The requirement that by 2016 all centrally procured Government projects shall be using fully collaborative BIM is fast approaching, and with an increasing amount of assets being ‘built with BIM’ we have a fantastic opportunity to revolutionize the way in which users interact with the information contained in those assets.

To achieve this, digital building blocks that are used to create virtual assets needs to be standardized. These building blocks are commonly known as BIM Objects, essentially a digital representation of real life construction product that form a built asset. Unlike consumer products, there is very little information standardization between construction products, which makes comparing them very difficult.

Information exchange

To be able to provide more efficient and accessible BIM objects, is it essential that a standardized approach is taken. Creating digital buildings needs a consistent kit of parts that can yield all of the benefits that standardization brings. Objects will be easy to source and to use, become comparable and will be interoperable.

By standardizing the information within objects, they can be compared and an appropriate selection for the project made. Common approaches to the modelling of the physical characteristics of products make the BIM objects simple to use, affording the designer a reliable, consistent and intuitive experience. The hard work is in the detail; for example, BIM objects in IFC format. These IFC files are manipulated so that they have their information properties consistently grouped and organized; this makes their use in various BIM software straightforward and consistent. Another example is the use of standardized properties. The benefits of this become obvious when using objects from more than one manufacturer in the same project. When creating schedules that span products from many manufacturers, the use of a standardized property set enables information relating to each of these products to be displayed in a single column, much in the same way as the number of megapixels is listed when comparing cameras. This is the start of the common data environment.

Published standards

In the world of BIM, the BIM Task Group has published a variety of standards, including COBie 2012 UK externallink, PAS 1192-2 externallink. These encourage standardisation and are focused on the production, exchange and use of information as the means of delivering improved performance across the whole life of a building. Vast amounts of information are created during the construction phase, but much is lost or wasted. We need to safeguard against information loss and start managing and analysing information digitally. BIM is not architecture; it is data management.

This standardisation of information is at the heart of the UK BIM strategy. The information exchange facilitated by the staged COBie data drops is all about collecting information that can be compared in various ways. With COBie, construction data can be compared across project stages; typical questions are: Has the cost changed? Has the delivery time improved or reduced? On a broader scale, being able to compare construction data across numerous built assets will help to achieve greater whole life value. By comparing project to project, data optimization becomes possible, lessons can be learnt from what works well, and this knowledge can influence future projects, refurbishment works and maintenance activities.

Industry feedback

At the NBS we constantly strive to make the NBS National BIM Library the leading, most trusted source of quality objects. Since its launch in 2011 we have taken the opportunity to engage with the industry and hear what it is they want from a BIM object. This means different things for designers, manufacturers and clients, but ultimately an inconsistently and lack of commonality between Objects is a problem and a guiding set of principles which can be used to serve the construction industry was clearly needed.

The purpose of the NBS BIM Object Standard is to establish minimum requirements for BIM objects. It lays down the foundations for robust, consistent information...

The NBS National BIM Library user day is one way in which we get to hear from a selection of BIM specialists in the UK on what we have done and in what direction we should be heading. One overriding factor from the feedback received was the need for a standardized approach to BIM objects which should reflect upon, draw and connect to other industry standards, practices and guidance currently in existence. Such a standard should remain software vendor neutral, consider the aspects of interoperability and set out the basis for consistent information.

NBS BIM Object Standard

The purpose of the NBS BIM Object Standard is to establish minimum requirements for BIM objects. It lays down the foundations for robust, consistent information. The standard, which involved engagement with industry professionals as well as leading software vendors Autodesk, Bentley, Graphisoft, Nemetschek and buildingSMART UK, the home of interoperability is freely available to the construction industry.

Related resources

Download the NBS BIM Object Standard download from the NBS National BIM Library