How can we overcome BIMwash?

BIMwash is damaging our industry says Simon Graham, BIM manager at maber

I am unsure where the term ‘BIMwash’ came from – the earliest reference I can find is a 2011 article from the excellent BIM ThinkSpace describing it as ‘…The inflated and sometimes deceptive claim of using or delivering BIM products or services.’  

BIMwash damages our industry. It wastes both time and money and those affected by it often come away with a negative perception of BIM.

Clients can be misled, their expectations inflated or manipulated and they are often sold a system that is not suitable for their BIM requirements. 

Consultants and designers can be affected too. I remember taking a phone call from a reseller who insisted that his software was the ‘only accredited BIM software for the UK’. He failed to mention that this ‘accreditation’ is awarded by their own software developers and has no value.

It is not just over-zealous salesmen inflicting BIMwash either. A few industry professionals I have met are keen to sell fundamental components of BIM as an additional service. You want £30k extra on your fee because you’re providing an IFC? That’s the cheerfully optimistic figure I heard from across the table at a recent BIM project meeting. 

Have you ever been in a meeting where a consultant has proudly proclaimed that they are ‘already doing BIM level 3’. Are they confused or have they been misled?

The definition of BIMwash must be updated. As the deadline for UK BIM Level 2 drew nearer I noticed that many solution and service providers were invoking Level 2 standards as a way of drawing attention to their services. 

To me this appeared to be a new weapon in the BIMwasher’s arsenal; mentioning standards to add a veneer of legitimacy to their products.

To demonstrate this, here is a real example of BIMwash that I recently found on Linkedin, it highlights just one of the approaches that BIMwashers use to sell their ‘solutions’.

Below is a screenshot from one company blog explaining why their document management system should be considered for purchase above other competitor products.

You can see that a PAS standard has been given eye-catching prominence at the top of the article. As someone who is familiar with this standard I can assert that at no point does PAS1192-2:2013 mandate any of these requirements for a Common Data Environment. 

Point 2 is irrelevant because approval requires human input, it is not something a CDE is expected to do on its own. 

A CDE is a working method. It is not a specific type of software. It certainly does not require ‘secure email solution’ or ‘collaborative viewing of IFC models’ to be considered a CDE.

It is this example and others like it that has made me think the definition of BIMwash has to be brought up-to-date. In addition to overblown claims we must now be aware that BIM standards will be invoked and words like ‘compliance’ will be flung around in order to sell things to us.

So how can we overcome BIMwash?

Between industry professionals we must work together, sharing knowledge and experiences through the excellent network of BIM groups and hubs that are already active throughout the UK. If you do not attend a regional BIM hub or similar I strongly suggest that you do, you will learn a lot and be pleasantly surprised at the amount of people emerging from their silos to share experiences and knowledge.

We also have an important responsibility to our clients, offers of BIM services should be closely scrutinised on their behalf and assessed for suitability. You may balk at the extra unpaid effort that this requires, I can tell you that it will cost you far more if some cowboy BIMwasher manages to wade into your BIMproject with his bogus system or service and messes everything up.

Finally if we are to have realistic BIM standards in the UK the amount of documents required for compliance must be revised. With leaner, more relevant standards there is less long grass for the BIMwasher to hide in.

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  1. Agree with your points in the main. BIMwash is just like Fake News. There is such a lot of it about, but if you just concentrate on the core values of BIM you won’t go far wrong. These core values revolve around the CIC BIM Protocol, 1192 standards, COBie/IFC, LoD, Uniclass 2015, RIBA/CIC plans of work and a number of other best practice process orientated items.

    And that is the main point about BIM. Best practice!

    Another big BIMwash bandwagon rearing its ugly head is BIM accreditation.
    There are a number of ‘respected’ organisations (who should know better) now offering BIM accreditation as if it is a new thing and we MUST all sign up to their very expensive accreditation schemes so we can wear their BIM badge or we can’t do BIM. Absolute rubbish!

    I have had a number of cold calls from such organisations. Each time I tell them I’m not interested in funding their schemes when our existing ISO9001 accreditation will easily cover BIM. So don’t get lured into paying for something you don’t need and just update your ISO9001 processes to include BIM. ISO9001:2015 is even written to be more process driven and BIM fits into its outline like a glove.

    Then there is the biggest BIM wash of all. Actually BIM is NOT new! Shock, horror!! Think about it. If you have been delivering successful projects all your career, you have been doing BIM all along. Period! In fact we have been doing BIM for thousands of years!

    The UK Government initiative is simply them telling the construction industry to sharpen up its act. Stop waste, reduce costs, improve H&S, (and increasingly security) and for everyone to follow longstanding (if disparate before 1192 crystallised everything) best practice working processes. Doh! nothing new here then!

    Cut through the BIMwash and BIM hype and follow best practice and you’ll soon see the real ROI of BIM. But don’t start paying the charlatans any more money than you have too. Remember BIM is free. How you apply it to your organisation to improve your business opportunities through a good change management process and streamlining your business and deliveries is where BIM really makes a difference.

    Get your technologies up to date (this is where the cost of BIM lies, especially if you haven’t upgraded for many years). If you have a multi-office business get each office working to the same standards and template as much of the delivery processes as possible. Train your existing staff and be very selective when employing new staff. Stop employing Johnny foreigner just because he’s cheap. These are things we have done and BIM is working for us and our clients. No BIMwash, the evidence is in our ROI.

  2. Thanks Simon for this timely article. I personally think the ‘adopt or die’ approach to BIM has made some business so desperate, that they would blatantly lie about their BIM competencies just to stay relevant and ultimately to win jobs.
    It has become so bad that I personally do not rely on the information most companies provide in their BIM Assessment Forms just because of some bad experiences I have had in the past. On a lot of projects I have worked on, contractors and designers have embellished their BIM achievements and failed woefully to deliver. For example, a design consultancy claimed they were BIM Level 2 compliant, could deliver a 3d model, carry out clash rendition and provide COBie data only to discover after they were appointed that they could only provide 2D drawings, didn’t have the faintest idea what COBie data is and had no one in the organisation who could produce a 3D model.
    Another really frustrating issue is that of people who claim to be BIM Managers, BIM coordinators and even BIM directors but have only managed to memorise the UK BIM documents /standards and have absolutely no understanding of the documents or how to apply them and they just bamboozle their way through meetings and projects leaving behind a trail of confusion, errors and wasted time, effort and money.
    So I completely agree with you that BIMwash wastes both time and money, misleads the client and as a result damages our industry.

  3. I think you are right…The term BIMwash needs updating (original article here: There are however two aspects to this: (1) claiming compliance when there is none; and (2) claiming that compliance equates to BIM performance. The first aspect is easy to uncover through a structured assessment; the second is far more difficult to combat as – sadly – many have fallen victim to the tick-box mentality.

  4. Helping the industry understand BIM is a digital method of information management throughout the full building lifecycle is a great start.

    The foundation of everything done is the built environment is timely, succinct, and superbly accurate communication. BIM is another language that enables such.

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