.


Because VDC is so fundamental it can not be treated as an extra subject. It has to be integrated, it has to replace existing programs.

Within subjects where BIM can be used in the real world the teaching of BIM processes should replace traditional processes, not merely added as an optional extra. I find it strange that academia, who should be looking to the future, use the fact that BIM is not yet currently universally used in industry as an excuse not to teach it.

Anywhere that drawing or graphics is taught should be replaced with VDC subjects. "Communication", graphic and drawing subjects need to be replaced with VDC modelling where the emphasis is on creating virtual buildings rather than representations of buildings.
Computer and "Digital" subjects must include skills beyond mere design generation, and the new kid on the block, Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented reality (AR). Data management skills, using simulation and analysis, are far more useful than just being able to generate parts of an overall design, or represent your design "interactively".

Frank's sketch of Bilbao

Will that mean the end of drawing? No. Drawing is still, and will always be, the quickest way for a person to communicate an idea. But to turn that idea into a building, into Architecture, the quickest way is to model it as a building. Not do more drawings.

Bilbao as a model
VDC software doesn't mean the death of drawing. These softwares easily create drawings. They may be too information rich for some, but they are still drawings.
I'm old enough to have used log tables and slide rulers in exams. By necessity exams questions had to be kept simple because of the time calculations took. Now calculators are allowed and questions can be much more sophisticated, and by extension more complex concepts can be taught. VDC software does a similar thing. By removing the need to draw everything more time can be spent on design issues and analysis. Letting software create the output also standardises results across students, making it easier to assess design ability rather than graphic skills.


As I touched on above, I don't understand why educators are not considering using BIM processes to extend and improve what they do.
The same model checking and BIM processes we in the industry use can be used to assess student's work.

If students submit a VDC model then:
  • it can be viewed from any angle, it can be cut and sliced to easily check for completeness and analyse how it works. 
  • schedules can be created to check the brief has been met: area schedules, room schedules, efficiencies, etc. Also code requirements: ventilation, daylight, minimum door widths, fire rating etc. 
  • model checking can be used to assess code compliance, realistic spatial allowances (e.g. stair widths, wall thickness, structural and duct sizes), etc.
  • analysis used to check energy use, daylight and sunlight penetration, fire performance, crowd behaviour, etc. 

Just like in the real world use of BIM can improve the quality of student's work by making deficiencies more obvious, and as a bonus a lot of checking tedium can be dispensed with.

This is what I don't get. Academia, for example, will do research papers on Singapore's use of BIM for automating building code compliance, or even BIM Based Architectural Design Quality Checking, but it doesn't occur to them to do it for themselves - to use BIM to automate their own processes.

The secret of BIM is you use it for your own purposes, you don't specifically do it to benefit others, because just the act of creating BIM means you create something that others can use.
For BIM to work it has to be evolutionary - each step has to produce immediate benefit for it to progress. That starts with education. Use BIM for educational purposes and the students of that education will be BIM proficient. There would be no need for separate "BIM education".

For BIM to take hold in academia what we need now are some trailblazers to show how BIM can benefit the needs of education.

And for pity's sake stop bugging us with industry BIM surveys, spend some time looking in your own backyard.