What are the BIM levels?

BIM levels

BIM levels indicate the level of cooperation between the project participants, which shows how “mature” the BIM workflow is: as the cooperation between the different actors increases, the more efficiently and integrally the information content of the model is used.

There are currently four different levels of BIM maturity:

Letsbuild's diagram shows the content of the different BIM levels and their associated BIM dimensions on a timeline
BIM levels (source: LetsBuild)

Level 0 BIM (low level of cooperation)

At level zero there is virtually no cooperation between project actors, no use of information models, and no information sharing. This workflow is focused on the first four phases of the international RIBA work plan, with only 2D design, the primary purpose of which is usually limited to the design of building elements and paper documentation.

The industry is much further ahead and moving towards a more collaborative approach.

The RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) is a scheme of work that has provided a framework for design and construction at key stages of a project since the 1960s. (Source: Architecture.com)

Level 1 BIM (partial cooperation)

It is a kind of mix of new and traditional design workflow: the concept design is now in 3D, but the licensing and production plans are still in 2D. The CAD standards are managed in accordance with BS 1192:2007 (which governs the production and dissemination of construction information) and the digital dissemination of data is also managed by the builder from a common data environment (CDE).

But the model is not yet shared with the stakeholders!

Most BIM architects already know this level.

Level 2 BIM (full collaboration)

In Level 2 BIM, there is already coordinated collaboration and information sharing between project stakeholders.

The designers work in separate CAD models in different software environments, so in the process, they create several “clay models” of different sections, which are very similar but differ in many details and contain many geometric clashes. These are exported using a common file format (IFC or COBie), then merged together; imported, data cleaned, errors reconciled and corrected to create new ones, and finally, through several iterations, the models are combined to create a single model.

This process is a huge improvement compared to the previous ones, but it still contains a lot of errors and unnecessary rework, such as information loss in data migration, which is a major obstacle to high levels of automation and efficient work.

The sectional ‘clay models’ are made separately and then occasionally molded to compare

Level 3 BIM (full integration)

The third level represents the pinnacle of construction technology available today. The main goal here is to achieve full integration of information (iBIM) in a cloud-based environment, with a single, collaborative, shared common model available to all project participants.

The model can be edited and/or supplemented with additional information by the project team, including dimensions related to time (4D BIM), cost (5D), sustainability (6D BIM) through simulations and energy analysis, and finally building operation (7D BIM).

Level 4 BIM

So, very roughly speaking, levels 1 and 2 of BIM cover the design and construction of the model, while level 3 covers the operation and integration of information into the overall digital lifecycle of the building.

If we want to go beyond the walls of the facility with BIM, we are already getting to the social dimension, to sustainability, to smart cities.

In the new era of data, BIM goes well beyond
itself and should not be thought of as
“just” a construction toolkit, but
as a useful part of a much larger ecosystem.

It will be a galaxy in a super galaxy, one of many processes and technologies that synchronize with each other and together improve the operation of assets and the overall welfare of society, so this level – according to an Oxford study, at least at the definition level – will not be distinguished by itself because it cannot be classified as one of the above under the current BIM leveling logic.

BIM is therefore fundamental to the way the
architect office and the project work.

It is not just software, nor is it a new business, but a workflow that takes into account the whole lifecycle of the building, affecting all the actors involved in the project.

The power of BIM can be harnessed throughout the lifecycle of a building, delivering huge efficiency benefits. To do this, of course, we need to know what we want to use the information for in which of the many phases, what our goals are, whether we want to help with the construction, control the quality, or whether we need a digital twin at the end of the project.

Csaba Melovics

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