Many consultants make a simple but serious mistake: they assume clients, and others, understand what they’re talking about.

That’s a simple statement but one which must be understood a little better. I’m not saying that clients are unaware of what they are asking for or cannot comprehend the discussions being had. The issue revolves more around the terminologies we use in the BIM world which become so ubiquitous that we assume everyone knows what they mean and how they are related.

So, after speaking with Ben Harland (Mott MacDonald Transport Digital Delivery Lead), here are some of the more commonly used phrases you need to know when translating BIM-panzie (or BIM terminology) into English:

First BIM

In BIM-panzie: The use of virtual environments to create, design, coordinate, manage and construct both graphical and non-graphical information to provide the client with a virtual asset that can be used as the basis for asset management.

In English: The design and construction teams do their design and construction using virtual 3D models. They share these models around to make sure everyone is aware of what’s going on. The 3D model also contains information about the stuff in it – what are the floors made of, what acoustic properties do the walls have, what is the make of this piece of equipment, and so on.


In BIM-panzie: There is an EIR (Employers Information Requirement - BS/PAS11097) and a CIR (Client Information Requirement - ISO196500), used to facilitate the handover of asset governance data to the relevant AIMS (Asset Information Management Systems).

In English: Basically what bits of information a client should ask for within the contract - information which you would like to be a deliverable so you can pop it into your asset management system. Or the EIR/CIR is there to make sure that the objects, spaces, or systems within the 3D model(s) contain these bits of information and can be exported out.


In BIM-panzie: The CDE (Common Data Environment) is either a cloud or server-based system for the creation, collation, and administration of design and construction information for use amongst the team producing the project deliverables.

In English: The CDE is a bit of a misnomer because it sounds a bit like a product, a piece of software you buy to perform a task. You do use a piece of software, but there are a ton of capable options. The CDE is more accurately described as the place where you manage information based on an agreed process.


In BIM-panzie: The addendum to the project management plan which provides the design and construction delivery teams the requisite instructions, governance, and methods to create, coordinate, federate and deliver the virtual asset and inherent information.

In English: The BIM rules for the project. Who does what, when, why, how, so the client gets something like what they have asked for? Sometimes this comes as a requirement in the contract but often it is done separately but often it is not a clear requirement of the contract so is either not done or done badly. The expression here is ‘you get what you ask for.’


In BIM-panzie: The ‘Level of Detail’ (or Definition, Development, Data, depending who you’re talking to and where they’re from) describes how a model will ‘look’ graphically and what it will ‘contain’ non-graphically at any point in a project’s development subject to the requirements within the BEP.

In English: To be honest, LOD is confusing as hell! It really depends on what some might arrogantly refer to as your BIM maturity or how much you know about BIM in comparison to that expert. Essentially though, it is supposed to define what things should look like and how detailed the information should be at certain stages in the project, usually key delivery dates. The LOD is also used as a measure of progress so you can judge how far the project is down the delivery path by how it looks and what kind of information is in the model.

The PLQs

In BIM-panzie: These are the ‘jargon free’ questions generated and supplied by the client to the supply chain. They are intended to ensure the supply chain are fully aware of the expectations and ensure the information requested was received.

In English: Not such a difficult one to understand, essentially straight forward questions from the client to ensure everyone is on the same page about what is expected as a deliverable. What I find funny about this is that PLQs regularly contain TLAs (look it up) within the questions which must be explained to most people. Maybe they should be called MPLQ, Mostly Plain Language Questions.

Hopefully this is enough of a taster to see that using plain language in our conversations does not reflect a lack of knowledge on the subject but rather a ‘maturity’ reflecting the way we deal with others.

  • BIM Panzie is more appropriately BIM Ponzie – the quality of BIM documentation in Australia, with a rare few exceptions, especially engineering firms, is nothing short of appalling.

  • One wonders how many articles on BIM explaining itself will be published in 2017. By November 2016 there were 2975 research publications with BIM in their title. BIM is just a tool, just like LEAN, DfMA, Green star etc. An evolution of the current BIM technology will eventually be very useful once the barriers between its users give way to seamless construction delivery and in-service functionality. Big users of BIM in its current form hurt the value proposition that it should be offering – 'what is the problem being solved, and how is this measurably being achieved?' Not measures that are self acclaimed by one bit player or another, but how the collaborative efforts of pre-construction, construction delivery and after-build are performing. Not theoretically, buy actually. The future of construction is about smarter, better, safer, faster, less wasteful, more sustainable and cheaper construction in total. No 'cherry-picking' any of these, the Smarter-Better equation requires a resilient result that can be systemically repeated. There are not just one-off experiences. BIM is well marketed by those who think it serves them in a traditional construction context – but thats not the future.