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Elements of a BIM Content Strategy

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I think I've made the case for a BIM content strategy in a previouspost. Now the questions are, “What are the elements of a BIM content strategy?”; “How do the elements reduce time lost by professionals due to missing content (missing Revit families)?”; “What is an effective implementation strategy for your firm?”

In this post, we will answer only the first question. We will also raise questions that need to be answered to implement each element of the strategy. In subsequent posts, our intent is to expand on each element to answer the questions raised. By the end of the series, you should know the What and How of a BIM Content Strategy. 

BIM Project Templates

The first and, most important, building block of a BIM Content Strategy is the creation of project templates. Every firm that uses BIM software should be using templates as the first step in boosting productivity of building design teams. These are custom templates for particular types of projects – not the Revit default project template. 

When a project is started from a well-designed template, the project team will be using consistent (standard) text fonts, dimensions, tags, symbols, schedules, and titleblocks. They will also have essential families already loaded into the project, saving an enourmous amount of time searching for the right BIM objects to use. 

If a firm does just two types of projects (for example, residential and retail) they will need three BIM projects templates. In our example, they will need a “Base Project Template”, a “Residential Project Template” and a “Retail Project Template.” To over-simplify, the Base Project Template contains the firm's standards. The Residential and Retail templates are built from the Base template, but contain project-type specific elements, such as symbols, tags and schedules.

The details and steps to create BIM project templates will be covered in a later post.

BIM Content Library Plan

Once a firm has created a set of project templates, they have already started to build their own BIM Content Library. All the families loaded into the project templates are the firm's defacto BIM Object Library. So the next step in the BIM Content Strategy is to plan the development of a more complete library. Having building components available for insertion into BIM projects will save staff the hours required to either search for or build the components needed to complete the design.

There are many questions that need to be answered to develop an effective approach to this problem:

  • Are there firmwide standards for certain types of components (walls, equipment, etc.)?
  • Are there firm or designer preferences for particular manufacturer's components?
  • Do we require generic components or manufacturer-specific components, or both?

These are just some of the questions we will deal with in a later post.

BIM Content Acquisition

Once it is decided what BIM objects (Revit families) are needed in the firm's library, the next issue is how to acquire the desired objects. Some firms build their own content. Some firms buy Revit families from stores like Yellowbryk. Some firms find what they need by searching the internet.

We think it is most effective to use all of these methods. Build some, buy some, and find some for free on the internet. This balanced approach to acquiring a complete set of BIM objects has a good chance of accomodating the limits of cost, schedule and skills. The tricky part is deciding which BIM objects to find, to build or to buy. The hardest part may be to actually implement the plan.

We will cover these topics in greater detail in a later post.

BIM Content Distribution

Content distribution is about making the firm's BIM library easily accessible to all the staff that will need it. This is probably the easiest element of the BIM Content Strategy. In a firm with one office (and a network), just put the firm library on the network location accessible to all. If you want to restrict changes to the library to just a few people, your IT person can set permissions that way.

If your firm has multiple offices then there are options – one master library accessible from everywhere or one library pushed to each location. Behind those simple concepts are technical options that will have to be worked out. And the choices are intermixed with decisions made about content-management, the last element of the strategy.

In a later post on this topic we will keep the discussion simple by sticking to a folder-structure way of managing content. Content-management software options are complex enough to require a separate blog post.

BIM Content Management Plan

A BIM Content Management plan includes several sub-topics:

  • Keeping content up-to-date – Due to software upgrades or due to building product revisions.
  • Adding new content as needed – Required for new project types, as part of the BIM content acquisition plan or extracted from completed projects.
  • Merging “foreign” content into the firm library - Acquired from collaborators or from building product manufacturers.
  • Quality control – How defects are identified, communicated and fixed
  • Choices for content management software.

All these topics are way beyond the scope of this post, so they will be covered in later postings.

Summary

The recommended sequence for implementing a BIM Content Strategy is the same as the listing of topics in this post.

  1. Build BIM project templates
  2. Decide what is needed in the BIM content library
  3. Acquire BIM objects for the content library
  4. Set up a distribution system for the content
  5. Manage the BIM object library

Discussion Questions

  • What is the status of your BIM Content Strategy?
  • What are the next, logical steps in your path towards full implementation of your strategy?
  • What resources are required?
  • Who is responsible?
  • When will implementation be complete?



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