Authoring and implementing BIM (Building Information Modeling) standards can be tedious and difficult. Where do you even start? This article will present data collected from standards and guidelines of various entities, such as corporations, academia, local and federal government, and national and international groups. We’ll identify commonalities from each of the standards and compile them to produce data that you can use to develop and implement BIM standards that work for you.
We’ll delve even deeper to identify Revit-specific content needed for BIM standards and help make clear distinctions between standards and guidelines, as well as identify topics that don’t need to be standardized. We'll focus on standards development for a holistic BIM workflow within Revit and provide essentials for integrating workflows with AutoCAD and Navisworks.
So, you want to develop your company BIM standards? Since you're reading this, you likely already have ideas about what you want to accomplish with those standards. Being able to answer a few basic questions typically leads to better adoption.
Some Questions to Consider
1. Why are we developing our own standards?
2. Who are the key stakeholders that are needed for buy-in and implementation?
3. What should our standards address? What should they omit?
4. When will we develop or update this content?
5. Where will this content live and how will it be accessed?
6. How will these standards align with the organizational mission, goals, and objectives? How will we implement these standards?
Only you and your organization can determine what is best defined as your BIM standards. The importance of planning before getting started cannot be overemphasized. For some organizations, the goal will simply be to update an old CAD standard. For others, it may be to get a handle on quality management of drawings and models. Yet others may be seeking to drive overall technology and workflow changes.
The remainder of this article presents ideas for consideration. This is not intended to indicate these are all absolutely necessary and certainly not the only means to accomplish a desired goal. They are, however, observations from practice and analysis. They are presented here as cupboard of ingredients. What you make of it is up to you.
BIM Standards System
Before we continue, we need to ensure our definitions of terminology are aligned. Here are some terms you will see throughout:
standard: an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations; a required or agreed level of quality or attainment
requirement: a thing that is compulsory; a necessary condition
guideline: a general rule, principle, or piece of advice
For our purposes here, when the term 'standards' is used, it refers to the overall system and level of quality the system is attempting to attain. 'Requirement' indicates a topic that is not optional, whereas 'guideline' indicates a recommendation but one that may be optional.
Generally, a BIM manual is not enough to outline all the topics that should be addressed for an organization. Some topics are better addressed as requirements while others are more suited to guidelines. Some standards can be addressed in content while others may take training.
Complete BIM standards are typically made up of a system with multiple subsystems. To be successful, the system will need administration in terms of implementation and enforcement.
Below is an example of a systems approach to organizational BIM standards. In other words, it's not just one document. It is a system of documents, people, and processes that are all aligned with the 'why' in achieving the outcome.
The requirements manual consists of hard and measurable standards. The topics addressed in the manual are cut-and-dried and considered not optional.
The guidelines consist of how-to documents and suggested workflows. By definition, the guidelines carry some degree of option with them. The guidelines should be considered a strong recommendation. If it is a workflow that you don’t want considered optional, ensure it is in the requirements manual and not a how-to document.
Content contains the software templates and object library. Content should be automated as much as possible. Making it easier for users to comply with the system facilitates successful implementation. If certain content is mandated (e.g., using a company Revit template), ensure the requirements manual includes the mandate.
Consider how the users will get support. Not every question will be answered within the requirements or guidelines. You need a support team. Be wise about who this is. Having a designated support team can be helpful; just ensure they are champions of the standards system. Meet with the team often and consider having them keep a log of topics on which they assist others. This will inform topics that you might need to train on or add to the requirements, guidelines, or content.
Train on the manual, guidelines, and content. Use training events to inform and reinforce the system. Use this venue to tie the system together.
Consider who is responsible for enforcing the system. Having a protocol in place for how to handle deviations is important. Ensure you have the proper buy-in or you’ll just become frustrated.
For the entire system, remember that alignment is paramount. One change in a subsystem impacts the overall system and often requires another change in a different subsystem.
Now that we have covered the idea of a system (rather than just one document), let’s look at some general topics that your standards system should include (regardless of what software is used). In a recent study, "Understanding of Essential BIM Skills through BIM Guidelines," L.S. Chae and J. Kang analyzed 11 leading BIM guidelines to determine frequently mentioned topics to identify essential BIM skills necessary. Not only is the data indicative of which skills should be developed, it provides us guidance on the most common topics in guidelines and therefore topics that we should ensure are covered in the BIM standards system.
Additionally, research by Penn State Computer Integrated Construction regarding BIM uses reveals the BIM uses that ranked the highest in terms of frequency and benefit in 2009. Even a decade later these are commonly referenced BIM uses. 3D coordination, design review, and design authoring still seem to be the most commonly used. Identify which BIM uses your organization deems most valuable and ensure that the BIM standards system adequately addresses the topics.
Do other existing standards cover much of what you want to accomplish? Use this to your advantage. Incorporate by reference other standards or sections of the standards. Always identify the version and date of the reference because they do change over time.
Some references can be incorporated as a full reference (including the entire document). Good examples of ready-to-use full references are the BIMForum LOD Spec and the USACE M3. (See the Reference Material section at the end of this article for more.)
Some references might include only a portion of content you want to use. Some of the other content within the reference might cause issues in your standards or workflows. Good examples of partial references are the NCS – BIM Implementation Section and NBIMS – COBie.
Avoid reinventing something that already works well. Using references, if possible, may eliminate the need to redefine certain topics in the following sections. If you use a reference, ensure your users have quick access to it.
Include the following for your requirements manual and overall system:
Purpose—Tell the user what you hope to achieve with this system and why. Align this with the organizational mission, goals, and/or objectives.
Scope—Indicate the limits of standards scope. Is it used only for specific project phases (design development, construction documents)? Is it excluded in others (schematic design)?
Background—Give some history if appropriate and helpful. This might help the user understand why you have arrived at some of the components of this system.
Glossary—A tedious section but necessary. Use it to clarify semantics.
Policy—This usually occurs in conjunction with IT management but at the very least ensure the following is documented:
- Where files are stored
- How files are accessed
- How files are backed up and how frequently
Structure—Provide documentation on the system, supra-system, and subsystems. Again, this can be a little tedious but necessary, especially for newer employees.
Roles and responsibilities—Define what is typical for your projects. It is recommended to have a model manager for every project. This role is the single point of contact for all things related to the administration of the model.
Execution Plan—BIM Implementation, Management, Execution, and Project Execution Plans are commonplace. Regardless of which flavor you prefer (BIP, BMP, BEP, PxP), the important factor is that you have one for all projects (even those that don’t require BIM). If it is not a contract requirement, use a company version to get everyone aligned as to how you will execute BIM. The company version can be simpler than what is often part of contract requirements. Perhaps a 5-page version is more applicable to your projects than a 30-page version.
BIM uses—Have a common definition of which BIM uses your organization employs. This can be a predefined list or one that you create on your own.
LOD—Provide definitions of Level of Development (LOD) and/or variations of LOD if applicable to you (Level of Detail, Level of Reliability). Again, if you can reference standards already in the industry, which will save a lot of effort. Just ensure your organization is using the same definition.
Graphical standards—This encompasses all the printed (or PDF) graphics that come from model elements.
Drafting standards—What symbols do you use? How do you want the details to look?
Sheet set organization—How do you want the sheet set organized?
In addition to the general topics in the previous section, the following Revit-specific topics often appear in BIM standards. Each should be given consideration as to whether it is an important topic for your organization to address.
Establishing model coordinates
Naming conventions—File, view, sheet, families and types, materials, and parameters
Central and local files—Work-sharing or cloud collaboration?
How/when will projects be divided into multiple models?
Protocol for collaborating with others outside of your organization
Phasing and design options setup and use
What elements to constrain or pin and when
Define the use of detail components versus drafting lines
When can detail lines be used?
When can model lines can be used?
When should your users create drafting views versus detail views?
Do you use classification systems?
When/how will you use grouping?
The following are more Revit workflows to consider:
How to start a project?
What is the protocol for when something goes wrong?
How to prepare CAD data (or other formats) for insertion?
What are the steps a user should take to ensure consistency for export to CAD or Navisworks?
Creating the System
Now that we have identified the need for a system and the topics to be addressed, we can start categorizing the topics and identify to which subsystem they belong. Some topics will transcend more than one subsystem, but below are general recommendations for what each subsystem might contain.
System Development Tips
Here are some tips for developing your BIM standards system.
1. Your standards should aim to quickly onboard new employees.
2. Your standards should aim for efficiency and productivity gains.
3. Establish consistent formatting for your Requirement Manual and Guidelines.
4. If you use certain writing conventions, provide guidance to the reader to reference.
5. Create a hyperlinked index. This seems simple and obvious but without it the documents will likely not be used.
6. Make a PDF (or online document) for users to access. Keep the working documents in a protected directory. The live or published versions should be PDF. Plus, the PDF is easily searchable!
7. Consider an online portal for the system (SharePoint or similar).
8. Version and date all documents in the header or footer.
9. Tag content if using an online system (so it can be indexed and searched).
10. Use imperative tone for mandatory items (write it like a specification).
11. Clearly distinguish between what is a requirement versus a guideline. Let your users know what is optional and what is not.
12. Don’t assume everyone understands. Say what you mean explicitly—nothing more, nothing less.
13. Follow the CSI rules of writing: concise, consistent, complete, and correct.
14. Capture what is already being done right (don’t assume it will continue).
15. Correct what is being done wrong.
16. Have a review period and an implementation period. Include a grace period for compliance.
17. Include the 'why' for subtopics when necessary.
18. Provide graphical examples when possible.
19. Consider developing an example set as a go-by.
20. Provide a change log (track changes) for each revision.
We began by identifying key questions to answer (who, what, when, where, why, and how) for BIM standards. We followed that with a clear understanding and distinction between requirements, guidelines, and content. Further, we established that a single document will not likely be sufficient to build your BIM standards and offered a systems approach.
The system demonstrated includes buckets for: requirements, guidelines, content, support, training, and administration. From research and experience, we further identified common general topics of BIM standards as well Revit-specific topics. You now have a list of topics to consider for inclusion as well as some indicators from research on what to prioritize.
As you build your BIM standards system, remember to focus on the system as a whole and keep it in alignment with the overall organizational goals and objects. For additional resources, see the Reference Material below or watch the class recording.
Johnny Fortune serves as BIM director at Bullock Tice Associates in Pensacola, Florida, and has led the complete transition from CAD to BIM production for the firm and directs the company's overall BIM strategies, standards, technology operations, and integration with external team members. He is currently a member of several national committees, including the National CAD Standards Project Committee, the United States National BIM Standard Project Committee, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers / Industry BIM CIM Consortium. Additionally, he is a member of the buildingSMART alliance Board of Direction and is a contributing author for several national/federal standards documents. He has often presented on the topic of standards at venues such as Autodesk University, BIMForum, National Institute of Building Sciences Innovation Conference and Expo, GeoBuiz, and various Society of American Military Engineer and Construction Specification Institute chapter events. Additionally, he was the subject matter expert, technical writer, and editor for the latest versions of the Department of Veterans Affairs BIM Guide and a primary author of the National BIM Guide for Owners.