NIBS BIM Initiatives

Last updated: 06-27-2010

Building Smart Alliance including International (IAI) Sites

The acronym "BIM," is historically linked in the minds of many to 3-dimensional and now 4D (time) and 5D (cost) virtual modeling of buildings. BIM, however, has the capability and even the responsibility to be much more.

"Building" in this usage is a noun referring to the structure more than the process and accordingly, current BIM examples tend to be virtual models of individual or small clusters of buildings executed in proprietary software for the purpose of supporting the design, detailing and construction phases of the lifecycle. Used within this scope, BIM speaks primarily to architects, architectural engineers, specifiers, estimators, scientists interested in performance modeling, constructors and construction vendors, computer application vendors interested in this business space, and owners as they participate in the new-building development process. The future of BIM modeling is to expand the information model to include more of the life cycle phases (ie: real property commerce, maintenance and operations, environmental simulation, etc.), to standardize life cycle process definitions and associated exchanges of information, and to standardize information content so that meanings and granularity are clear and consistent. This expanded scope definition will make BIM useful to a wider community including, for example, real property managers, appraisers, brokers, mortgage bankers, facility assessors, facility managers, maintenance and operations engineers, safety and security personnel as incident responders, landscape architects, infrastructure engineers and operators, and others outside the business verticals associated with new building design and construction.

Although BIM applications and practices in current use are vastly superior to manual and 2D-only CAD methodologies, current usage of BIM technologies and techniques must be improved further. Currently, processes and content are locally negotiated on a project-by-project basis and data sets (i.e.: models) are not necessarily capable of being used for different purposes through unassisted machine-to-machine and application-to-application exchanges. To realize needed end-to-end efficiencies in the capital facilities industry these are the characteristics that are needed in BIM methods.

Ironically, many BIM applications are already capable of supporting standardized interoperable processes and content if they existed. But in the absence of standards and associated best practice definitions, this support is only utilized on an ad-hoc, project-by-project basis and often is re-negotiated and/or recreated for each services contract and/or project.

It is true that associating BIM with the development and use of 3D virtual building modeling techniques and technologies can yield very productive results. However, when used in this context, BIM tends to be focused on data and technology standards during design and construction and may not fully realize the potential for information-based, interoperable business processes related to "building" (the verb). The application of BIM is pertinent to at least all the following participants in the facilities industry:

  • Owners—High level summary information about their facilities
  • Planners—Existing information about physical site(s) and corporate program needs
  • Realtors—Information about a site or facility to support purchase or sale
  • Appraisers—Information about the facility to support valuation
  • Mortgage Bankers—Information about demographics, corporations, and viability
  • Designers—Planning and site information
  • Engineers—Electronic model from which to import into design and analysis software
  • Cost & Quantity Estimators—Electronic model to obtain accurate quantities
  • Specifiers—Intelligent objects from which to specify and link to later phases
  • Contracts & Lawyers—More accurate legal descriptions as well as more accurate to defend or on which to base litigation
  • Construction Contractors—Intelligent objects for bidding and ordering and a place to store gained information
  • Sub-Contractors—Clearer communication and same support for contractors
  • Fabricators—Can use intelligent model for numerical controls for fabrication
  • Code Officials—Code checking software can process model faster and more accurately
  • Facility Managers—Provides product, warranty and maintenance information
  • Maintenance & Sustainment—Easily identify products for repair parts or replacement
  • Renovation & Restoration—Minimizes unforeseen conditions and the resulting cost
  • Disposal & Recycling—Better knowledge of what is recyclable
  • Scoping, Testing, Simulation—Electronically build facility and eliminate conflicts
  • Safety & Occupational Health—Knowledge of what materials are in use and MSDS
  • Environmental & NEPA—Improved information for environmental impact analysis
  • Plant Operations—3D visualization of processes
  • Energy, LEED—Optimized energy analysis more easily accomplished allows for more review of alternatives - impact of re-siteing by 5 degrees for example
  • Space & Security—Intelligent objects in 3D provide better understanding of vulnerabilities
  • Network Managers—3D physical network plan is invaluable for troubleshooting
  • CIO's—Basis for better business decisions and information about existing infrastructure
  • Risk Management—Better understanding of potential risks and how to avoid on minimize
  • Occupant Support—Visualization of facility for finding places - people can't read floor plans
  • First Responders—Minimize loss of life and property with timely and accurate information Each of the above requires information as well as creates information for others. The optimized BIM would only contain the information needed by others, however since this is currently an expanding concept it is likely better to err on the side of collecting too much information.

Each of the above requires information as well as creates information for others. The optimized BIM would only contain the information needed by others, however since this is currently an expanding concept it is likely better to err on the side of collecting too much information.

National BIM Standard - United States™ (NBIMS-US™)

The work of the National BIM Standard Committee (NBIMS), a committee of the National Institute for Building Sciences (NIBS), is to knit together the broadest and deepest constituency ever assembled for the purpose of addressing the losses and limitations associated with errors and inefficiencies in the building supply chain¹.

The current NBIMS Charter signatories (a list of which can be seen at the NBIMS web site) represent most, of the active end-user constituencies as well as many of the professional associations, consortia, and technical and associated services vendors who support them.

Several organizations have initiatives underway to develop data technology (i.e., interfaces, encodings, schema, etc., that enable different technologies to "plug and play"), generic business process workflows and content standards. One of the most important tasks for NBIMS is to coordinate these efforts and harmonize work between all organizations with similar products and interests. Many professional organizations are actively endorsing NBIMS as well as providing subject matter expertise and important development resources. In addition, over 300 applications now support IFC's and most BIM application vendors have indicated their support for BIM standards and are participating on the committee both in an advisory capacity and through participation in test bed demonstrations. Lists of the active organizations are found at the end of this resource page.

NBIM standards will merge data interoperability standards, content values and taxonomies, and process definitions to create standards which define "business views" of information needed to accomplish a particular set of functions as well as the information exchange standards between stakeholders. This is significantly different from previous initiatives, which have focused primarily on data-centric approaches. Using business views as guides, NBIMS standards will identify information needed to support these views, appropriate content standards, and provide a technical description that developers can use to provide supporting computer-based applications.

To illustrate this and to give readers a sense of what to expect, here are some of the distinguishing characteristics of and goals for the Committee:

  • The scope and planned products are much more practice-oriented rather than data-centric. Both the organization of and representation on the Committee reflect this intent.
  • The Charter assumes and encourages participants from, and value propositions for, all phases of the building process lifecycle.
  • A primary goal is to maximize value for all process participants involved in the building lifecycle.
  • A primary strategy is to maximize existing research and development through alliances, cross-representation, active testing and prototyping, and an open and inclusive approach to both membership and results. NBIMS will, through memorandums of understanding, recognize and harmonize its work with other standards-development organizations.
  • The Committee has significant representation from government owners, private and government practitioners, vendors, and specialist professionals. It is actively seeking more involvement from, for example, private owners, A/E/C practitioners, property and facility managers, and real property professionals.
  • The Committee supports the view that a building process lifecycle is not a strictly linear process but is a primarily cyclical process with feedback and cycle-to-cycle knowledge accumulation. The best representation of the building process lifecycle is therefore believed to be a business process helix with a central knowledge core and external nodes representing process suppliers and external consumers. Between these three elements exist information interchange "synapses" which require exchange rules and agreements.
A helical building process lifecycle model

A helical building process lifecycle model (used with permission)

  • One of the principal products of the Committee's work will be process standards describing parties to a process and the contracted information exchange requirements between the parties. It has been estimated that about 250 process definitions will eventually be required to support an interoperable building supply chain. Through a spiral development process, NBIMS plans to release developments in packages that will be immediately useful even as each release adds additional and more mature concepts and practices. The first packages are scheduled to be available in late 2006.
A NBIMS scoping diagram showing business processes and exchanges on a backdrop of life-cycle phases

A NBIMS scoping diagram showing business processes and exchanges on a backdrop of life-cycle phases
(© NIBS 2006)

  • NBIMS will support the development of content standards including taxonomy standards such as CSI OmniClass; which provides organized classification of elements important to the building process lifecycle.
  • NBIMS will recognize and facilitate the harmonization of software implementation views as they provide necessary "machine interpretable" data sources to the building information exchange process. buildingSMART™, .ifc, ifcXML, BLIS, AEX, CSI/2 and others are examples of software implementation views.
  • Vendors are actively participating on the Committee because they see value in having consistent and predictable processes to which they may apply their technical solutions. Having to develop, market and maintain products to support multiple, inconsistent processes, content, and interchange methods is expensive and complicates the product development cycle.
  • Though not a CAD standard, NBIMS will address CAD graphic and non-graphic information and processes as well as phases both before and after design and construction (where CAD is most often used). However, the National CAD Standard will continue to be important as, for the foreseeable future, building processes will continue to need standards for 2D drawings as well, and even into the future to define standard reports out of a model.

By now, readers should understand that the work of the National BIM Standards Committee is the next logical step in transforming the building supply chain. The Standard assumes that a paradigm change is required, since the definition of paradigm change is "reforming the underlying pattern or model on which actions are based". Participants in the building supply chain, through standards development and use of existing BIM technologies are already well on the way to changing the underlying patterns and operating practices used during the building lifecycle. But to realize the greatest efficiencies, BIM approaches must be based on broad aggregations of best practices rather than narrow, project-specific, proprietary solutions. By focusing now on the business view of contracted information exchanges and best-use of interoperable data sources, and by expanding the conceptual scope of BIM to include all phases of the building lifecycle, we can realize promised new levels of quality and efficiency.

Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBIE)

COBIE is an IFC reference standard supporting the direct software information exchange and a spreadsheet that can be used to capture COBIE data for both small renovation and capital projects. COBIE may be directly incorporated into existing post-construction data exchanges using existing contract specifications. COBIE data can also be captured during the design and construction process by adding information as it is created. Capturing COBIE data during the project and eliminating paper exchange is expected to significantly decrease existing paper based exchange costs. Owners and construction managers' implementation instructions will allow COBIE data to integrate within existing maintenance, operations, and asset management systems.

National Institute of Building Sciences Council Involvement