by Richard McPartland
Last amended on
14 August 2017
The Periodic Table of BIM serves as an at-a-glance guide to the steps you need to take to ensure a successful BIM implementation.
Following on from the launch of the table, we’re developing a series of articles looking at the table groupings and the terms within. The seventh grouping focusses on ENABLING TOOLS.
Other articles in this series
The ENABLING TOOLS are responsible for bringing your Building Information Modelling deliverables to life. They’ll help build up a range of graphical, non-graphical and associated project documentation throughout the lifespan of your project in sufficient detail that they can be used and queried throughout.
BIM Toolkit (Bt)
The NBS BIM Toolkit is a free-to-use project management tool that allows you define who is doing what and when on any construction project.
By providing step-by-step help to define, manage and validate responsibility for information development and delivery at each stage of the asset lifecycle, the toolkit is an indispensable way of meeting the requirements of Level 2 BIM.
The toolkit was developed by NBS for the UK Government as one of the key deliverables of Level 2 BIM.
Find out more about the NBS BIM Toolkit.
Level of Detail (Lod)
Level of Information (Loi)
Level of Detail refers to the level of graphical data present at a particular stage of work.
See: BIM Levels of Detail
Level of Information refers to the level of non-graphical data at a particular stage of work.
See: BIM Levels of Information
You can see how these levels build up as a project progresses in the table below:
|Level of Data
|| Level of information
Approx dimensions and concept graphics for visualisations
The project requires a boiler. Initial options described.
Generic boiler system, space arrangement, clearance zones, input/output.
System description and initial requirements specified for performance of boiler
Development of detail, dimensional constraints for technical design, materials and finishes.
System selection and detailed performance requirements with reference to standards.
Technical design proposals, detailed spatial coordination of related systems.
Technical system specification, including components to permit product selection.
As-built installation and co-ordination, future use as maintenance information.
Detailed specification of manufacturer’s product including testing, operation and maintenance.
The tools you use, in collaboration, should allow you to build up ever increasing fidelity of data as you make more decisions on your project.
When it comes to Building Information Modelling, classification is a systematic arrangement of headings and sub-headings for aspects of construction work including the nature of assets, construction elements, systems and products.
Uniclass 2015 is a unified classification system for the UK industry covering all construction sectors. It contains consistent tables classifying items of all scales from a facility such as a railway down to products such as a CCTV camera in a railway station.
Uniclass forms part of the NBS BIM Toolkit as increasingly used by a range of software tools to provide classification information.
Analysis Tools (An)
With a wealth of digital data at your disposal making sense of it all and what it is telling you is crucial to getting the most out of the BIM process. BIM analysis tools allow you to perform a range of analyses in the design and development of an asset at various points during its life.
For example, early in the project an energy model may provide answers when it comes to orientation, form and occupancy levels and the asset’s energy requirements. Later on thermal performance, wind flow, lighting levels and pedestrian flow may be of interest.
A range of analysis tools are available – some standalone and others that integrate with another software product.
Computer-Aided Facilities Management (Cafm)
One of the benefits of BIM is that it encourages a whole-life approach to construction projects and should provide a wealth of data that can be handed on to those responsible for facilities management.
A CAFM software tool typically provides the ability to manage, report, track and plan facilities functions. This in turn allows a facilities team to ensure the organisation’s assets are fully utilised at the lowest possible cost as well as the operational and strategic management of the building.
CADM systems may include (or interface with) CAD systems, BIM Models and Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS).
Cost tools (Ct)
Many BIM authoring platforms can automatically calculate quantification of items, areas, surfaces and volumes of the asset and export to spreadsheet but they cannot produce a cost estimate.
Tools used for quantity takeoff and estimating are usually linked to BIM authoring tools via plug-ins. These area able to export embedded BIM information into a quantity takeoff tool to automatically extract information and quantities from the 3D geometric data.
Quantity takeoff typically updates automatically as the base model is updated by the project team and this, in turn, will inform cost estimation.
A tool like NBS Cost Tracking allows you to add valuations, perform tender analysis and track construction phase costs.
Programme tools (Pg)
Programme tools are used to schedule works and used by contractors on a project.
Administration tools (Ad)
Not every tool is unique to BIM. BIM projects can easily make use of the kind of digital files in use in everyday office life. From portable document format (pdf) files to spreadsheets to word processing tools, sometimes these formats are better equipped to provide additional information at various stages in your project and they can easily be linked to from appropriate places. While there are a range of well-known packages that can output these kinds of files, many free-to-use packages can also export to these formats too.
Authoring tools (Au)
BIM authoring tools (sometimes called BIM platforms) are tools used in the design for generating data for multiple uses. The common users of these tools are: designers, 2D to 3D conversion teams, and subcontractors.
Although generic authoring tools exist covering the basics of architecture (structural and MEP, for example), some tools are specific to a discipline. Parametric authoring tools use a combination of graphics and information. Such tools are used during the design phase until the construction documents phase. Vendors including Autodesk, Graphisoft, Bentley and Tekla are among the main players in this sector – most tools work in a similar way but will have their own idiosyncrasies.
When choosing an authoring tool you need to think about interoperability with other tools and those used across the supply chain – some may not offer such functionality such as the import and export of Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) information.
Model viewers and checkers (Mo)
Many collaboration and construction management tools have inbuilt model viewers. That said, with so many software tools that can be used to produce models, and given the need for heavy collaboration, most software vendors provide viewers or checkers to allow contributors across the supply chain to access files in native formats without any potential loss of fidelity that might come from exporting down to an open standard.
Many of these viewers and checkers are free, with some premium versions offering additional functionality such as model checking for clash-detection purposes based on rule-based checking for compliance and validation of all objects in the model.
See also: Interoperability.
See: BIM Task Group – Free BIM Viewing Tools
Specification tools (Sp)
The coordinated data environment (Cde) will include graphical and non-graphical information and a range of associated documentation.
Specification tools have a crucial role to play in developing the non-graphical information which will evolve over the project timeline.
A range of specification tools are available, with the more sophisticated ones allowing the project team to co-ordinate the specification and design using plugins (or add-ons) that add this functionality to your BIM authoring tool(s). Some tools will also allow for information to be published in a range of different views, reports and file formats, such as XML or data schemas like COBie.
File sharing and collaboration (Fl)
File sharing and collaboration are at the heart of the Common Data Environment (Cde) that provides document management. Many solutions for document management will run as applications in the cloud allowing you to work from your desktop, the internet or a mobile device. These tools should allow the project team to share a wide range of information including contracts, schedules, specifications, reports and model information. These tools will vary in sophistication – some offering simple upload and export functions, others providing deeper auditing and security controls.