Building Information Modeling (BM, BIM, and NBIMS)
Thursday, November 15, 2007 at 05:22PM
Toby Considine in BIM, Background

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been described by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as "the most significant transformational event in our business for the past 500 years". Today, it also means different things to different people. The National BIM Standards (NBIMS) is an effort to change the entire facility design, construction, and acquisition process to catch up to best practices in other engineering and financial disciplines.

There is an unfortunate confusion in terminology I must address early on. Building Modeling refers to mathematical models of a building, including its materials, so it can be analyzed prior to construction. Using a building model, blueprints and construction documents are mere projections or reports of the underlying model. The Building Information Model comprises all of the information involved in the design, construction, and operation of a building, beginning with the earliest design intents. The Building Model is just one portion of the BIM, and the NBIMS specifies that the building model follow certain standards.

A recent article published by American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), suggested that using BIM offered the following benefits:




Even these numbers represent only a part of the benefits. Last year, the International Codes Council (ICC) demonstrated automated code compliance checking of a BIM; their goal is same-day code compliance review. The latest Energy Modeling software is able to reads the BIM directly, enabling iterative modeling as the design changes. Many of the current engineering, environmental, and design initiatives start with the use of BIM as a requisite for participants. BIM is seen a key enabler for future energy systems, from the Galvin Electricity Initiative to the GridWise Architectural initiatives, to the Zero Energy Commercial Building.

The goal of NBIMS is a common framework and format for sharing BIMs across vendors and organizations. Most CAD vendors, including AutoDesk, Bentley, and ArchiCAD read and write BIM datasets. Increasingly these BIM datasets are NBIMS compliant. Using NBIMS, data developed during initial programming is transmitted with design and operation data, and all information continues to add value throughout the facility life-cycle.

BIM is so large, and so important, that it is hard to understand. Instead, like the blind men and the elephant, we can stumble toward it from a variety of perspectives. In the near future, I plan to set some of these blind men loose, and see what they grab…

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (
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