Understanding the phases of BIM helps us to unlock its real value


Frank McLeod

Before I get stuck in, it’s important that we define what we mean when we talk about BIM.

BIM is a lifecycle not a life sentence. What I mean by that is that although as an environment it exists wherever and whenever we access information, as a corporate tool it should only be invested in when and where value - a return on that investment - can be derived.

Following the lifecycle of an asset, there are six discreet phases of modelling:

1. in need - informing the client’s decision making process

2. in design - open, sharable, robustly coordinated design intent models

3. in procure - sourcing and integrating the supply-chain information into a virtual construction model

4. in field - planning, execution and monitoring of the construction process

5. in accept - testing, commissioning and adoption into use of facility

6. in use - use, maintenance, adaption and disposal of the facility.


It is important to recognise each phase as independent in its individual needs, but capable of being combined with other phases. It has been seen that the phases can be delivered separately or in any combination. Ownership of the model changes during the lifecycle and missing phases can be introduced.

This creates an objective for each stage to have purpose and deliver value. This modular approach also allows the needs of different client types, procurement routes and ownership patterns to be catered for.

As a corporate tool it should only be invested in when and where value can be derived

The stages clearly align with the emerging hierarchy of models - design intent, virtual construction and asset information, with ‘in procure’ and ‘in accept’ acting as transitions between models.

The transitions of ‘in procure’ and ‘in accept’, must therefore not just respectively facilitate the effective sourcing of the asset and its commissioning and handover, but must also facilitate the structured, co-ordinated and managed transfer of the information model from designers to the supply-chain and the supply-chain to the operator.

In use is by far where the greatest value could be realised, although we must progress at a pace that allows this value to be realised. Operations and maintenance must pull from delivery.

So where is ‘in need’ in this structure? Good question. We are yet to see the use of information modelling ‘in need’, that is to say, before design. No, I don’t mean concept, that’s a separate topic altogether. What information do our clients require when contemplating a project, how can this be presented and can simulation and emulation be provided from other operations or end of life facilities?

I’d like to share experiences and aspects of each of the phases of BIM through this blog and I look forward to your views.

Frank McLeod is UK head of project technology for WSP