BIM Levels and Asset Information Management

BIM (modelling) is the process of generating and managing virtual intelligent representations of buildings-to-be or buildings-as-operated. The BIMs (models) needs to be exchanged, networked or otherwise integrated to support decision making in the AECO processes.

For BIM to realize its full potential both the processes and the tools of the industry need to evolve. Transforming an industry as fragmented as the construction industry is not done overnight. To assess the maturity of an existing project or set goal for the industry as a whole, different models for BIM maturity have evolved.

What we will cover

In this article we will look at the most common BIM maturity model - the Bew Richards model, or as it is often called the “BIM levels” or the “BIM wedge”.

This model has been very popular and it defines the main milestones set up by the UK government and managed by the UK BIM task group. Level definitions are used to set requirements for all public projects in the UK. As the work of the BIM task group continue to spread outside UK and outside the public sector these ideas are getting more and more common for the whole industry.

It is a simple and good model. It addition to describing process integration during design and construction it describes some typical levels of handover documentation.

It is also important to note that there are a lot of misunderstandings and different interpretations of the levels. Creating a simple model for a complex and ever evolving reality mean that there will be different interpretations.

In this article we will give a quick overview of our understanding of the BIM levels. We will focus on level 2 that defines a suggested minimum maturity for current projects and then we will look at what lays ahead in level 3 as the “holy grail” for future projects.

As we tend to do we will turn a specific focus on how the different levels affect lifecycle management and especially handover and operations.

We will then propose a maturity model for Asset Information Models - The “Areo AIM maturity model”.

The Bew Richards BIM maturity model

So let's start by presenting the BIM wedge. The original BIM wedge looks like this.

Original BIM Levels wedge

“The wedge” was introduced in 2008. That is 8 years ago. A lot of things have happened with tools and best practises since then. This mean that it has gotten a life of its own and you will find different interpretations in different sources.

You will also see the “contradiction” of having a “continuous ramp” being described as four levels. We will interpret that as there are some minimum requirements to classify as a certain level but there is also a continuum to progress within a level. There is also a contradiction between the level definitions needing to evolve with the industry tools and practices and the use of level milestones as long term goals (moving targets?).

If you look upon the model as describing project maturity there is also a contradiction that some companies or even individuals claim “level 2 compliance”. You can state that you are able to provide and manage documentation at a given levels as part of a team but level compliance is always a team effort across organizations (in our view).

The final contradiction we will address is the notion that you have to climb the levels step by step. Some say that you need level 1 compliance before you can target level 2 compliance. We think that this make sense when you look at the industry as a whole and that the level compliance is defined by “what level the trailing edge is at”. The industry as a whole need to get to level 1 before moving to level 2. But for a specific project it does not make sense. The project should aim for a specific level from the start and that could be any level.

The main focus of the original model is on how you share and integrate models amongst the different participants and phases in the project.

Later updates by the UK Bim task group have added the adoption on their information management standards as part of the BIM maturity model. We cover how in the following discussion

BIM Levels Wedge from BIM Task Group

BIM Level 0
In level 0 you do not use BIM. You use a CAD tool to generate 3D models and 2D CAD drawings. You can share those drawings electronically via email or paper drawings can be distributed for design coordination.

BIM Level 1
In level 1 some of the designers start using BIM tools to further automate the process of generating drawings, models and schedules. After they get over the learning curve and build up a library of templates they will deliver the required documentation more efficiently, especially related to changes and modifications (move the wall once in the model and all related drawings update automatically. The sharing and merging of information however have progressed little from level 0. The basis for cross-discipline checks are still the drawing and schedule outputs.

BIM Level 2
In the UK BIM interpretation Level 1 do not require BIM at all. The definition of Level 1 BIM is managed CAD. You manage CAD standards according to BS1192 and share data in a Common Data Environment (A project extranet where participants upload their documents in a common structure with approvals, version tracking, access control etc).

For level 2 we are starting to see the benefits of cross discipline integration. By either standardizing on proprietary native file formats or by sharing openBIM discipline models the project can employ cross disciplinary processes like clash detection, quantity take offs, BIM based scheduling and costing etc. When properly federated the process can get a holistic view of the virtual building at that stage in the evolution of the model. However the way of sharing models are still file based. Whole discipline models are up and downloaded at agreed upon intervals to project web sites. The combined model set are then checked locally and issues are tracked with reference to the model objects and views.

In the UK BIM interpretation of Level 3 there are three requirements

  • There should be 3D BIM native files for all disciplines
  • There should be 2D design documents generated from the BIM models
  • There should be structured data about the building spaces and building equipment according to the COBie UK standard.

Again this documentation should be controlled by the common data environment and there is a list of specifications and protocols that the information management should comply with. At the core of this is the PAS 1192 series that describes the common data environment, the asset information model and the COBie data drops).

BIM Level 3
For level 3 we have a single integrated BIM model that is constantly evolving as the project progresses through the stages. All the disciplines are contributing to this common single source of truth. Updates happen in real time and instead of up and downloading whole discipline models only the parts that is needed (for reads) or have been changed (for writes) are transferred - using web services. Geometry and data in the model should be manufacturer specific and updated at handover.

Looking ahead our industry needs to have a proper discussion on what level 3 really means. The key is that the data in interoperable, integratable and transactional. But does that really mean that there needs to be a centralised database, and does it mean that all updates need to happen in real time in the centralised model? Does it mean that the designer have to give up control of his/her discipline model? These are questions outside the scope of this article but we promise we will share our views in follow up articles.

Implications for handover

So what does these levels mean for owners and operators in a handover context? If you have a portfolio of assets you will in the coming years experience all of the BIM levels, at least levels 0, 1 and 2. You will then need to manage that diverse set of data in your existing CAFm systems. Then when and if you embark on a BIM for FM journey later that data in its then state will be the basis of your migration.

For level 0 projects you will not have 3d models in a standard format. There will also be little or no connection between the drawings and the data and documentation

For level 1 projects you will be no much better of than level 0. You may get hold of the fragmented discipline models but most likely you will not have contractual access to them. Also here there will be no link between models/ drawings and o&m documentation so you need to do manual work to establish those links.

For level 2 you will be better off especially if you have set clear requirements and followed up and validated those requirements during the project. You will have discipline models that are at least partly mergeable due to their history of use for design coordination and production planning/ costing. However if the models have not been validated along the way you will see big issues in naming, classification, type and system assignments etc. Also you will wonder if you can trust the contents

For level 3 the situation will hopefully be better. Lifecycle management of data is part of the requirements for level 3 so that part needs to be addressed. Also since there is only one integrated model it is already merged. However also this model needs to be checked for operations suitability and generic objects needs to be exchanged for manufactured objects at product install/ project handover.

A proposed maturity model for the Asset Information Model

Introducing the Areo AIM maturity model

The same way that the world of design has evolved from paper to CAD to BIM the world of facility management has evolved/ will evolve. The asset information model (AIM) is the combination of the geometric data, structured data and documentation of the built asset. The AIM starts out as the handed over data (as built documentation, design and construction history and operation and maintenance data and documentation) and is constantly updated and supplemented with updated documentation and historic data as the asset evolves, wears down gets upgraded etc etc.

AIM Level 0
For level 0 you store your geometry as drawings on paper or as electronic plot files.
Data and documents are stored in paper binders or as manuals in pdfs on file servers. You manage some structured data in spreadsheets and simple databases. The different parts of the FM system have some classifications and pointers between them but there are no live links for navigation. Also there are not much possibility of editing the handed over documentation.

AIM Level 1
For level 1 CAFM systems linked intelligent floorplans are a core part of the system. Floorplans of managed areas are kept up to date. Spaces are polygons (intelligent space boundaries) and components and equipment are blocks. These objects can be used to support space and asset management by linking to data and documents. Some data are stored in database and are editable. Documents are stored as pdfs.

AIM Level 2
CAFM systems with data and documentation now link to BIM model objects by integrating BIM viewer functionality into the system. The spaces and equipment are now in 3D and with more intelligence coming from the as built model. COBie data will be imported into the CAFM domain but there still will be some additional properties in the model that is accessible in the BIM viewer. By using standard formats some gain in data collection are gained. How seamless it is depends on the format support of the CAD tool and how harmonized it is with the open/ native BIM data formats.

AIM Level 3
The FM system are able to import BIM data from discipline as-built models and structured data like COBie. Links between geometry data and documents are kept intact and the so are the intelligence of the models/ data. All the data needed to generate maintenance plans, long term budgeting, asset checklists etc are included in the model.

As with level 3 for project information models level 3 for asset information modeis looking into the future (for the trailing edge of the owner/ operator industry). We will continue our exploration of this concept and share what we are doing at Areo in later posts on our blog så stay tuned.

What do you think about the BIM levels? Did we miss something important or do you have a different opinion. Please let us know in the comment section below or tweet at us @areo_io