Exploring #BIM object naming #standards – A discussion for debate

img_20170114_052815_495This blog looks at Building Information Modelling (BIM) object naming standards information.  In addition to this how this information is then structured with the object, i.e. embedded or linked, is also examined.  This is by no means comprehensive and further debate is welcomed on the subject.

The broader context for BIM object information requirements is the Government Construction Strategy (Cabinet Office, 2011) which confirmed that standardised information will be require on new assets for government projects.  To support the delivery of this, documents such as the PAS suite of 1192 (BSI, 2013) standards have been produced; in particular BS 1192-4 Collaborative production of information Part 4: Fulfilling employer’s information exchange requirements using Construction to Building; information exchange (COBie) (BSI, 2014). This confirms the data format at information exchanges.  This information exchange format is intended to provide information in an open, shareable manner that is structured and searchable.  Therefore, modelled information is required to be produced with naming conventions and information/data embedded or attached to them.

A BIM object has been defined as “repository of information that holds data regarding 2-D and 3-D geometry description of the actual product or component” (Info.bimobject.com, 2016).  This description confirms that the information contained within a model could be items such as U-values, sizes and family names. In addition to this, links to documentation or manuals could be added to the object which are embedded or linked within models.  This is related primarily to information contained within the object itself, whereas the object naming convention for the object is also required to be confirmed.  When producing construction information for a project in a BIM authoring software there will need to be assigned a specific naming convention so that authors can identify these objects after creation (McPhee, 2014).  It has been identified that this will make the job of selecting and creating elements within the software much easier.

In order to progress this the British Standard; 8541–1, 2, 3 and 4 Identification and Classification (BSI, 2011) confirms how BIM objects are identified and includes classification requirements such as the Uniclass system of naming (Bimstore.co.uk, 2016). This standards  includes;

  • BS 8451 – 1 Identification and classification
  • BS 8451 – 2 Recommended 2-D symbols of building elements for use in building information modelling
  • BS 8451 – 3 Shape and measurement code of practice
  • BS 8451 – 4 Attributes for specification and assessment code of practice

BSI (2011)

Object naming is required so that it can link to the COBie output, specifically Jackson (2015) has argued that it should relate to the ‘Type’ naming standard in the output Excel document, however the current system of naming under BS 8451, which contains two options naming included in 4.3.2 and 4.3.3, does not link to the COBie output (Jackson, 2015).  Jackson also discusses the National Building Specification (NBS) National BIM Library (NBL) object standard and confirms that the information produced in this system is not consistent with the COBie ‘Type’ naming requirements.  Jackson believes that object naming should describe what the object is as well as arguing against a list of characters solely being used for object names.  What is required is a standard system which is consistent for software to import and export in a particular identifying standard consistent with ‘Type’ naming (Jackson, 2015).   This is specifically argued from point of view that COBie data is required by a client, and it is the basis for future government projects use, however different private clients may have other requirements.

When discussing BS 8451 there are two standards contained within this; “classified objects” and “objects without associated classified attributes”, with the difference between these being whether the object has classification as part of its metadata (Evolve-consultancy.com, 2016).  Interestingly if the object has classification then the naming convention can be truncated as the object will be able to be searched for classification.  The NBL has proposed their own system of standardising the information recorded within objects which is their own BIM Object Standard (Nationalbimlibrary.com, 2016).  This is an attempt to ensure information aligns and can be shared easily however there are challenges with this system that need to be considered, particularly as the NBS is not an industry standard organisation and therefore has its own requirements and agenda which is not necessarily open source.  The systems are very similar between the NBL and the BS 8451 standards however it has been argued that the NBL system does without a classification code making the abbreviated wording harder to understand (Evolve-consultancy.com, 2016).  The AEC UK BIM protocols expand on the simplified naming by expanding this with some optional codes (codes in brackets optional);


(AEC (UK) BIM Protocol, 2016)

This difference in standards for naming between the BS 8451 and the NBL has been identified as an issue and classification becomes relevant for both systems as classification allows for searchable information to be created.  Uniclass v2 (Cpic.org.uk, 2016) uses tables which are groups of classifications to organise the components, this works by using Complexes, Entities, Activities and Spaces as well as Elements and Systems (Evolve-consultancy.com, 2016).  Uniclass provides a platform to confirm searchable information within a BIM object and will be emerging in the future with the Uniclass 2015 development.

It is clear that there is more work to be completed on naming to align this for government projects and also agreement by a client body on their own BIM Object requirements should they be using an alternative system for integration into their asset management system.

Embedding and linking information

Mordue and Phillp have argued that “BIM is partly about embedding, linking and referencing data at early stages of a project” (Mordue, Swaddle and Philp, n.d., p. 282).  This recognises that a mixture of both will be created throughout the project work stages, with information that will not limit the performance of the model embedded and information that is too detailed to be stored elsewhere, with a link to this online information.  In regard to the question of embedding or linking information within models one issue will be simply the processing power within a BIM authoring software computer as additional information will require additional processing power to translate and therefore can be costly as well as time consuming.  The NBS NBL system appears to want to have the information embedded within the model (Nationalbimlibrary.com, 2016), but the risk here is that models become too detailed and will slow down the workings of software, especially on large projects.

A new source of library information has been launched by BIMObject (Mynewsdesk, 2016) which promotes the use of their own library with BIM objects modelled and containing information ready for project use.  However, the exact standards that this modelled information uses is not confirmed and the naming convention is not expanded upon. However this is clearly a European rival to the NBL and provides the industry with options on where to source information.

It would appear that a system and set of standards to support information linking, or embedding, should be adopted for both ways of working and this will need to link back to the available facilities management systems and how the information is to be integrated.  For example, if the data is required in a COBie format, any export of the model schema must include the ability to search and link to this information once it is integrated into the Asset Management System.


Having reviewed the available literature on naming conventions and classification, there is a clear issue of a single standard requirement to adequately describe the BIM object naming clearly, that also aligns with requirements such as COBie.  There is a standard naming convention for BIM Objects and this is described in BS 8451 (2011) in enough detail for any organisation to begin ensuring a single standard is used initially.  However, how this aligns with output requirements such as COBie is yet to be seen and its use will be dependent on the client body that a BIM authoring a consultant may be working for.

Whether information should be embedded or linked to model information, this is an emerging area and further research and testing is required.  It appears that a standard methodology is required across the industry for competing organisations such as BIMObject and the NBS NBL is required to ensure that clients benefit from access to the market for their benefit.


AEC (UK) BIM Protocol Implementing UK BIM Standards for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry. (2016). 1st ed. [ebook] London: AEC (UK). Available at: https://aecuk.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/aecukbimprotocol-v2-0.pdf [Accessed 6 Feb. 2016].

Bimstore.co.uk, (2016). Bimstore Bible Standards. [online] Available at: https://www.bimstore.co.uk/news/bimstore-bible-standards  [Accessed 6 Feb. 2016].

British Standards Institute, (2011). BS 8541-2:2011 Library objects for architecture, engineering and construction. Recommended 2D symbols of building elements for use in building information modelling. London: BSI.

British Standards Institute, (2014). BS 1192-4:2014 Collaborative production of information Part 4: Fulfilling employer’s information exchange requirements using COBie – Code of practice. London, BSI

Cabinet Office, (2011). Government Construction Strategy. London: Cabinet Office.

Department for Business Innovation and Skills, (2013). UK CONSTRUCTION – An Economic analysis of the sector. London: BIS

Cpic.org.uk, (2016). CPI Uniclass2 (Development Release). [online] Available at: http://www.cpic.org.uk/uniclass2/  [Accessed 6 Feb. 2016].

Evolve-consultancy.com, (2016). BIM, CLASSIFIED. [online] Available at: http://www.evolve-consultancy.com/resource/bim-brief/bim-classified  [Accessed 6 Feb. 2016].

Info.bimobject.com, (2016). BIMobject – Definition of BIM object. [online] Available at: http://info.bimobject.com/definition-of-a-bimobject  [Accessed 6 Feb. 2016].

Jackson, R. (2015). BIM object standard naming?. [online] Bimblog.bondbryan.com. Available at: http://bimblog.bondbryan.com/bim-object-standard-naming/  [Accessed 6 Feb. 2016].

McPhee, A. (2014). practical BIM: The Nature of Naming. [online] Practicalbim.blogspot.co.uk. Available at: http://practicalbim.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/the-nature-of-naming.html  [Accessed 6 Feb. 2016].

Mordue, S., Swaddle, P. and Philp, D. (n.d.). Building information modeling for dummies.

Mynewsdesk, (2016). BIMobject launch global BIM object portal. [online] Available at: http://www.mynewsdesk.com/uk/bimobject/pressreleases/bimobject-launch-global-bim-object-portal-732502 [Accessed 6 Feb. 2016].

Nationalbimlibrary.com, (2016). NBS BIM Object Standard. [online] Available at: http://www.nationalbimlibrary.com/nbs-bim-object-standard  [Accessed 6 Feb. 2016].

Nationalbimlibrary.com, (2016). NBS BIM Object Standard – NBS National BIM Library. [online] Available at: http://www.nationalbimlibrary.com/nbs-bim-object-standard/information  [Accessed 6 Feb. 2016].


2 thoughts on “Exploring #BIM object naming #standards – A discussion for debate

  1. Interesting article Allister. From an architects POV, it makes sense to have any classification (and in fact multiple, NRM, Uniclass, Omniclass etc) stored within the object, and not in the name. If I am working with a contractor that wants to use NRM, if I have named all my families using Uniclass, I may have to rename my objects.

    The reason NBS are at the forefront of this (or so it seems) is because they helped develop Uniclass for CPIC. The mere fact that COBie cant agree with how the BS states objects are named, still suggests that although BIM is about a common form of delivery / presentation of information (in regards to this article) we still have major organisations developing their own way of doing something..!

  2. If you read the bs8541 p1 standard carefully, the difference is beteeen symbols and objects – hence two naming policies.

    It is a shame that your quote authors who haven’t seen (the value of) this distinction.

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