Monday, December 12, 2011

Protect the fluffy kittens

Have you ever been frustrated when people say "ATM machine" or "department of redundancy department?" I feel your pain. Since the building industry has adopted the acronym BIM, it has generated a new phenomenon...the "BIM model." If you're reading this and thinking to yourself, 'hey, what's wrong with that?' then perhaps you mean to say 'building information model model?' Some of my friends and colleagues have suggested that saying 'BIM model' implies the verb interpretation of BIM so you get 'building information modeling model,' but I think that's a thin argument.

In an attempt to relieve some of our pain and mental anguish, some of us have taken to social media channels to clarify this sampling of techno-speak. John Tocci, Jr (@tocci2) tweeted: "Every time someone says 'BIM model' a fluffy kitten dies.' Being a big fan of dramatic statements as a vehicle to get a point across, I shared this theory during my presentation at the Washington, DC BIMForum and it seems to have gone viral. Check out the hashtag #fluffy_kittens.


The 'fluffy kitten' theory has even expanded beyond the borders of 'BIM model' into the realm of Levels of Development or LOD. Jim Bedrick now evokes the kitten theory when someone refers to an 'LOD### model.' This will be a full topic I'll discuss in a future post, but let's just say Jim gets equally upset with this as he does with 'BIM model!' Other folks such as Dan Russell from Sundt Construction prefer to apply a more positive spin to the kitten theory. Instead of 'killing kittens,' Dan says that every time someone says 'BIM model,' a coyote gets lunch!

Now, before you go out to the next BIM conference and start heckling the speaker by meowing every time he or she says...that phrase...let me explain a better solution to the problem. As an involved member of the National BIM Standard-US project committee, I have been a staunch supporter of the definition of standard terminology for industry BIM uses. Although BIM uses, workflows and information exchanges have been under specific development by buildingSMART international for quite some time, definitions were published in Penn State University's BIM Execution Planning Guidelines ( Without describing this effort in too much detail in this post, I encourage you to become familiar with these definitions.

Instead of abusing the redundant term 'BIM model,' perhaps we could start using some of the following terms:

  • Design Authoring model
  • Energy Analysis model
  • Existing Conditions model
  • 3D Coordination model:
    • Discipline Design Model
    • Aggregated Design Model
    • Trade Fabrication Model
    • Aggregated Fabrication Model

Of course, the industry is gradually starting to look at model servers to support collaboration and information exchange, so these ‘model’ terms may be short-lived. In the meantime, do the world a favor and help protect our fuzzy, little feline friends...don't say 'BIM model.'


J said...

Let the kittens fend for themselves... We must save intelligence!!! Saying BIM Model or ATM Machine is purely dumb... unless one wants to kill fluffy kittens on purpose, that is.

Luke Johnson said...

Do you ever think that maybe these arguments over terminology are a bit of a waste of time ;-)

What Revit Wants: BIM Model BIM Model BIM Model BIM Model BIM Model and fluffy_kitten

J said...


If words are used to communicate we should at least try to use them correctly.

Advocate quality, not apathy!!!

Luke Johnson said...

"Advocate quality, not apathy" - point taken. Thanks J.

However, I believe that in this particular instance, the problem revolves around that fact that people are confused about what 'BIM' means. Even Wikipedia acknowledges that it can refer to a process or to the model.

I don't know about you, but it seems unnatural to me to talk about 'the BIM' (in referring to an RVT or IFC file, the core model).

James Van said...

Ah, you are bringing up exactly the form of discussion the fluffy kitten theory is meant to evoke! A Revit model serves the primary purpose of a 'design authoring' model. It's not 'the BIM.' Yes, wikipedia defines BIM as product and process, so does NBIMS v1, but if it's the WHOLE process, what is the singular deliverable? Does a Revit model cover everything including energy analysis, facility management data, and so on? Maybe it could, but certainly not in the majority of cases in the industry today.

Luke Johnson said...

James, I follow your logic. If we follow this line of reasoning, it is almost certainly incorrect to call a Revit model a 'BIM model', because a BIM model can include information from many disciplines, existing in numerous data formats.
However, that doesn't mean the 'BIM model' doesn't exist. Do you agree?

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J said...

The Rvt is a Model. The BIM is that plus EVERYTHING else it takes for the project. Similar to Weather Models, the pretty animations we see on the news are only the output of the aggregation of all of the information gathered & necessary

Greg said...

My sense of it is that the acronym BIM has become a thing in and of itself.

Like SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus), BIM has become/ is becoming, a word in it's own right and, as such, begins to lose connection to it's original acronym. We now say scuba gear. even though the acronym includes the idea of gear already, without batting an eye. The same holds true, in my opinion of ATM, PIN, VIN, etc.

Bottom line, language grows and develops as it will and if the general vernacular wants to say BIM Model I, for one, won't get my tights in a bunch over it.

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