The US National Building Information Modeling Standard

The US National Building Information Modeling Standard

Patrick C. Suermann (University of Florida, USA) and Raja R.A. Issa (University of Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-928-1.ch006
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The publication of the National BIM Standard (NBIMS) at the end of 2007 after two years of work by the most highly diverse team ever assembled by the National Institute of Building Sciences brought a symbolic shift in the architecture, engineering, construction, and facility ownership (AECO) community. However, what impact did it have on the industry? This chapter looks at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and impact of the NBIMS into 2009 and beyond. Specifically, this chapter will delve into some of the strengths of the NBIMS, such as promulgating a standardized approach for documenting information exchanges between stakeholders, and applying the NBIMS Interactive Capability Maturity Model (I-CMM) to evaluate a project or portfolio for BIM maturity. Opportunities exist in the areas of sustainability, modularity, and fabrication, as demonstrated in several industry projects to date. Weaknesses of the NBIMS are that it is not directly applicable yet at the technical level such as the National CAD Standard (NCS). Along with the NCS, the NBIMS and their umbrella parent organization, the Facility Information Council of the National Institute of Building Sciences are gradually being absorbed into the buildingSMART™ Alliance. Lastly, the primary impact of the NBIMS will be felt in terms of current and future projects promoting interoperable information exchange for specific stakeholders. These include multiple applications of interoperable-IFC-based approaches.
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1 Introduction

In 2004, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published a report stating that poor interoperability and data management costs the construction industry approximately $15.8 billion a year, or approximately 3-4% of the total industry (Gallaher, et al. 2004). Additionally, the buildingSMART™ Alliance is calling for a $600B reduction in construction costs through productivity improvements by 2020, and they feel it is conservative. Since the NIST report, many have dubbed Building Information Modeling (BIM), as the answer to this problem. From the National BIM Standard (NBIMS) published December 27, 2007, a BIM (i.e. a single Building Information Model) is defined as “a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility” (Kennett 2006 and NBIMS 2007). Several reports have sought to assess the level of BIM diffusion in the industry. For instance, the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) Survey of Owners (D’Agostino et al. 2007) reported on the state of Building Information Modeling in the American construction industry at the same time as the NBIMS publication at the end of 2007. In the joint publication of their eighth annual survey of owners, FMI, a construction-specific research, consulting, and investment banking firm partnered with the CMAA to determine the current state and future trends in the construction industry surrounding BIM. The subtitle, “The Perfect Storm – Construction Style” alludes to the current market forces that are driving technological adoption at a greater rate than in the previous seven years of the survey. Specifically, the authors state, “A fresh tool – Building Information Modeling (BIM) is enabling and supporting this change in philosophy, process, and approach, which will allow owner organizations, in turn, to weather the coming storm of construction industry challenges” (D’Agostino et al. 2007).

After NBIMS publication in December, 2007, many in the industry were disappointed that the standard did not provide a detailed “road map” for how to apply BIM to specific existing processes. However, as this chapter will discuss, the NBIMS represents a strategic departure from existing, traditional AECO business processes, and instead focuses on what information should flow from stakeholder to stakeholder in the future of the BIM-based facility industry. Instead of a technical how-to document, the NBIMS represents what could or should be accomplished, and leaves the role of establishing best management practices (BMPs) to research entities like NIST or Universities, or industry entities like the American Institute of Architects, the Construction User’s Roundtable (CURT), the AGC BIMforum and others. The specific objectives of this chapter are to discuss the NBIMS in 2009 and beyond. This will be accomplished by discussing its existing and future strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and impacts.

2 Background

The NBIMS was published December 27, 2007 after approximately two years of effort starting in August of 2005 (See Fig. 1). The leader of the NBIMS Committee effort was Mr. Dana K. “Deke” Smith, FAIA of the National Institute of Building Sciences Facility Information Council (NIBS-FIC), the same entity responsible for producing the National CAD Standard (NCS) since the 1990s.

Figure 1.

The National Building Information Modeling Standard, Version 1, Part 1: Overview, Principles, and Methodologies (adapted from, Source:


In retrospect, this association with the NCS could be considered a blessing as well as a curse. The blessing came in the form of an organization of diverse and respected professionals, proven processes, and technical knowledge. The curse came in the form of an industry that expected another NCS, version4.0 in NBIMS version1.0. In other words, the NBIMS is much less technical than the NCS. Whereas the NCS discusses specifics like line weights and layering targeted for paper production of architectural drawings, the NBIMS is all-encompassing of the facility lifecycle and addresses how to view communication between all participants of the facility lifecycle. In all, this left the NBIMS – much like other standards or standards organizations, with strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and possible challenges to overcome before accomplishing the greatest impact possible. This chapter will discuss specific facets of all of these.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Interactive Capability Maturity Model (I-CMM): Discussed in Sections 4.1 and 4.2 of the NBIMS, the I-CMM is a tool that allows users to rate an individual project or a portfolio of skills along a continuum of information management maturity. Projects with lower levels of information management maturity receive lower scores and projects with more mature information management receive higher scores with a maximum score of 100/100. Currently, the tool is used merely for self evaluation, but can be used whenever multiple stakeholders want to define specific information management approaches.

Industry Foundation Class (IFC): In its most basic format, an IFC is a file extension that can be read by multiple software platforms. But, looking more in depth, the IFC movement represents nearly 20 years of work towards interoperable information sharing in the facility industry. Building on work of the International Standards Organization, the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI) created IFCs to represent entities through an information-attributed, object-oriented approach. For more specific information, read this article by Paul Seletsky of SOM:

Interoperability: There are many designs and components authored, viewed, and analyzed during the life of a facility. Interoperability means that each item authored could be viewed, analyzed, and edited in multiple software platforms, even those from different software vendors. The watershed study for interoperability is the 2004 study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology stating that the lack of interoperability cost the facilities industry an estimated $15.8 Billion a year.

Building Information Model/Modeling (BIM): Paraphrased from the National BIM Standard, A BIM is a virtual or digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility. As such, it serves as a shared knowledge repository for all stakeholders for a facility from inception onward. Physical characteristics could include architectural designs or construction drawings, while functional characteristics could include structural analysis, sequencing, or a myriad of other simulations.

Model View Definition (MVD): An MVD is a diagram that is used for defining how and what components will be used for an information exchange. For example, the recent precast concrete MVD started with a Precast Structural connection. Further “drill downs” define how the element will be bounded and represented in software.

Information Delivery Manual (IDM): The IDM process maps out common information exchanges between stakeholders in the construction and defines the types of information that need to be exchanged.

buildingSMARTTM International: The North American Chapter of the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI) coined the term the buildingSMART Alliance as a sort of “franchise” or branding approach. The name caught on and carried back over to the IAI for their outreach efforts. The mission of the IAI or buildingSMART organizations is to spearhead technical, political, and financial support for advanced digital technology in the real property industry—from concept, design and construction through operations and management.

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