What You Need to Know About the National BIM Guide for Owners

BIM is the future of the AEC industry.

In 2014, The Business Value of BIM for Owners reported that 68% of US owners either required or encouraged BIM for projects.

It’s not hard to see why. BIM is proven to make projects more intelligent with 3D model creation, enhanced levels of collaboration among teams, and reduced costs. Owners can make smarter decisions that impact the future of a project in more satisfying and efficient ways.

bim small house

BIM is not a cut-and-dry process, though, and that’s why the National BIM Guide for Owners exists. Created by the National Institute of Building Sciences, this guide establishes viable standards for Owners that can be applied to any BIM-focused initiative. It provides clarity, guidelines, and rules for both Owners and project teams who need a framework in which to successfully complete all the necessary steps that lead to a winning outcome.

The Four Steps

The BIM Guide is divided into four essential steps:

  • Define minimum BIM requirements
  • Identify roles and responsibilities of key project stakeholders
  • Create a BIM Project Execution Plan (PxP)
  • Manage the Project for compliance with PxP and contract requirements

But what do they mean? Let’s talk about them.

Define Minimum BIM Requirements

The minimum BIM requirements are determined on a project-by-project basis and are developed with the five essential BIM Uses:

  • Existing conditions
  • Design authoring
  • Design review
  • 3D coordination
  • Record modeling

Identify Roles and Responsibilities of Key Project Stakeholders

The roles for the BIM project should include:

  • BIM representative
  • Project BIM manager
  • BIM lead
  • Project BIM team

The BIM representative oversees BIM requirements in all project phases.

The BIM manager leads the process of creating and updating the BIM PxP in accordance with the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR), coordinating all updates for models, overseeing data integration, and reviewing all data before delivering it to the owner.

The BIM lead develops and manages models while coordinating with the Project BIM manager.

The Project BIM team develops a strategy on how to use the BIM and meets regularly to discuss design and construction issues. The Project BIM team also creates a BIM PxP and divides it into several sections:

  • Identifying BIM goals and uses
  • Designing BIM project execution process
  • Defining supporting infrastructure for BIM implementation

bim residential area

Create a BIM Project Execution Plan (PxP)

The Project BIM Team develops a plan for quality management to ensure BIM is properly implemented. This plan includes:

  • Quality assurance for performing the modeling process in accordance with the PxP
  • Quantity control tests to verify that the deliverables comply with the project requirements

Proper Technology Infrastructure for BIM

What is infrastructure in the context of BIM? It’s the system that supports the BIM project itself. This includes the Owner’s hardware and operating systems, all of which must be able to support current and future projects.

There are three standards to which the Owner should adhere to in order to preserve the quality and integrity of the project:

  • Organizational Standards
  • Primary Standards
  • Reference Standards

Organizational and primary standards are the minimum acceptable standards for BIM projects.

The National BIM Standard– United States® (NBIMS‐US™) Version 3 (V3) was developed by the National BIM Institute of Building Services buildingSmart alliance to provide standards for information exchanges during a BIM project. It also includes:

Procedures for the development and documentation of a BIM PxP

Information classification table that maintains information terminology.

 ISO 16739:2013, a standard that outlines a data schema for storing information for a building project.

Both the OPR and the (NBIMS‐US™) Version 3 (V3) should be used in conjunction when facilitating information exchanges for BIM projects.

new york city bim
Space and Graphical Standards

When establishing space and graphical standards, the United States National CAD Standard should be taken into account. These standards include:

  • Owner-specified guidelines and standards
  • Drawings
  • Sheet layout
  • Areas/Rooms and spaces
  • Digital documentation and archiving

File naming and folder organizations should be established to facilitate project documentation coherency and an understanding of all file contents.

The Owner should also create BIM Contract Requirements. These requirements address:

  • Model responsibility
  • The Modeling process
  • Minimum model contents
  • Facility data
  • Level of Development

Modeling Responsibility

This responsibility is assigned to a Model Element Author who provides the elements of the LOD specified in the BIM PxP, attaches data to the model, and oversees design and construction.

Modeling Process

The individuals overseeing the modeling process should use all industry best practices:

  • A standardized classification system that meets the requirements of NBIMS‐US™ Section 2.5:  OmniClass Table 21 Elements
  • IFC-compliant software
  • BIM software that meets the OPR for BIM Uses
  • Use of appropriate tools within BIM software
  • Regular updates to the model with any new revisions

Design professionals should create a Design Intent Model. This model allows them to produce construction documents that can be used for other models that in turn provide more project data.

Model Contents

The model must have all the content that meets the requirements of the PxP:

  • System components and connection points, like information parameters and annotations, for producing accurate drawings, details, schedules, and sheets.
  • Furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FFE) identified by make, model number, and building/department/room.
  • Clearance zones for code compliance, access, safety, maintenance, and gauge reading.
  • Any required layer of system should be modeled.

Project Data

Developed by the Project BIM Team, this includes all elements of the model and all definitions for project planning, design, construction, and operation.

Level of Development

The Owner must define an LOD for each model deliverable. The LOD can be:

Default LOD: The USACE Minimum Modeling Matrix defines a minimum LOD of elements for a design model.

Template LOD: The USACE M3, the AIA G202 – 2013 document, the Penn State University Model Element Matrix, or the PSU Project Planning Execution Guide are all essential Template LODs.

Custom LOD: Owners can develop their own LOD matrices with the help of the BIM Forum LOD Specification 2015 definitions to provide planning for Project BIM Team members.


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The BIM PxP should be created early on in the project lifecycle and refined throughout the project as it is developed and documented.

Development and review of the PxP is a group effort; the Project BIM Team should collaborate on the plan to ensure the submission to the Owner is ready for approval.

The PxP outlines several major project details:

  • Master information/data management plan
  • Role and responsibility assignment for model creation and data integration
  • The extent to which and how BIM will be used to secure a successful project outcome.
  • How different versions of the model will be stored and retrieved as the project progresses.

BIM Uses

BIM Uses categorize the various authoring, auditing, and analytical tools into single-task applications of integrated software tools.

A BIM Use is a means of applying BIM during a facility’s lifecycle to achieve one or more objectives. It takes on Essential, Enhanced, and Owner-Related forms.

Essential BIM Uses

  • Existing Conditions: A model developed for existing site conditions, facilities conditions, or the conditions of a specific area.
  • Design Authoring: A Building Information Model of the design, which serves as the first step toward implementing BIM into the project.
  • Coordination: Coordination of and clash detection of model elements
  • Record Modeling: A model that has accurate physical and functional conditions of a facility, which is routinely updated to reflect current conditions.

Enhanced BIM Uses

  • Cost Estimating: Using a model to generate cost estimates for the project, in addition to the costs of future additions and modifications to the project.
  • Phase and 4D Planning: When a 4D model is used to plan renovation occupancy and shown the construction sequence and space requirements for laydown areas.
  • Site Analysis—Development: Property Evaluation via BIM and GIS tools. This helps the team determine the best site location on which to begin building.
  • Digital Fabrication: Inputting a model into manufacturing and fabrication equipment for production of components, systems, and assemblies.
  • 3D Location and Layout: A process that lays out building assemblies and produces lift drawings via a model for site construction.
  • Engineering Analysis: Tools for physical and material properties of project elements, assemblies, and systems within the model for engineering, energy analysis, simulation, and documentation—structural engineering, daylighting plumbing, fire protection, life safety, and electrical systems design and documentation.
  • Sustainability Analysis: Like the tools for engineering analysis, but for developing sustainable design elements, documenting sustainable features and attributes, and documenting sustainable features for compliance with building rating systems.
  • Codes and Standards Compliance: Validation software to check the model parameters against codes and standards like building code compliance, energy code compliance, and accessibility compliance.
  • Construction Systems Design: Process to design and analyze systems like formwork, glazing, and tie-backs.

Owner-Related BIM Uses

  • Asset Management: Facility maintenance and operation through a Record Model that has project data linked to it.
  • Disaster Planning and Management: A system that gives emergency responders access to building information in the event of an emergency or safety risk.
  • Space Management: A process of using BIM to distribute, manage, and track appropriate spaces and resources in a facility. Spaces include walls, floors, and roofs. Facilities include mechanical, electrical, and plumbing.

Model Deliverables

The deliverables of the PxP can include a design intent model, a construction model, and operations and maintenance data.

Whatever it includes, each piece of content should be defined as such:

  • Design Intent Model: The models from the design team that show the intended design. It’s used for BIM Use execution, digital mockups, decision support, and coordination.
  • Construction Model: A model developed based on facility’s fabrication and construction data
  • As-Built Model: A model that represents the conditions at the completion of construction
  • Record Model: A model prepared for operations and maintenance. It is the Design Intent Model updates to include all changes made during construction.
  • Operations and Maintenance Data: This data includes asset name, classification, location, make, model, and serial number of key components, all of which should be in the deliverables.

The deliverables to the owner should include:

  • Updated BIM PxP
  • 2D drawing deliverables in PDF format
  • Construction Models
  • A 3D interactive review format of the model
  • Construction submittals, requests for interpretations, and change order requests
  • Record Models
  • Report generated from the model of all assets and attributes
  • Report verifying model compliance with Owner Project Data exchange requirements
  • Report verifying accuracy of the delivered model elements and asset attributes
  • Interference (clash detection) report
  • List of submitted files

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The deliverables for the BIM PxP are meant to provide clarity and top-down detailing of everything that has gone into the project. The Owner needs a comprehensive overview of everything that goes into the project for the sake of integrity, clarity, cooperation, and communication.

Lisa Duncan is principal/co-owner of CADsoft Consulting. She positions AEC firms to enter new markets and sustain themselves 10, 20, 30 years down the road. She has an extensive background in business development, sales management, contract negotiation, and driving market expansion.