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What Do Those Big BIM Words Mean?

AS soon as you try and get into building information modelling (BIM) you’ll quickly come up against all kinds of big words and terminology that can throw you. In this 5 minute video, The B1M’s Co-Founder Fred Mills takes you through some of the main culprits, explaining what they mean.

Information Model

Within a BIM process, project teams contribute information and data about a proposed built asset in a shared digital space called a common data environment (CDE). That information could include specifications, schedules, performance requirements, programmes, cost plans and so on (known as non-graphical information) and drawings (known as graphical information). The non-graphical information is linked to the graphical 3D model. When you explore and click on different parts of the 3D representation, you’ll be able to access the information about it.

The whole thing is known as an information model. When you hear people say 'building information model' or 'BIM model' – this is what they mean.

"When you hear people say 'building information model' or 'BIM model' – this is what they mean" 

Data Set

Essentially data set is another term for the information model that we have just described. The model formed of graphical and non-graphical information in its entirety can be referred to as a data set. It will build in richness as more information and details are added over a building’s life-span. Of course data set itself is a broad term and may relate to collections of information produced, shared or stored by other organisations.


This is a particularly serious sounding word for the reasonably simple concept of putting different information models (from different members of a project team) together into one.

Federating information enables different members of the design team to work on their elements before overlaying them together to undertake clash detection and pick up issues with co-ordination before heading to site. It also gives all parties one clear source of structured information rather than lots of different pieces from many different people.



In basic terms this means the ease with which different software programs talk to each other. In a BIM environment, with lots of different people creating different pieces of digital information that all need to come together, its key to work out file interoperability from the outset. You need to know if the format you are creating and sharing information in can be received, read and effectively used by your project team colleagues.


"You need to know if the format you are creating + sharing information in can be received, read + effectively used by your project team" 


Originator simply means the person or organisation that created and shared a specific piece of digital information in the first place. At BIM Level 2 (taking the Bew-Richards maturity levels referenced in the United Kingdom) where you produce a piece of data for use in a project you are known as its originator and you own that data, no matter where it is shared or used by other organisations thereafter.

Attribute Data

Earlier on we highlighted that non-graphical information is linked and referenced to the graphical 3D model. We highlighted that you could select an element then see all kinds of information about it. Well that information is known as its attributes and is hence called ‘attribute data’.

Data Drop

All this means is the process of presenting fixed information at a given point or milestone in a project; for example when submitting planning permission or at handover. The British Standard guidance document PAS 1192-2 highlights a number of points in the project process were sets of information can be extracted from the information model. These are what we call data-drops.

We have chosen to tackle the big terms here but there are many more out there. If some are leaving you stumped comment below, let us know and we’ll have a go at answering them.

This video contains extracts of PAS 1192-2: 2013, © 2013 The British Standards Institution, © 2013 Mervyn Richards OBE and © 2013 Mark Bew MBE. Non-federated model imagery courtesy of Takanaka Corporation.

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