BIM: The new typing pool ?

In the olden days, many organisations had a group of people  (nearly always women) in what was known as a ‘typing pool’.


Attribution: Staff at Work. Typists. Head Office typists room, 3rd Floor, Wellington Station. October 1959. Wellington, Photographer  Le Cren, Flikr reference AAVK W3493 B Series_B6561

The idea was that if you needed a non-handwritten document, then these people would apply specialist skills (typing) on an incredibly complicated bit of kit (a typewriter) to produce said document.

[Perhaps they were paid peanuts and it was reflective of the male dominated workforce at the time, but that spoils my point, so I’ll ignore it for now]

Anyway, business practices gradually evolved so that even the most dim-witted or self-important male mastered the technology necessary to produce a short typed document themselves.

What is your point ?

A surprising number of organisations still work in ‘typing pool ‘ mode when it comes to BIM.

In other words, there is a special group of people who have the skills to ‘do BIM’. Everyone else relies on this group and does not venture anywhere near the typewriters themselves.

In a typical design office, this means that the project leader, design engineer or architect may not have the skills to operate the metaphorical typewriter, but will just review and markup drawings or other model outputs such as schedules, spreadsheets, renders,  clash reports and so on.

They either don’t realise that the basic skills you need to work in a model could be picked up in an afternoon, or don’t want to (in their eyes) lower themselves to such menial work.

The key to making BIM work

It is not necessary for everyone to become the equivalent of a 120 words-per-minute typist. Knowing the basics of which lever to push for simple tasks is fine for many people.

So in terms of a design or construction office, nearly everyone needs the skills to view, navigate around and query a model.

For example, rather than relying on a specialist to do anything remotely related to BIM:

  • The structural engineer needs to know how to navigate around a model, review, query structural members and even make a few modifications.
  • The construction planner needs to understand the model and how it relates to planned and actual activities, and analysis of this data
  • The estimator needs to know how to query a model for quantities and to use it for costing works that are normally not modelled, such as temporary works or formwork.
  • The site manager needs to know how to use a model for planning work or storing materials & plant

and so on.

There may well be a group of BIM specialists who look after the 120 WPM stuff and it is more efficient for these people to do the bulk of the work- but my point is that many others also need some degree of BIM skills.

I see many businesses where BIM is the domain of just a few people and essentially a newer method to produce drawings.


If your organisation has the equivalent of a BIM typing pool, it is most likely not getting much benefit from BIM.

Like the guy in the top right corner of the photo, if your people don’t know how to use basic technology for simple tasks relating to their roles, then I’d question why you need 2 people when maybe just one could produce the same letter.

I’ve covered some of the issues in other posts on this blog: