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Going back to basics: What is BIM

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

In this post, I explore the different interpretations of the term Building Information Modelling, BIM in the construction industry. BIM is a well-known term and you may think that it is well-defined and understood, but the reality is that there are a lot of misconceptions and myths around BIM.


Before defining BIM, let's be clear on what BIM is not.

BIM is a software.

BIM is not a software. The software is the means of creating and managing the BIM model.

BIM is a 3D model.

The 3D model is BIM, but it is a part of the process.

BIM is 3D CAD.

BIM is not the replacement of CAD; it is a process related to BIM technologies, used in the BIM process.

BIM is a construction trend.

BIM is not a trend; it is already considered "business as usual", in the largest construction markets.

BIM is only for big projects.

BIM benefits and efficiencies are not restricted to large projects.

The client does not need to know what BIM is; they only want the building.

Owners and clients also benefit from BIM; they have better communication with designers, have a standardized process to control, and manage the asset lifecycle.

BIM is too complicated.

BIM requires some changes, but you can deliver projects faster and easier if you invest in BIM.

BIM takes more time.

Anything new is time-consuming and challenging at the beginning. You will need some time to train your team and change office processes, but the benefits will make the BIM journey worth the effort.


So, what exactly is BIM about? In the construction industry, there are various definitions of BIM from different organizations and institutes. The reason there is no accepted definition is that BIM is ever-evolving; however, there have been some useful definitions, some of which are provided below.

BIM is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility creating a shared knowledge resources for information about it and forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle, from earliest conception to demolition (National BIM Standard, US National BIM Standards Committee, NBMS).

BIM is essentially value creating collaboration through the entire life-cycle of an asset, underpinned by the creation, collation and exchange of shared three-dimensional (3D) models and intelligent, structured data attached to them (UK BIM Task Group).

Building Information Modelling is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility creating a shared knowledge resource for information about it forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle, from earliest conception to demolition (Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA).

BIM is the process of designing, constructing or operating a building or infrastructure asset using electronic object – oriented information (PAS 1192-2:2013). Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure (Autodesk).

The development and use of a multi-faceted computer software data model to not only document a building design, but to simulate the construction and operation of a new capital facility or a recapitalized (modernized) facility (General Services Administration, GSA).

BIM is the use of a shared digital representation of a built asset to facilitate design, construction and operation processes to form a reliable basis for decisions (ISO 19650).

BIM is a set of technologies, processes, and policies enabling multiple stakeholders to collaboratively design, construct and operate a Facility in virtual space. As a term, BIM has grown tremendously over the years and is now the 'current expression of digital innovation' across the construction industry (ΒΙΜ Dictionary).

The majority of definitions highlight two key aspects of BIM; BIM is a process of developing a digital representation using technology and the value or benefits created through BIM collaboration and data models that help us to make better decisions during the asset lifecycle. Only the last definition, provided by the BIM dictionary acknowledges that in addition to technology and process, BIM is also about policy. In addition, the EU BIM Task Group BIM guidance also refers to 4 key BIM components.

According to the Handbook of the EU BIM Task Group, the BIM components relate to four main sectors: process, people, technology, and policy.

The process sector relates to standards, methods and procedures, integrated project delivery, and information management through international and national standards (such as BIM Level 2 standards and the ISO 19650 series). The people sector relates to leadership, collaboration, owner's involvement, and appropriate skills development. The technology sector refers to BIM modelling, simulation, and interoperability between various software solutions. Finally, the policy area is all about integrating and developing local directives and standards, conventions, and the legal aspects of the BIM process.

The components of BIM

ISO 19650 & BIM

BIM is supported by the international standard ISO 19650 that provide the means to enable digital construction to maximize efficiency in information management.

Read more about ISO 19650 benefits and challenges here.

The ISO 19650 publications are based on the principles and the content of a currently redrawn PAS or a British standard, as part of the BIM Level UK suite of documents. (BS 1192: 2007 + A2: 2016, PAS 1192-2: 2013, PAS 1192-3: 2014 PAS 1192-4: 2014 PAS 1192-5: 2015 PAS 1192-6: 2018 BS 1192-4: 2014 BS 8536-1: 2015 BS 8536-2: 2016). The UK BIM standards published by the British Standards Institution, BSI supported the development of the ISO 19650 standards and provide guidance and best practice into BIM implementation. The ISO 19650 series documents include activities and tasks, diagrams, and a step-by-step approach towards digital processes that supports the flow of information within the information management cycle (from the Project information model to the Asset information model).

ISO 19650 series is comprised of 4 documents. ISO 19650-1 describes the principles, concepts, and terminology, ISO 19650-2 presents the details of the information management process, ISO 19650-3 focuses on the asset's operational phase, ISO 19650-4 describes the information exchanges and ISO 19650-5 on the security of information. The ISO 19650 series is also connected to ISO 55000, ISO 21500 (Asset and project management), and ISO 9001 (Organizational management).

Read more about the strategic role of the international standards 19650 in BIM here and what I learned from studying the ISO 19650 BIM standards here.


BIM enhances the role of the owner with the use of standardization processes and control tools. In BIM, owners are informed about the progress of the project at all stages; they have the tools to request and receive information and make informed decisions about the project. BIM also helps owners evaluate project teams, manage risk and use accurate as-built data to streamline maintenance, reduce downtime, and extend the lifespan of their assets.


Using BIM models, architects can effectively communicate with the client through the precision of the 3D visuals. BIM tools allow designers to explore design options and make informed decisions based on data-based insights. Cloud collaboration enables architects and extended team members to work in real-time update models and reduce errors in later construction stages.


A rich data model allows engineers to address competing design parameters, quickly test the viability and structural integrity of different options early in the design phase, and easily adjust structural models based on design changes. Model-based collaboration improves communication between structural engineers and the extended project team.


MEP designers and detailers can explore the best constructible design of building systems before settling on a decision. They can also take advantage of design calculations to optimize systems and fabrication content to derive optimal layouts. Working in BIM, mechanical engineers and detailers can convert a design intent model into a detailed fabrication model ready for shop drawings, procurement, ductwork manufacture, and installation.

Watch the video about Information Management skills according to ISO 19650 here.

Learn more about ISO 19650 CPD-certified training by BIM Design Hub here.

For more content on ISO 19650, do not forget to subscribe to the breakwithanarchitect blog and YouTube channel here.

Author: Panagiotidou Nicoleta

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BIM training by BIM Design Hub introduces you to the concepts and principles of Building Information Modeling, BIM, in line with ISO 19650 and provides sufficient skills and knowledge of the BIM process, standards and guidelines that support the digitalization of the construction industry.

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