The Big BIM Theory: How did it all begin?

How did this project start anyhow?

As if by magic, a project was formed out of the primordial ooze that is precedent...

Wait! No, no no, that’s not right, that sounds ridiculous!

In the beginning there was nothing...

Yeah, yeah! That sounds about right

And then all of a sudden, BIM!

The Big BIM theory.

And so it goes, in the beginning there was a contract. Too bad whoever wrote the contract did not account for BIM, well at least not the BIM that you thought you were going to create, right?

I know that at least a few of you will identify with this scenario:

You’re getting ready to start a project. The client said they wanted BIM, your consultants said “Sure we do BIM” and your project management said “Yes, we’d love to do that for you...Oh and look it even says here in the contract, you asked for BIM. Grrrreat!” And everyone has signed on the dotted lines.

Well, by golly, we’re gonna give them BIM.

Now, the reality is that there may be only one official definition of BIM, but everywhere you look there are expanded definitions... almost as many as there are shades of gray. The question now, is this: When everyone agreed to do BIM, what exactly did they mean?

In this industry, as an architect, and in partnership with our design and construction teams, our number one priority (beyond the health, safety and welfare of the public) is to meet the needs of our clients. How can we possibly know what will meet their needs if we don’t truly understand, define, and DOCUMENT what they are and exactly what would qualify as meeting the expectations?

The bottom line is... We can’t. Not until everyone involved is clearly informed, and in agreement, will we have a chance.

To explain how this can happen, it is often difficult to determine exactly what it is someone means when they ask for a given result. “I want BIM,” is clearly a request, but it is incredibly vague. In the interest of seeking success for all involved, it is imperative that the right questions be asked as early as possible to help define a complete problem statement and to communicate goals.

Thus far, the industry has been charging full-steam ahead with the technology at the helm. Often, the early technology adopters are pushing hard for advanced capabilities even before the needs are demanded by the ultimate end users (owners and operators). This is vision we need, but it must be balanced. The tools are empowering, but tools alone cannot create the path. There needs to be something more.

As stated earlier that “in the beginning there was nothing”, and unfortunately that’s often exactly what it seems like. What’s truly important is seeking clarity of expectations. and realizing that successful BIM is not about everyone doing “super BIM”. It’s about everyone working towards a common goal in a way that allows ownership and accountability for what is brought to the table. A logical place to start is with a solid agreement between team members. Until now, we have largely been left to our own devices to come up with what exactly that agreement would look like.

For the first time ever, the AIA has released the latest revisions to one of their contract document series for public comment. Formerly, the AIA’s E201 – Digital Data and E202 – BIM Protocol have been updated and reorganized to form the E203. This is now the basis for the Digital Practice Documents. After reviewing these documents along with the indispensable commentary/guide, I am thrilled; I see progress.  Although the commentary/guide document is lengthy, it is well worth the read. The AIA has taken a giant leap forward in terms of addressing the broader BIM picture. By outlining critical steps that are practical and focused on implementation rather than theory, these documents begin to give shape to the foundations of BIM as a process rather than treating it as purely a result of technology.

Hopefully, in the near term we’ll be able to say

“In the beginning there was BIM.” and really, truly mean it.

If you haven’t already, please take the opportunity to review the AIA’s Digital Practice Documents and submit feedback before October 8th.

AIA’s Digital Practice Documents - Download for Review

Do you think these documents are “the best thing since sliced bread” or do you think that they perhaps miss the mark altogether?


Seeing as how this is my very first contribution to Epic BIM from an architect’s perspective, I'd like to thank the crazy crew who started this blog for the invitation. I hope that I can live up to the hype as they say. - I look forward to lively discussions and entertaining (and maybe even a little educational) commentary from time to time.

Let the discussion begin...or in other words "Game on!"


  1. I am a huge proponent of the Minimum Modeling Matrix (M3), and agree that there is no comparison to the Model Element Table within the G202. I haven't found a case where I would not substitute the M3 for this portion of the protocol. The M3 has a much more flexible and usable structure that facilitates the coordination process beyond simply serving to document. If you haven't checked out the M3 developed by the USACE, go here to download the current release:

    I'm just psyched to see that we have a place to insert tools like the M3 into the contract dialogue in a way that makes sense for the entire project.

    Talk amongst yaselves…

  2. I would like to see a comparison between the USACE "M3" and the AIA's new E203. Myself I liken M3 to a Ferrari and E203 to a Yugo with nice wheels. Rachel did say game on right?

Leave a reply