BIM Explained

BIM Explained

The topic of building information modelling (BIM) has been hotly debated in the built environment sector in recent years. Through the digital rendering of the building process, BIM is a remarkable development that highlights the links between technology, people and processes.

Some experts predict that BIM will transform the sector; governments are already implementing national programmes in the hope of reaping major benefits, and individuals and organisations are quickly adjusting to these developments, with some rapidly moving forward and some waiting for a time when things become clearer.

In these changing times it is crucial to be clear on the current and future state of BIM.

The RICS position is that everyone in the sector should come together to embrace potentially far-reaching improvements that will not only improve the productivity and profitability of the industry, but also enhance the global image and attractiveness of the sector.

Currently, there is no universally accepted definition of BIM, perhaps because the technology itself is ever evolving. However, some definitions come close to encapsulating it: 

‘[BIM] is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility creating a shared knowledge resource for information about it and forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle, from earliest conception to demolition.’

National BIM standard: version 2 - FAQs, US National BIM Standards Committee (NBIMS), 2014

In short, BIM is more than just the model and the modelling process; it is the effective and efficient use of the model (and the information stored within it).

Although it is essentially a technology tool, the use of BIM has far-reaching implications that affect a broad group of people, projects and the built environment. It can alter the underlying ‘operating system’ of the built environment and the way a project is delivered.

BIM in practice

BIM-authoring tools can be used to develop a model for a project. Ideally, a project should have a single model that stores all the information. However, current practice, mainly driven by available technology, requires that each project be modelled in the form of a number of discipline-specific models (e.g. an architectural model, a plumbing model, an electrical model). These models are then combined to create a federated model, a centralised repository of information for the entire project. 

Adopting BIM

Fundamental to the success of BIM adoption (in addition to data representation and exchange) is the availability of BIM content in the form of smart objects that can be used by project stakeholders to develop their models. There are three primary sources of these objects:

• Predefined content available in the form of objects in BIM-authoring tools;

• Online native and Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) content/objects; and

• An in-house library of objects.

It is important to understand the impact of BIM on built environment professionals and projects before studying the implications at the organisational and sector level. To realise its full potential, BIM should be utilised during the entire lifespan of a project in a systematic, integrated and seamless fashion. This requires a new way of thinking and a somewhat radical change in workflows and work practices.

 First, the following interrelated dimensions of BIM deployment at the project level must be understood:

• project-level goals of BIM deployment and the identification of a BIM champion;

• articulation of value proposition for use of BIM for the project as well as all stakeholders;

• implications of BIM on functions and subfunctions within the project life cycle phases; e.g. which functions will be performed using BIM, what will the possible inputs and outputs be?

• information flows between project team members in a BIM environment;

• roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in relation to BIM by project life cycle phase, and how they differ from current (non-BIM) practices; and

• issues about model development, progression and quality through the entire project life cycle.

Alongside the implementation plan it is also important to have a clear understanding of:

• contractual and legal implications;

• insurance-related issues;

• training and education requirements;

• commercial issues; and

• copyright and intellectual property right issues.

 BIM Managers

The role of the BIM Manager is fundamental to its success. As the guardian and champion of BIM in construction and project management, the BIM Manager must be able to engage with all stakeholders, functions and systems in order to achieve a successful outcome.

To support the role and recognition of BIM Managers worldwide, RICS, in collaboration with leading industry figures, has defined competencies that individuals must demonstrate to achieve the professional status of a RICS Certified BIM Manager.

Using BIM on individual projects has a direct implication on the organisations that are part of the project-delivery network. When looking at BIM at the organisational and inter-organisational level, these key issues need to be addressed:

(1)  training and education in BIM (not just model authoring but also model usage and information extraction and processing);

(2) hardware and software selection for organisation-wide BIM implementation (including compatibility issues);

(3) BIM projects versus non-BIM projects happening within the organisation;

(4) BIM experience and capabilities of various members of the team;

(5) human resource issues including whether or not there are experienced BIM personnel in the organisation;

(6) ownership of models and data embedded in the models;

(7) procurement of services so that BIM experience is available at the organisational level;

(8) risk allocation, risk mitigation and additional risk due to model exchange;

(9) copyright and intellectual property rights issues based on content development and use;

(10) contractual issues pertaining to BIM services;

(11) commercial terms for BIM services and selection of service providers (consultants and constructors); and

(12) insurance and liability issues on BIM projects.

At the organisational level, it is crucial to develop a ‘BIM strategy’ that stems from the organisational strategy and is aligned with it. There is a risk of failure if random implementation is carried out.


The level of BIM expertise is varied in Asia and is dependent on a country’s regulatory requirements for BIM implementation and execution. RICS is working with BuildingSMART Malaysia to deliver BIM manager certification and competence based BIM training in the country to encourage greater BIM adoption.

Such training and certification is not limited to Malaysia but will also be rolled out to the region as more developers and consultancies adopt BIM in their design, workflow, construction delivery and facility management.

BIM knowledge is still patchy in Southeast Asia and before greater adoption of BIM is seen; expertise and BIM best practice training will be needed to expose stakeholders to the benefits of using BIM as a valued added tool in the construction and asset management process.


 In the long run, challenges to BIM adoption will remain. Implementing BIM requires changes in process and practice by all stakeholders. Resistance to change, turf issues and hesitancy to be first to embrace change are common mind-set barriers. Not all members of the project-delivery network are likely to embrace BIM.

Even in a perfect scenario, where a client and designer are willing to adopt BIM, lack of specialist consultants who are willing to use BIM makes implementation challenging.

While software vendors boast seamless integration and interoperability in the tools they provide, there are still some technological issues that need to be resolved. Specialist consultants, contractors and vendors still use software that is not compatible, which fragments the BIM workflow. For many organisations, the shift from 2D CAD to 3D design to BIM is likely to be a gradual one, but those who cannot or will not adopt BIM will eventually be left behind.

Another barrier is the perceived price of hardware and software, especially from SMEs. Training costs and cost of disruption due to employee training programmes are making organisations think twice before embracing BIM.

Issues pertaining to contracts, ownership of information encapsulated in models, fee schedules, deliverables and insurance are still not completely understood by industry players.

Despite all these hurdles, the benefits of adopting BIM are far-reaching. In the long run at least, organisations that embrace this new way of working stand to gain a competitive edge.


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