Managing in the BIM Age

Managing the Building Information Model

We all make sure to have a project manager on every project that comes into our offices but who is managing the model? Do the individuals who run our firms understand the importance of the role of a BIM manager on every project? Is there time allotted in the project plan for the model management? Different projects will require a different level of BIM management depending on the size, complexity and type of project. A large complex project may need a person specifically in the role of Project BIM Manager. Smaller projects may have the Project Architect or a Draftsperson that is already on the project performing the responsibilities of this role along with their other responsibilities on the project. These responsibilities may even be split among multiple team members.  Many times this responsibility will even fall to the office BIM manager.

The I in BIM

There are a number of things that a project BIM manager will be doing throughout every phase of the project.  They will look through the model to confirm that the information portion of BIM that the model should contain is there.  The “I” portion is the main differentiator between BIM and just drawing.  The information enriched model is what is changing our entire industry.  We have to make sure that all of our model content includes the proper information. Some of the information that could be contained, and confirmed, in the model is information being used for scheduling, facilities management, cost estimating, and specifications, to name just a few.  These types of information are dependent on what was discussed at the beginning of the project.  This could be an internal discussion; what does a team want to get out of the model? Or this could be a discussion with the client; what do they want to do with the model once they receive it?

Guidelines and Protocols

Another thing that the project BIM manager will be doing during the project is confirming that the model is following the office guidelines and protocols.  Following these guidelines is a must for an office to function as a singular unit.  When the project is nearing the end, additional staff may be required to help the team meet a deadline.  Having followed office guidelines throughout the entire project will enable additional team members to be added seamlessly.  These team members will not require a long transition period to become acquainted with the model because they have seen this organization and typical content before.  This way they can start out being productive team members right away. 

Figure 1: Cover image of Ramsey/Sleeper Architectural Graphic Standards book.

Some things that are required to be in the office guidelines may be view templates, file naming conventions, sheet naming conventions, project browser layout, titleblocks, color schemes, dimension styles, and text styles along with any number of additional possibilities.  If these items are automated and well-documented, users will be able to concentrate on the design and the content to tell the story of the building, rather than how to tell the story of the drawings. 

The model will also be reviewed to confirm that things are being modeled in 3D and not drafted in 2D and that the level of detail that is spelled out in the contract is being adhered to.  Too often the team does not know what the contract states or understand the importance of modeling to a certain level of detail.  Contractual issues should be understood by all since obviously there could be legal ramifications to not understanding this.  Things like this tend to come down to communication.  Making sure things regarding and affecting the model are being communicated thru the team will also be the responsibility of this person.  This includes keeping management informed about the modeling effort and how the team is doing with it. This person also needs to have the authority to approach team members and discuss if they are not following the office protocols. 


Another thing for a project BIM manager to look at is how things are reading. Are the drawings going to look correct when it comes time to print the set? Unfortunately, at this time a majority of projects are still being plotted so we have to take this into account.  We all know that there are going to be things when you start plotting that are going to slow the process down.  We have to have things set up to avoid the simple printing woes as much as possible.  Are there view templates set up for the team to start from?  Is the team utilizing the view templates that are in place? These things need to be monitored during the project. 

If overrides are being done in a majority of the views, this should tell you that the view template needs to be adjusted to accommodate these issues. This problem should also be reiterated back to the office BIM manager so it can be adjusted in the office template.  Again, communication is an important factor. With each project you should learn new things that inform and further the development of your office template and guidelines. 

Model Cleanup

Model cleaning is another aspect that someone will need to manage. Are the user and central files being remade on a regular basis?  Is the model being purged?  Are miscellaneous views being deleted?  As the team grows, the amount of material in the model can become unwieldy and this can make the team less productive.  Searching through a long list of views or content can take up valuable time.  It can also cause problems with your model which can make it crash and result in lost information, not to mention the time it can take to remake or recover the model. 

Model Transfer

The BIM manager should also handle the transfer of the model between consultants and other disciplines. Having one person consistently perform this task will confirm that the same steps are taken. Consistency in this is just as important as the consistency in the modeling itself. 

The reviews and cleaning of the model will need to be done on a regular basis.  On smaller projects this may be done on a weekly basis, or it may be satisfactory to do it less frequently.  On larger projects this may need to be done continually.  Discussion at the start of the project with the team, including the office BIM manger, will determine the ideal schedule for these tasks for a specific project.  

Many of the things listed in this article may sound like they are quick and easy tasks and individually many of them are, but the time for each task will add up. This time needs to be allotted for in the project plan.  Many of these tasks can easily fall through the cracks, which will cause problems later as your model will give you problems or may not contain the needed information. 

As an architect on a variety of projects I have experienced models being managed or mismanaged, as the case may be.  I have experienced and understand that these tasks are an important part of achieving a successful BIM project—time must be allotted for all of these tasks. And someone must be held responsible for following through with these tasks.  That is the only way to ensure that they are done. 


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