BIM: an awkward term


Wikipedia indicates that the term ‘BIM’ was first coined in the mid 1980’s and it seems to have gradually gained traction with subtle encouragement from the marketing machines at Autodesk, Bentley, Graphisoft & others.

As above, Google Trends started in 2004, and it looks like the use of the term was not widespread before then.

[Not to doubt the veracity of Google Trends, Mozambique is currently a hot-bed of interest in BIM….Maybe it translates to “porn” or “funny cat videos” in the local language….?]


But model based technology has been around for much longer than the term BIM, such as in aeronautical and hydrocarbons/plant design.

To me, BIM is a slightly awkward term and it doesn’t really properly capture the essence. It also has spawned offspring which are even worse such as ‘CIM’- Civil Information Modelling (or possibly Construction), AIM (Asset), PIM (Project) and so on.

Grammar lessons

It is natural to assume the ‘B’ means a building (noun) rather than the verb. This means many people think BIM relates only to buildings, and not infrastructure, transport, energy or industrial projects.
However, if you have to start explaining grammar for the acronym to be understood, this indicates it is not quite right.

Difference between BIM and VDC

BIM and VDC (Virtual Design & Construction) are often interchanged terms although they mean slightly different things:

  • BIM is generally defined as the process of creating & managing models, or as the output of this process i.e a model is called “a BIM” (rightly or wrongly)
  • VDC is a subset of this, specifically for design & construction, excluding other purposes such as operational or asset management.

Three Letter Acronym overload

A TLA (three letter acronym) is de rigueur for nearly everything in the BIM world. We have especially clunky acronyms such as LOD, BEP, EIR & CDE and a general absence of plain English.

I’m not saying we need to replace BIM with another acronym, but could replace it with a better description, such as:

  • ‘Digital Engineering’- but then it excludes the architects and the non-engineer designers, plus construction and asset managers.
  • ‘Digital Design & Construction’- not too bad, but a bit lengthy
  • Design Modelling
    Construction Modelling
    Analysis Modelling
    Engineering Modelling

Maybe in a few years we won’t need an acronym at all- anyone designing a building will just model it. Anyone constructing something will use a model to plan, monitor and manage. And a client will just require a model of what has been constructed.