24 May 2016

Update: Since this article was first written, all the content from the NBS National BIM Library has moved across to NBS Source.

Taking inspiration from the traditional periodic table of elements, NBS recently launched a visual guide to the key terms and concepts you’re likely to encounter along the road towards BIM implementation.

In the Periodic Table of BIM, we document the stages necessary for closer collaboration (of process and people) by way of the technology, standards and enabling tools that will underpin your efforts.

The original table, published by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, managed to organise 112 named elements (and acknowledge several unnamed ones) using strict rules and hierarchy. Our version sticks to a few guiding principles but is a less rigid affair – broken down into nine groupings with a number of elements in each.

The table is designed to be a useful reference, ideal to print out and stick on a wall or share digitally, and should prompt thinking about areas of BIM-readiness that may need your attention.

You can find out more and download the Periodic Table of BIM at www.theNBS.com/knowledge/periodic-table-of-bim. You’ll also find articles looking at particular table groupings.

The table is designed to be a useful reference, ideal to print out and stick on a wall or share digitally, and should prompt thinking about areas of BIM-readiness that may need your attention.

The table groupings


At the head of the table lies the STRATEGY grouping, home to the BIM Strategy (Bs) element. With strategy at the heart of any successful BIM implementation it’s no surprise to find this at the very top of our table.

Thinking about what you want to achieve from BIM and how and why you might implement a strategy (and, in turn, the underpinning foundations, processes, technology, tools and people) is fundamental to your success.

Your strategy is likely to be unique, heavily reliant on your own key drivers – whether they are to improve decision-making or efficiency, deliver better coordinated information, or simply to reduce paper usage. Drivers acknowledged, what will success look like?


Strategy in place, it’s time to implement the FOUNDATIONS – the bedrock of efficient systems for communication, information exchange, and data transfer that allow advanced BIM processes to be delivered.

In order to develop strong foundations, you’ll also need to consider your approach to managing the production, distribution and quality of construction information in a common data environment (Cde), ensuring everyone can access the same data.

Consider, too, the right procurement routes to set the best environment for collaboration – what approach will you take when it comes to model management, intellectual property rights and data management, responsibilities for errors (given the reliance on supplied data), liabilities and ownership?

Assessing your current BIM capability and capacity (Ca) will allow you to determine your BIM-readiness status and work out what still needs to be done.


BIM and collaborative working go hand in hand, and the COLLABORATION grouping is about developing better and more efficient ways of working.

You’ll need to consider the digital tools (Di) that will allow you to collaborate effectively (and how data might flow between them without loss), as well as people’s attitudes, which may require cultural and behavioural changes (Cu). Ensuring you can use the outputs that someone else within the project team has produced by understanding Interoperability (St) will also be key.


Understanding your current PROCESSES will allow you to determine where improvements can be made. This grouping shows what a best-practice workflow might look like with information that is universally structured, regardless of author.

This ideal is achieved by understanding information requirements during the whole project life cycle – from Assessment and Need (As) and Delivery (De), through to Maintenance and use (Ma) – so that best value is achieved through the whole project timeline.

The Common Data Environment (Cde) is at the very centre, providing the means to collect, store and distribute information among the whole project team, ensuring everyone is working with the same information. Consider information exchange (In) – how, when and in what form is the client requesting it?


PEOPLE are often overlooked when it comes to BIM strategy. As with any process of change management, you need to provide clear communication to your colleagues as to why and how you intend to implement BIM. You’ll need support from senior management and will likely benefit from a series of ‘BIM champions’ to help oil the wheels.

Ideally BIM should be embedded within current workflows and not as a separate entity – given the impact on ‘business as usual’, your comms should be clear and timely. You need to take care to understand the impact of any changes and not to throw out the best bits of current process and procedure.

Make sure that you share success among the team and provide individuals with the support and training that they may require, bearing in mind that some will require more support and encouragement than others. Lead by example, and give reassurances and support to those that need it.


Ensure that you have the right TECHNOLOGY to support your BIM aims and objectives. While BIM is more than just cool technology, it is nevertheless an important factor for successful implementation. Alongside software and hardware deliberations, as you move into a digital environment, consider how and where data is stored and the best way to share and publish information in a security-minded way.


Get to know the STANDARDS, procedures and supplementary documents available to you that will assist with your strategy and help achieve collaborative BIM.

An increasing number of countries are embracing BIM – either as a top-down approach such as mandating BIM at a government level, or a bottom-up approach such as a demand from the supply chain. Elements in this grouping are supported by robust supporting documents, standards, frameworks and protocols, many of which the UK Government has made available in mandating BIM in the UK.

Try to start with the end result in mind and have the needs of the client and Facilities Management (Fm) team to the fore. The Briefing (Br) element considers BS 8536-1:2015 and matters relating to projects for the delivery of assets/facilities according to defined operational requirements. BS 1192:4 defines the methodology for transferring COBie information – for example, between the various parties involved in a project.

Enabling Tools

Consider the ENABLING TOOLS that will help design, develop, deliver and maintain the built asset. You may require a number of different tools for specific tasks and functions as no one piece of software will meet all your needs, so think carefully. Ensure that the tools you use are interoperable and allow you to exchange information with existing or new systems and for information to flow from one party to another.


Before you make any investment, it is worth considering what tools are available to you for free.

The final grouping in the table acknowledges the RESOURCES that are available to you and access to information. Complementing paid-for Books (Bo) are free-to-access Blog Posts (Bl), Video (Vi) content from file-sharing sites such as YouTube, and also Surveys and Reports (Su) such as the annual NBS National BIM Report.

The internet and social media have created a valuable online community of support. There are many online forums and user groups, all sharing helpful hints and guidance as well as a range of face-to-face events.