Chapter 5.6
Building Information Modelling


This chapter of the Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects (CHOP) is intended to provide an overview of building information modeling (BIM) in the management of practice and projects. It presents basic concepts of BIM as well as resources. There is much already written about BIM and practice management, project management and design. A valuable reference for all in the architectural community is the Canadian Practice Manual for BIM – Volumes 1, 2 and 3, published in 2016 by buildingSMART Canada and the Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC). See the reference list at the end of this chapter.


Building Information Model: “Building Information Models contain unambiguous digital facility information for the purposes of communication and collaboration between all different trades and stakeholders (Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Owners and Operators) in the construction sector.”
– (Canadian Practice Manual for BIM – Volume 1, 2016, p.5)

Building Information Modeling: “Building Information Modeling processes (BIM processes) can be viewed as the collaborative practices of creating, using and maintaining models in support of the lifecycle of a facility.”
– (Canadian Practice Manual for BIM – Volume 1, 2016, p.5)


Building information modeling (BIM) represents processes and technology that, if embraced to their fullest extent, change not only architectural production practices, but the structure and organization of the design-construction industry supply chain. Having been introduced to architectural practices on a wide scale in the early 1990s, BIM is not new. However, using BIM to integrate design, construction, and facility operational processes to achieve reduced redundancy of effort, fewer errors, increased profitability, and reduced time to market has been slow to evolve. The realization of the full benefits of BIM is parallel to advances in computing processing, storage and visualization technology, design-construction project delivery methods, and design-construction supply chain integration.

In recent years building information modeling has become a buzz word, often believed to be new technology, but in fact BIM has been in development in other industries since the 70s and for the design-construction industry since the late 90s. Charles River Software released a private version of Revit-like software in 1999. This program was then developed for commercial release as Revit 1.0 by Revit Technologies Corporation in 2000, followed by AutoDesk’s release of Revit in 2002. Even with its history, the concept and use of BIM is only now reaching a tipping point in the Canadian design-construction industry.

The adoption, integration, and optimization of BIM in architectural practice requires not only operational process transformation but business model redesign. Integration of processes across the design-construction-operation supply chain requires rethinking of a firm’s value proposition, exploring different channels through which the firm delivers value to clients, and acquiring new key partners to deliver that value.

The full implementation of BIM in the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, and Owner/Operator (AECOO) supply chain requires a rethinking of how value is generated and for whom.

“… a supply chain and a value chain are complementary views of an extended enterprise with integrated business processes enabling the flows of products and services in one direction, and of value as represented by demand and cash flow in the other … . Both chains overlay the same network of companies. Both are made up of companies that interact to provide goods and services. When we talk about supply chains, however, we usually talk about a downstream flow of goods and supplies from the source to the customer. Value flows the other way. The customer is the source of value, and value flows from the customer, in the form of demand, to the supplier. That flow of demand, sometimes referred to as a “demand chain” … is manifested in the flows of orders and cash that parallel the flow of value, and flow in the opposite direction to the flow of supply. Thus, the primary difference between a supply chain and a value chain is a fundamental shift in focus from the supply base to the customer. Supply chains focus upstream on integrating supplier and producer processes, improving efficiency and reducing waste, while value chains focus downstream, on creating value in the eyes of the customer.”
– Feller et al., p. 4

Building information modeling is the process of collaboratively developing and managing an integrated digital model containing information about a building’s assets over its lifecycle. The model acts as a single source of accurate data and supports the many disciplines that are involved in the design, construction, operation, and management of a built asset. The underlying principle of BIM is a data-driven approach to project delivery, as opposed to the traditional, 2D representational approach. A single, widely adopted, integrated model developed to support all design, construction, and operational activities has been a historic goal and continues to be a challenge due to the historically disparate nature of the design-construction industry. However, there is increasing empirical evidence that BIM, deployed within an integrated design process (IDP) and integrated project delivery (IPD) procurement method using a federated model by multiple stakeholders, is how the industry is already working. Gains in efficiency and effectiveness are attributable to contractual relationships that reinforce collaboration, and to the high quality streamlined information flows that result in fewer errors and support global optimization of asset lifecycle practices. However, measuring these gains can be difficult:

“The nature of architecture and construction makes it difficult to invent a system of metrics that will clearly and simply evaluate how one project has generated benefit, financial or otherwise, over another. Projects are unique in the main; architects create prototypes, and there is little opportunity to repeat design. The likelihood of the next prototype working depends on the accumulation of collective expertise over time rather than having the ability to refine a design model until a production run is put in place.”
– Race, p. 46.

The development of BIM and its integrated model generation relies on stakeholders’ and customers’ appreciation of the value of a project’s upstream supply chain. The question becomes, what is the value of BIM in monetary terms to those stakeholders and customers in the downstream value chain?

Canadian Practice Manual for BIM

The Canadian Practice Manual for BIM is designed to provide to novice and intermediate BIM users a framework for developing and adopting company-centric practices to streamline and improve their use of digital information. This three-volume book was written for all participants of the AECOO industry implementing or running BIM-enabled projects. It includes a range of topics, from high-level non-technical explanations regarding building information models and processes, to BIM implementation company-wide to minimize impact, as well as BIM at a project level and how it differs from traditional approaches.

For more information or to obtain a copy, visit:

BIM Lifecycle

Best defined by the Canadian Practice Manual for BIM (CPMB), a building information modeI is:

“an interoperable digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. As such it serves as a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its lifecycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.”
– CPMB, p. 32

Building information modeling is defined as:

“a process focused on the development, use and transfer of digital information models of a building project to improve the design, construction, and operation of a project or portfolio of facilities.”
– CPMB, p. 32

The currently fragmented construction industry has a need for a centralized platform for information sharing due to the increasing complexity of many buildings and the growing number of experts involved. BIM is that forum for collaboration that in turn increases the efficiency of information sharing between the multiple parties that collaborate throughout the facility’s lifecycle.

The BIM lifecycle begins at the pre-design phase during planning and programming of a facility, continues throughout the design and construction phases, and then on to operation and maintenance. It then comes back for planning, design and construction of renovations and repurposing.

The use of BIM for facility management is the longest phase of the BIM, and is where much of the investment in the process is realized due to all the integrated data. Owners can replace the boxes of paper drawings, owner manuals, warranty documents, shop drawings and as-built drawings with the BIM model, where information is centralized, searchable and accessible. The BIM model contains all the needed assets and associated information digitally.

BIM and Standardization/Interoperability

The full advantages of BIM are realized when a single model, developed at the project outset, is elaborated by an integrated project team, and construction and operational data supplement the model progressively. Applying BIM, the information about the building grows smoothly and progressively compared to the more traditional approach where the handoff of building information through project phases can be disruptive and require re-elaboration over and over as new stakeholders join the project.

Adapted from the Canadian Practice Manual for BIM (CPMB) (p. 31), the building of the model is described in terms of “dimensions”:

  • 2D: generating traditional plan, section, elevation and detail 2D design and/or construction and/or facilities management drawings database;
  • 3D: 2D + static or animated perspective, i.e., volumetric and/or specific construction systems and/or construction details, views and/or renderings;
  • 4D: 3D + sequenced construction time schedule / program information;
  • 5D: 4D + cost information; and
  • 6D: 5D + facilities management information.

Other models apply a 7th dimension:

  • 6D: 5D + sustainability
  • 7D: 6D + health and safety.

The single model is an ideal that may not be practical or achievable as a design environment for all project stakeholders. Reasons vary for this challenge, some being procurement method, liability, and technology platform. A federated model is an assembly of discipline-specific models brought together to create a common data environment (CDE). Once integrated, a combined model is one of the results of the CDE. Refer to “What is a federated Building Information Model?” from NBS Enterprises Ltd.

Achieving the CDE requires the interoperability of software and platforms, and standardization of the systems of exchange of data. Internationally, national government-level initiatives have supported standardization resulting in industry-wide enhancements to both efficiency and effectiveness. As noted in the CPMB (p. 18), the growth of BIM in Canada has been “more organic and grass roots” resulting in less than universal adoption. Achieving levels of efficiency and effectiveness needed for the Canadian design-construction industry to compete regionally, nationally, and on the world stage will require partnerships between public and private sector organizations with a focus on creating interoperable environments.


Interoperability is defined as: “the ability for two (or more) systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged.” (IEEE, 1990, as quoted in Chen and Daclin, 2006). Interoperability has become synonymous with the capability for multiple information systems to coexist, interact and gain understanding from one another while exchanging functionalities.

Open standards for the architecture, engineering, construction and facilities management (AEC/FM) industries are critical to overcoming issues of interoperability between applications that lead to loss of productivity and efficiency and to waste generation. These standards cannot be achieved by any single vendor, but rather must be a consortium of software providers, practitioners, academics and client-owners all working collaboratively to achieve interoperable solutions.

Refer to the buildingSMART International website,, for a compilation of IEEE standard computer glossaries and a data dictionary.


Collaboration is at the centre of BIM’s success. BIM collaboration includes communication amongst all the parties involved, together with a universal approach to collaborative design, realization and operation. Collaboration includes the communication of the building information models to one another, which often exist as different file formats that may not be natively compatible. This full collaboration is based on open standards and workflows referred to as Open BIM.

Refer to the Canadian Practice Manual for BIM, Volume One and BIM Handbook: A Guide to Building Information Modeling for Owners, Managers, Designers, Engineers, and Contractors, Chapter 3, pp. 65-92, for a discussion of standardization.


For a discussion about trends in building permit application, review, and approval using building models and BIM technology, see Chapter 2.4 – Authorities Having Jurisdiction.

Delivery Methodologies

BIM can be applied to any project delivery system; however, some project delivery systems allow BIM to be leveraged more than others. The use of BIM in its full collaborative mode may not be practical in some project delivery methods due to the separated contractual arrangement of the different stakeholders involved, i.e. client’s team, design team, constructors’ team, etc.. Highly collaborative project delivery systems, such as integrated project delivery (IPD) as compared to design-bid-build, are better structured to deliver optimal building performance and realize maximum project benefit.

Whether applying more traditional project delivery methods or IPD, the IBC BIM Contract Language Document Package will support the design and construction procurement process(es).  Refer to “IBC BIM Contract Language Documents Package” at

Level of Development

The BIM design and construction project lifecycle differs from the tradition project lifecycle in several ways:

  • Greater fluidity of data and information exchange across the project lifecycle and between project stakeholders;
  • Increased potential for amassing design and construction data at earlier stages in the project, resulting in front-end loading of the design effort.

A key concept in the BIM project lifecycle is the Level of Development (LOD). LOD has multiple definitions, but essentially describes the stages of evolution of design. The descriptions provided are consistent with those from the Canadian Practice Manual for BIM:

  • LOD 100 - Elements are a generic representation, giving the viewer a basic idea of existence but no idea about size, exact shape or orientation;
  • LOD 200 - A representation of a rough idea of elements’ size, location in the facility, etc., but with much approximation;
  • LOD 300 - This shows the specific geometric size of the element and orientation, location, and quantity used across the facility;
  • LOD 350 - A revision of LOD 300 depicting precise information about how the component will be connected to the nearby elements;
  • LOD 400 - Sufficient information to fabricate the component with individual holes and weld sizes;
  • LOD 500 - The fully-developed design, showing the operational geometry of the component, the stage of installation of the component with duly verified information such as manufacturer details, dates, part, and model number, etc.

The BIM design process is acknowledged as front-end-loading the design effort. Many design decisions are finalized at the schematic design stage. Architects are advised to focus on making large-scale design decisions in the early design phase due to the considerable expense of making changes later, and to exercise caution in making detailed design decisions too early that cannot be undone without considerable expense. The management of the design process and the LOD of all systems therefore become critical to effective project management.

BIM and the Architectural Practice

The inefficiencies, errors, and omissions of paper-based delivery of design and construction information are widely acknowledged, and their reduction is a key driver to the transformation of design-construction processes and technologies. The adoption of BIM as only a technological intervention in design and production in architectural practice limits potential innovation and constrains competitive advantage. Current architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) models of project delivery rely on formal approaches to information transfer, reinforced by contractual separation, amplified notions of liability, and an ever-increasing desire to divest of risk. The adoption of BIM as an enhanced design and production tool alone does not resolve challenges in transforming a design concept through to a realized building.

As multiple authors have identified, the business model and strategies of all stakeholders in the design-construction supply chain must transform to solve some of the problems inherent in traditional project delivery. Sacks et al. in BIM Handbook: A Guide to Building Information Modeling for Owners, Designers, Engineers, Contractors, and Facility Managers, 3rd Edition detail the inherent inefficiencies and associated cost in design-bid-build (DBB) and design-build (DB) (pp. 2-10). They then build on these ideas to reinforce the benefits of process transformation.

The Architect will find two useful and practical guides that together will support practice transformation in becoming a BIM leader. The Canadian Practice Manual for BIM (CPMB), Volume 2 provides a first-principles approach to firm transformation by starting with development of the firm’s vision and then walking through a strategic assessment of the driving forces supporting firm success. Integration of processes across the design-construction supply chain requires a deep level of assessment of traditional practices and attitude. The second resource is the business model canvas. This nine-part tool supports a structured and creative approach to strategic planning that explores all drives of an organization’s operations.

Refer to the Canadian Practice Manual for BIM, Volume Two, pp. 5-37, and BIM Handbook: A Guide to Building Information Modeling for, Owners, Designers, Engineers, Contractors, and Facility Managers, Chapter 1, pp. 2-10, for a discussion of firm transformation and strategic planning. Refer to Business Model Generation by Osterwalder and Pigneur for information about building new business models.

Implementing BIM in Architectural Practice

BIM implementation is more involved than purchasing software and teaching a technical skill. It is a shift in the approach to designing and constructing an architectural project. Project scheduling, staffing, project fees, communication and team relationships all need to be re-thought and reviewed. Implementing BIM requires changes in both process and technology. There are numerous systems and components to consider when determining a pathway forward in BIM implementation. A practical approach is to consider BIM implementation as a program with multiple interrelated projects. This structured approach to change allows staff to participate in planning and implementation. It is often said that people do not like change. This is untrue. People initiate change in their lives all the time. It is true, however, that people do not like change over which they have no control. A program/project approach to structured change results in measurable outcomes, the assignment of responsibility, and opportunities to strengthen a firm through team building.

Breaking down the systems of an architectural practice helps organize the effort of BIM implementation into manageable projects that can be assigned to appropriate staff members.

The management systems of architectural practices can be divided into operational systems and project systems. Each of these two groups of systems are managed differently, and in larger firms by people with different management backgrounds and skill sets. Building on a structured program and project management approach, the BIM implementation program will be easier to manage, financial expenditures easier to control, and success easier to measure.

The following are keys to successful BIM implementation:

  • planning: a thoughtful BIM strategy agreed to by leadership;
  • transparency: share the strategic BIM plan with the entire office. Transparency will help solidify expectations office-wide;
  • learning: developing a culture of learning is very important.

Operational Systems

Human Resources and Training
The implementation and functions of BIM have an impact on several operational systems, including:

  • human resources and training;
  • information technologies:
    • software;
    • hardware;
    • communications and technology platform;
  • workflow management;
  • culture.

Human Resources and Training
The implementation of BIM requires a reorganization of processes in the architectural practice. Process redesign requires changes of roles and responsibilities of office staff. Two of those new roles are the Systems Integrator and the BIM Manager. The actual job scope of an individual may vary depending on the size of the practice; however, the functions of managing the integration of the systems across the design-construction supply chain to optimize interoperability, and the responsibility for coordinating the federated model, are foundational to process redesign.

Many new roles have been created because of BIM. These new roles have taken on many titles, and the roles and responsibilities range widely across different practices depending on size, project types and level of BIM implementation. Roles and titles include BIM Manager, BIM Coordinator, Model Manager.

It is likely that the types of BIM roles within architectural practices will continue to expand. Already there are Computational Designers, Design Technology Directors, and Programmers, and it is anticipated that Data Analysts are not far off. The two roles described below are considered foundational, and although the titles may not reflect those of any firm, the responsibilities in each firm need to be addressed.

Role of the System Integrator
The System Integrator is responsible for the systems and protocols of data and information exchange. Where traditional paper-based design systems resulted in completion and formal hand-off of deliverables, BIM functions in an environment where data and information flow with greater fluidity through the design process in the office and across the greater design-construction-operation supply chain. Working with design staff, the responsibilities of the System Integrator include the development of policies about access and editing control, development of templates, and structuring libraries of shared digital content. System integration is a staff function in an office with responsibilities spanning design processes on many or all projects.

Role of the BIM Manager
The BIM Manager is responsible for the configuration of the model for a given project and the enforcement of policies controlling viewing, editing, merging, and releases of the master model. With multiple design team members both internal and external to the architectural practice, corruption of the model is a project risk to be avoided and/or mitigated. The BIM Manager’s role is assigned on a project-by-project basis.

Design team members will be working in an environment structured on collaboration and integration. Recruiting staff should not focus exclusively on design and technical skills but also on the interpersonal skills needed to function in a collaborative environment. These skills include mentoring, coaching, interpersonal conflict management, and empathy. These skills are needed in any contemporary working environment, but they become critical when teaching and learning are key responsibilities of staff members. It must be noted that it is not only a responsibility of senior staff to support the learning of junior staff, but also a responsibility of technically savvy “digital natives” to support the learning of senior architects in the transition from traditional design lifecycles and techniques to those required for BIM processes.

Proper training and internal support will discourage regression in BIM adoption and limit reverting to former, more comfortable practices. Training and information must be easily accessible and appropriately designed and delivered.

A BIM training program should build on the five phases of learning program development:

  • analysis;
  • design;
  • development;
  • implementation;
  • evaluation.

Analysis of training needs includes taking an inventory of:

  • learners’ current knowledge and capabilities;
  • the body of knowledge to be acquired and the capabilities to be demonstrated by the learner;
  • identifying the gap between the two;
  • analysis of the learner’s context, i.e., available time, preferred delivery modality, etc.

Design involves the creation of:

  • learning outcomes:
    • what is the learner’s expected level of achievement?
    • what should the learner be able to demonstrate at the completion of this learning experience?
    • write learning outcomes;
  • content breakdown into hierarchical structure:
    • how does the body of knowledge to be learned break down into an organized hierarchy of concepts, principles, processes, techniques and applications?

Development of instructional material is the creation, conversion, and adaptation of content to form learning objects to be used in self-guided or instructor-led learning:

  • content development:
    • inventory existing content, learning resources, off-the-shelf programs;
    • analyze existing content for applicability and alignment with learning outcomes to identify gaps;
    • identify development and delivery partners for off-the-shelf and/or custom content development and delivery;
    • develop content outline and course/module descriptions;
    • develop content and instructional approach;
  • analyze accessible and affordable delivery modality(ies);
    • asynchronous (on-demand prepacked modules), synchronous (live instruction), or hybrid (online learning augmented with live instruction)

Implementation of the program of instruction:

  • Train the instructors:
    • if delivering in-house developed courses, training the instructor(s) in the content to be delivered;
  • Prepare the learning with pre-learning information and assessment;
  • Prepare the learning environment:
    • ensure that the time for learning is uninterrupted and distractions are minimized;
    • select off-site facility for learning and/or provide adequate block of time in which the learning can acquire the content and test capabilities to determine success in achieving learning outcomes.

Evaluation involves comparing collected data to access program success and make changes.

  • collect pre-learning data through prior learning assessment;
  • collect post-learning data following instructional experience;
  • identify acquisition of learning;
  • revise content, modality, environment as required to achieve desired learning outcomes.

Training and office support can be broken down into the following categories:

  • introductory training:
    • Teaching basic skills focuses primarily on technical skills in the primary BIM tools. It may be conducted in-house by the BIM Leader, or outsourced.
  • ongoing learning:
    • Learning will continue for all levels and positions in the office. There is some expectation that ongoing learning is taken on by individuals. The BIM Manager will encourage ongoing learning and provide it in multiple formats to make it accessible and front-of-mind. When appropriate a certificate may be issued by some provincial architectural associations for a continued education credit. Ongoing learning will include a variety of topics.
  • standards review and management:
    • A comprehensive and easily digestible set of standards should be reviewed by all levels within the organization.
  • continuing education:
    • Learning is intensified for the BIM leaders in the organization. Systems of knowledge sharing should be in place to disseminate the information throughout the office.

Audits should be conducted during and following the implementation of the BIM learning process as a method for improving performance

Whether BIM is implemented as the first design and production system or whether the office is transitioning from CAD drawing to model building, the following is a condensed list of the learnings that must take place in order to support smooth office functions:

  • network, server, and workstation configuration;
  • server setup and file organization;
  • BIM libraries structures;
  • basic model building;
  • single or federated model configuration;
  • drawing setup and printing/plotting;
  • project planning, work assignment, and reporting system;
  • review and approval procedures;
  • hand-off procedures.

Whether purchasing off-the-shelf training, employing custom training provided by a consultant, developing an in-house training program, or, more likely, a combination of all three, the process of education program development starts with an evaluation of the firm’s strategic plan. The strategic plan should articulate the value proposition that the firm presents to the marketplace. The value proposition must align with what the marketplace considers of value and is prepared to pay for. One size does not fit all, and different client segments will value different features of BIM and the associated services needed to produce them. A firm’s operational planning then follows the strategic plan with human resources planning being a part.

A training program to address human resource and strategic needs should be developed as a set of interrelated projects with defined scopes and clear objectives. A staff member may be assigned to each project to act in the role of project manager. For example, orienting the staff to library configuration may be a project assigned to one staff member, while a project to implement and train staff on review and approval procedures assigned to another. Distributing project managerial responsibilities for education and learning across the office will deepen the firm’s management and leadership capabilities. Alternately, assigning a champion to both lead and manage training may provide a high level of consistency of education, and strengthen linkages between the strategic plan and the training plan.

A training program is most effective when conducted in parallel with current need. The immediate application of new learning will reinforce the education. Therefore, developing a training program that addresses the needs of the design project(s) at hand, although perhaps more time-consuming to develop, will yield the greatest return on the training investment.

Information Technologies

The Canadian Practice Manual for BIM (CPMB) describes the overarching functions that parallel the design-construction-operation lifecycle as author, analyze, construct, and manage. BIM is supported by hundreds of software programs for these four functions. The type of software needed relates to the position of the stakeholder in the supply chain and their corresponding responsibilities.

Architects are predominantly the authors of data and information and provide investigation and design analysis. Adapted from the CPMB, authoring and analysis software need to support the following functions:

The CPMB provides a list of questions related to practice functions when selecting a software platform (p. 56).

Subscription vs. Perpetual Licence
A financial consideration in software section is whether the software suite desired is available on an annual subscription basis or can be purchased with a perpetual licence. The perpetual licence may result in a higher initial outlay but be more economical over the lifespan of the software and the hardware. Subscription software results in a lower initial outlay but a payment each year that may increase on an ongoing basis. Another consideration is the taxation implication of software purchase vs. subscription. Purchased software with a price above a minimum threshold determined by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is treated as a capital asset, and the depreciation is distributed over several years based on CRA schedules. The cost of subscription software may be deducted as an operating expense on an annual basis. In a large firm these financial considerations could become significant decision-making factors.

In selecting an authoring platform with which to build the model and add attributes, key considerations are interoperability and collaboration, particularly for large projects with numerous stakeholders creating and using the model(s). An initiative of buildingSMART International and several leading software vendors using the open buildingSMART data model is openBIM, promoting the interoperability of data exchange: openBIM is a universal approach to the collaborative design, realization and operation of buildings based on open standards and workflows.

The usefulness of a federated model relies on the transparency of effective and efficient file format exchange. Many BIM platform developers have adopted openBIM to enable model and data exchange through the supply chain.


  • supports a transparent, open workflow, allowing project members to participate regardless of the software tools they use;
  • creates a common language for widely referenced processes, allowing industry and government to procure projects with transparent commercial engagement, comparable service evaluation and assured data quality;
  • provides enduring project data for use throughout the asset lifecycle, avoiding multiple input of the same data and consequential errors.

Refer to “About openBIM” at to learn more.

Moore’s Law, simplified, states that computing power doubles every two years. Powerful and affordable desktop and portable workstations, tablets, and mobile smart devices have made BIM possible. At the same time, 3D visualization, animation, and the management of an ever-increasing amount of attribute data demand faster processing and more powerful graphics processors.

In building and/or selecting a hardware system, identifying the minimal and optimal physical requirements of the authoring software platform(s) can be challenging. Reviews of discrete hardware components can be confusing. As well, many desktop and portable workstations in an architectural office require not only the building design suite of software, but also presentation and publication software such as Adobe Creative Suite, office software such as Microsoft Office or OpenOffice, and project management software such as Microsoft Project or OpenProject.

As a crude rule of thumb, computing processing capacity drives functionality. To limit obsolescence, purchase as much processing capacity as can be afforded. The second rule of thumb is to purchase a graphics processor proportional to the main processor that supports vector generating software.

Communications and Collaborative Technology Platforms
From the earliest times of human experience, communications have been substantially governed by bandwidth – the amount of data that can be transmitted within a specific time frame and/or through a constrained medium. The sharing of building design data and information relies on collaborative platforms where files are accessible, and the bandwidth of the communication infrastructure enables rapid data exchange. There is little more frustrating than performing a command and having to wait seconds while the software executes the command.

Server and Connectivity Technology
Data exchange technology, including internet connectivity, should accommodate the rapid and continuous flow of data for the purposes of updating the model and the automatic backup of files. When time is of the essence, when connectivity between platforms is identified as a project risk, and when security of data is a consideration, multiple pathways of connectivity may be expensive, but a viable risk mitigation option.

The connectivity within distributed project teams must be optimized and balanced for each separate system. Connection to the data resident on a server may be achieved through a local area network (LAN) within an office, a wide area network (WAN) or enterprise private network (EPN) between different offices of the same firm, a virtual private network (VPN) that allows secured access to an organization’s server(s) from any location, or a cloud-based system where data is stored in “the cloud” and not on a specific server owned or controlled by the firm. A bottleneck in any one of these systems will result in reduce bandwidth all round.

The CPMB lists the advantages of cloud-based networking and services as agility, cost, access, reliability, and scalability (p. 52). However, security may be a factor in selecting a connectivity platform if the location of the physical server(s) is governed by legislation that may conflict with the security requirements of the data’s owner(s).

Communication Technology
Collaborative communication technology, such as video conferencing with screen and document sharing over the internet, is in a constant state of evolution with noticeable increases in functionality, performance, and quality almost monthly. Although change in technology is rapid, the majority of design-construction sector workers are digital natives and have been raised and educated in an environment of ever-increasing bandwidth and functionality. For a further discussion of technology in architectural practice, see Chapter 3.7 – Technology Systems.

Workflow Management
The value of BIM is realized through the integrated workflows that are supported by the interoperability of software platforms and collaborative relationships. From the CPMB, Figure 1 provides a comparison of detached and integrated workflows.

FIGURE 1 Detached and Integrated Workflows. From CPMB, p. 61. Reprinted with the permission of buildingSMART Canada.

Organizational culture is the sum of an organization’s structure, strategies, decision-making, stories and rituals. In an organization with a strong culture, employees know the behaviour that senior management expects of them and how to respond in given situations. They believe that demonstration of behaviour consistent with the organization’s culture will result in reward and recognition. Behaviour that deviates from the accepted cultural norms may result in disciplinary action or dismissal. The challenge for any organization that operates in a dynamic and complex context, such as an architectural practice, is the need to adjust the firm’s culture to accommodate the needs of project clients, engineering design team partners, and project delivery stakeholders. For example, challenges in cultural alignment become obvious when a firm that predominantly provides architectural services to private sector developers attempts to work with public sector bodies, and vice versa.

Organizational culture refers not only to that of the architecture firm but also the entire project organization. In a project delivered through the integrated project delivery model, for example, all parties need to adopt and actively participate in collaborative decision making. The culture of collaboration is reinforced by a contractual structure of shared risk and reward. It is further reinforced by the use of a federated digital model and workflow processes that emphasize integration rather than separation of scope responsibility. See Chapter 4.1 – Types of Design-Construction Program Delivery.

Where the foundational concepts and principles of BIM reinforce collaboration, integration and interoperability, the concepts of regulation, discipline knowledge, and liability risk management reinforce boundaries, separation, and clearly delineated scope. These two sets of concepts are not mutually exclusive, but open and active dialogue is required to bridge the differences in stakeholders’ attitudes and behaviours.

The Canadian Practice Manual for BIM (CPMB) places significant emphasis on the cultural transformation needed in the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, and Owner/Operator (AECOO) supply chain. Adapted from the CPMB, the three steps necessary are:

  1. Making a decision to commit: reinforce the strategic objectives of BIM process transformation and collaboration at the senior leadership level, and transmit that to the management who in turn develop the tactics to realize the firm’s mission;
  2. Allocating resources to support commitment: ensure that resources are available for training, support, and technology;
  3. Planning and deployment of support strategies: develop medium and long-term strategies to achieve the desired results.

Refer to CPMB, 2.4.1 – Supporting Culture, p. 29, for a list of activities to support the development of cultural transformation.

Project Systems

BIM Execution Plans
The BIM Execution Plan (BxP) is an important project management tool for BIM-enabled projects. As with other terms associated with BIM, there are varying names for this planning tool, such as BIM Project Plan, Project Execution Plan, BIM Plan, but all have the same goals and purpose: to act as a planning and management tool, to define what BIM will be used for and how it will respond directly to the clients’ BIM requests, and to outline all the stakeholders’ BIM processes.

The fundamental purpose of the BxP is best described in the CPMB and CanBIM’s AEC(CAN) BIM Protocol.

“Developed at the early stages of a project, the BxP should continually grow and be updated according to changing project requirements.”
– (AEC(CAN) BIM Protocol)

The IBC Contract Appendix for BIM projects was designed to be appended to RAIC Document 6, CCDC 30, ACEC 31, CCDC 2, etc. and is based on the AIA 202 Building Information Modeling Protocol. The Contract Appendix, when used, has a direct relationship to the BxP.

BIM Execution Plans can be long detailed documents needed for project planning, but far more detailed than contractually necessary. The IBC Contract Appendix for BIM projects calls out specific critical parts of the BxP as the Protocol, and those sections are deemed part of the contract.

Within the many different references to the BxP, there is a fairly consistent table of contents in the templates, outlined below. A BxP should suit your project needs, and it is common practice for every office to add or subtract sections as needed: it is a planning tool to support project collaboration. A typical BxP table of contents should include:

  • Project Information / Roles / Contacts
  • Goals and Uses
  • Process Design Maps
  • Information Exchange
  • BIM and Facility Data Requirements
  • Collaboration Procedures
  • Quality Control
  • Technology/Software
  • Model Structure
  • Deliverables

Each BxP is a living document and requires updating to remain relevant. Reasons to update a BxP include but are not limited to:

  • change in project participants;
  • change in BIM model requirements;
  • change in software tools, model formats, or workflows.

Identifying who takes the lead on developing the BxP will depend on the project delivery and contractual arrangements amongst the parties. Often the architect or the contractor will take the lead at the project start. A knowledgeable owner’s contribution to the BxP is generally limited to outlining the BIM requirements and deliverables for the project which the BxP will directly respond to.

If the BxP is not linked to the contract, it will nonetheless act as an agreement amongst the collaborative parties. A draft is developed and distributed to the collaborative parties followed by a BIM kickoff intended to review the document in detail. This kickoff meeting should be carefully minuted and the minutes read and distributed to all attendees and affected parties, with instructions to review and respond with any concerns within 24-72 hours of receipt.

Project Goals vs. BIM Uses

BIM is not the goal. Identifying the project goals is important to determine how the BIM will be used to achieve them. For example, if reducing RFIs and changes during construction are the goals, then BIM use is likely focused on 3D coordination, which means that all the consultants will need to produce models with geometry to coordinate in a 3D environment. All the parties will need to be aware of that BIM use in order to develop their model to allow for that coordination to be done.

Canadian Organizations Supporting BIM

buildingSMART Canada

Established and initially run by the Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC), bSC carries on the common goal of supporting the implementation of BIM in a way and at a pace that enables industry to successfully achieve improvements in project delivery and lifecycle management of the built environment, including infrastructure. buildingSMART Canada (bSC) is the Canadian chapter of buildingSMART International, providing the appropriate body and home for Canadian BIM standards development. It is active in the development of international BIM standards and supports the interoperability of data, consistency and efficiency in work processes, and optimization of information classification systems. Members of bSC are involved in local, regional, national and/or international activities. Visit to learn more.

Institute for BIM in Canada

The Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC) was created in late 2010. Its mission is to lead and facilitate the coordinated use of building information modeling (BIM) in the design, construction and management of the Canadian built environment. At the very outset, the founding partners determined that BIM needs to be implemented in a way, and at a pace, that enables the primary stakeholders to understand their roles and responsibilities and to assess their capacity to participate in this process.

IBC’s priorities were to:

  • Endorse, develop and maintain Open BIM Standards for the Canadian market through the Canadian Chapter of buildingSMART International;
  • Define collaborative approaches and solutions between the various stakeholders in the BIM environment;
  • Develop and recommend best practice policies, tools and procedures to support BIM utilization;
  • Educate the industry about trends and developments relative to BIM in Canada and about the pace of adoption that is increasing steadily in the Canadian built environment;
  • Communicate its activities to the industry at large.

The affairs of the Institute are managed and governed by a steering committee comprised of representatives from the architectural, contracting, engineering, and owner (private and public) communities, including representation from the RAIC. The IBC has successfully published several resource documents that support BIM adoption at the practice levels.


CanBIM’s mission is to provide Canadian architecture, engineering, construction, owner and operator (AECOO) industry professionals, academia and supply chain members a collective voice dedicated to digital technologies. CanBIM provides its members with advocacy, learning opportunities and best practices for digital technologies in a Canadian context while maintaining connectivity with international partners. CanBIM’s Board of Directors exists to serve the needs of the council membership. The board assembles the best experience in architecture, engineering, construction, building ownership, facility management, construction law, education, and digital technology.

To learn more, visit

bSC Affiliates

The bSC affiliates are local user groups that bring together local members in face-to-face meetings featuring presentations, networking and peer-to-peer discussions. There are bSC affiliate groups in a number of cities across Canada including Vancouver/Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec. To learn more about the affiliates groups, visit

BIM Organization Collaborations

Recognizing that each organization serves the Canadian AECOO stakeholders responsible for the construction and maintenance of the Canadian built environment, CanBIM and buildingSMART Canada are collaborating on promoting, educating and facilitating BIM adoption and implementation, supported through open standards for Canada’s AECOO community via buildingSMART Canada’s Roadmap to Lifecycle Building Information Modeling in Canada.

Canadian BIM Resources

IBC Contract Language Documents Package

To encourage the use of BIM in Canada, the Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC) created the IBC BIM Contract Appendix. The appendix is based on previously developed BIM contracts; it is designed to be appended to standard Canadian construction contracts such as RAIC Document 6, ACEC 31, CCDC 2 and other standard form contracts already known to the Canadian construction industry. This contract appendix covers topics such as copyright, model element ownership and more.

The appendix is a standard fillable PDF form, accompanied by the IBC 201 appendix that includes the LOD Authorized Uses and Model Elements Table as well as the Guide to the Use of IBC Contract Language, which provides clause-by-clause commentary.

The Contract Language Documents Package Bundle can be obtained from:

IBC BIM PxP Toolkit Package

The IBC has developed a series of BIM Project Execution Plan Toolkits to assist project teams in developing their own project-specific BIM Execution Plans. There are 3 PxP toolkits, one each for the design development phase, the construction phase, and the handover and maintenance phase.

Each of these toolkits consists of several parts: an overview document; an executive summary which is a high-level explanation; an illustrative guide; an example of a project execution plan; and the PxP Template.

For more information or to obtain a copy, refer to:

The Roadmap

The Roadmap to Lifecycle Building Information Modeling in the Canadian AECOO Community was developed to prompt, guide and sustain the transformation to BIM, supporting collaborative approaches to project delivery based on building information modeling tools, technologies and processes that are aligned with other similar initiatives currently underway around the globe.

The roadmap articulates six principles and develops them by setting clear milestones aimed towards a verifiable desired state. buildingSmart Canada is confident that the roadmap will facilitate the transformation to a better performing industry through the collective participation of all its stakeholders and a national BIM mandate.

For more information visit:

AEC(CAN) BIM Protocol

The AEC(CAN) BIM Protocol is a Canadian document that has been developed by CanBIM member representatives from architectural, engineering, and construction companies across Canada. These members are from large and small firms, working on projects of all sizes. The document focuses primarily on encouraging adaptation of emergent standards for practical and efficient application of BIM in Canada, particularly at the design stages of a project. The second version was issued in 2014.

For more information contact CanBIM at


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