BIM Does Not Change the Purpose

Why are we implementing BIM? For what purpose?

I would argue that most of us really don't know why we are implementing BIM, or if we do know we really can't communicate that purpose effectively. I would also argue that if you really think about it, the purpose for which you are implementing BIM is no different than your purpose before BIM. What I have found over the past several years is that BIM does not change the purpose, only the means by which the purpose is achieved. Our fundamental purpose or purposes have not changed since we have begun designing, constructing, and developing facilities. That is the purpose: To develop facilities. Simple.

So then for what purposes to we employ BIM to support the development of facilities? The purposes for implementing BIM fall into five categories: to GATHER, to GENERATE, to ANALYZE, to COMMUNICATE, and to REALIZE information about a facility.  Those are the purposes that I first shared in the article "F the Ds" back in June. I believe that every BIM Use can be classified based on these purposes and sub-purposes.

If we begin to use the purpose for implementing BIM rather than the characteristics* of the BIM Use such as the facility element, facility phase, discipline, or level of development, we can begin to breakdown the silos within our industry and begin to understand that these fundamental purposes are shared across all disciplines, all phases, and all elements of a facility.  If we can agree and communicate with each other using the purpose, we can begin to normalize the application of BIM across our industry.  Its time to get rid of all the smoke and mirrors of BIM and start communicating about BIM simply. Then we can really get to work, gathering, generating, analyzing, communicating, and realizing.

More details about a system to classify the Uses of BIM can be found at the Penn State CIC Research Program's BIM Planning website.

*Note: look for another article detailing the characteristics of a BIM Use.


  1. This BIM Use document is one of the best I've seen. As I read through it I can actually imagine what the practical implications of each purpose is on a project.
    I can see this as a useful starting point for establishing BIM uses on a real project.

    And I agree, BIM doesn't mean the purpose of our (project participants) work changes. We are still creating or operating a facility, just like we always were. I think this document captures how BIM can assist with those original purposes, rather than pretend it is something completley new and different.

    The language is carefully crafted to include all participants, from BIM authors to owners wanting BIM FM. Which is correct and clever, but may still confuse people who are looking for specifics that apply to them. But it would be a trivial exercise to rewrite each purpose in a way that they specifically apply to a sub-group – like designers, or contractors, or owners.
    The full document at the Penn State CIC has examples from different sub-groups that make this clearer.

    The only criticism I have is that they use the [US]AIA descriptions for LOD, which don't make sense to me. Those I can't see how I could apply them in a practical way to a real project.

    But well done Penn State CIC, there is hope yet.

  2. So here is the poser….
    How do we get paid to do BIM in a manner that benefits everyone on the project? On the MEP side it takes longer and we don't have a billion parts library to choose from.
    Sysque would help that somewhat, but is $8k per license…. plus training… And, we are not required to use it. Nor does it help with electrical drawings we produce.
    To me, BIM is a useless acronym if we design our systems and then the contractor has to do the exact same work, plus value engineering, then re-clash-detection because of their changes.
    But if I were to do that for them by using Sysque and hiring fitters to become designers… then I have something of value.
    The architect is not going to pay me for that service, so who will? And who will trust me to do the contractor's work as we design it?

    These are the fundamental problems of data sharing, handing over models, etc… we make a pretty picture of design intent, and someone else actually figures out how to build it.

    So is that BIM? I don't think so.
    But isn't that the end game?… to do the work once? once and for all??

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