What is Building Information Modelling (BIM)?

11 April 2016


Thanks to Christian Taylor-Hamlin, Technical Director at Bathroom Manufacturers Association, for submitting this article.


The latest buzzword, fad or serious issue, depending on your viewpoint in the construction sector is Building Information Modelling (BIM). Just what BIM is and what it means to manufacturers is anything but clear.


In essence BIM is simply the means by which everyone can understand a building through the use of a digital model. The digital model can be made up of 3D drawing models (in various levels of detail) and probably more importantly a collection of product-specific meta data (usually in the form of a product data template (PDT)) that help to present the characteristics of a product in a standardised form.


The largest problem facing manufacturers with this concept is that there is not a single agreed method of providing BIM data to architects, specifiers and contractors. In fact there are a number of ‘closed’ BIM systems that manufacturers may embrace just to be able to have the opportunity to tender for work.


However, CEN has recently started a new Technical Committee (TC442) to start to standardise BIM within Europe. In addition to this FECS (the European sanitaryware federation) has signed a joint statement paper with CEIR (the European association for taps and valves) to pool resources and information to help BIM become standardised and easier to use for the whole bathroom sector within Europe.


The real work within TC442 has yet to start. There have only been two meetings to date with the last meeting taking place in Oslo on 15 and 16 February 2016. Both FECS and CEIR are seeking observer status for these meetings to ensure that a steady stream of information makes its way back to manufacturers as the situation develops. The primary decision of TC442 is to agree that the existing ISO standards for BIM will be adopted as European Standards. Secondly the TC442 have set up a number of working groups to take responsibility for the different aspects of BIM:


  • WG1 Strategy and planning (secretariat: United Kingdom)
  • WG2 Exchange information (secretariat: Germany)
  • WG3 Information delivery specification (secretariat: Austria)
  • WG4 Data dictionary (secretariat: France)

There is also a newly appointed Chair Advisory Group (CAG) that will work to make sure that each WG remains focused on their core activity.


Most importantly, the adoption of ISO BIM standards mean that the European Standards will embrace ‘open’ BIM standards. Hopefully this will ensure that future BIM will be appropriate, transparent and cost effective for all interested parties from the designer right through to the manufacturer.