BIM Classification and Standardization Systems


There are companies in the construction industry which do not favour standardization; these companies benefit from revenue and profits from change orders (variations), inevitably resulting in claims increasing cost to the client.

However, the overall construction industry does realise the need for change and standardisation[1], the UK Government, (one of the largest clients) on 23 March 2016, published ‘The Government Construction Strategy’. responding to the need for improvement of productivity

The UK Government Construction Strategy forms a crucial part in the implementation of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Digital Construction.[2]

Standardization and classification systems development

Other countries have implemented similar initiatives; here I illustrate the non-exhaustive list as an example:

  • BIM is mandated in France; the government declared a development project that would build 500,000 houses using BIM and assigned a 20-million-euro budget for this digital transition
  • Finland’s state property services agency and Senate Properties mandated that any design software need to pass Industry Foundation Class (IFC) Certification from 2007
  • The Italian Ministry of Infrastructure issued a multi-year plan decree, stating that all public projects have to be realized with BIM from 2022 onwards.
  • The Ministry of Transport and Digital infrastructure developed action plan 2015/2020 to implement BIM in Germany in 3 phases
  • In Spain, BIM is mandatory in public infrastructure facilities over €2 million, in the design and the construction phases from 2018
  • In September 2017, Czech Republic approved the Decree no. 682 regarding the notion of Implementation of the BIM Method in the Czech Republic [3]

Despite the general agreement within industry indicating fragmentation as one of the root causes of the poor performance, and the standardization proposed as the way to improve the productivity, it is difficult for some small and specialized businesses to benefit from scaling and standardization due to the implementation cost and complex guidance.[1]

In his paper ‘Building Information Modelling (BIM) Standardization’, Martin Poljanšek suggests that standardization only works in manufacturing and prefabrication industries. 

Poljanšek implies that in the construction industry, it is not possible to execute a process optimally…’ by processing the same activities in the same order and producing exactly the same specified output’… [4]

UK Government, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and British Standards Institution (BSI) among many other organizations tackles the situation by encouraging the standardization and classification initiatives.

One of the examples is the development of Uniclass 2015, now the UK Government’s official construction sector classification system.   

The idea came from a BIM Task Group, supported by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) and the Construction Industry Council (CIC) that brought together expertise from industry, government institutions, and science to strengthen the building blocks of BIM

Dynamic, unified model – Uniclass 2015

In February 2014, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) published the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition for the development of a free-to-use digital tool that can exploit publicly available BIM standards. The contract was awarded in September 2014 to a team led by National Building Specification (NBS). The project started in October 2014 and the public beta of the NBS – BIM – toolkit went online for public evaluation on 8 April 2015.

Standardization and classification systems requirements

Bill Allen CEO, President of EvolveLAB LLC, suggests that in the next 20 years, algorithms will be capable of design a building, and a robot constructs a structure. [5]

Following Allen’s suggestion, I relised connection between a standard and an algorithm. According to Cambridge Dictionary standardization mean a the process of making things of the same type all have the same basic features. [6] This description is similar to the definition of an algorithm which is a step by step method of solving a problem, this, in turn, can be viewed as Standard method and Procedure (SMP) described in transition guidance to BS EN ISO 19650as …’ Combination of information standard and information production method and procedure’… [7]

Commonly agreed requirement of the classification system is the ability of the reference employed to be human-readable and machine-readable.[8] Both are required; otherwise, mistakes in the code would be difficult to detect and correct; furthermore, the codes alone convey no information to human readers. On the other hand, the words on its own would not covey information where to find the object in the classification system, and hence both description and codes are needed.[9]

Indicated by P. Medeiros Ferreira De Andrade,[10] there have been numerous forms of information classification systems, and still more being developed, i.e., systems such as JCCS in Japan or CRB in Switzerland. The research I carried out reveals that most of the classification systems indicated in Figure 2 and Table 1 are based on the ISO 12006-2 & 3 framework. In contrast, the systems developed in the European Union (EU) tend to use BS EN IEC 81346-2:2019 framework, instead.[11]

Figure 2 – Classification systems & framework


Table 1 – Classification systems [3] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16]

Classification systemDate of creationCountry of OriginOrganizationFramework
CI/SfB1959UKSfBBS 4940 & BS1192-5:1998
SFG20 (book)1990UKBESA 
SFG20  (CD) 2000UKBESA 
SFG20 (web)2012UKBESA 
OmniClass2006North AmericaCSI & CSCISO 12006
MasterFormat1975North AmericaCSI & CSCIndustry Standards
UniFormat 1989North AmericaCSI & CSCISO 12006
Uniclass 1997UKNBS & CPIcISO 12006
Uniclass22013UKNBS & CPIcISO 12006
Uniclass 20152015UKNBS & CPIcISO 12006
NRM (1-3)2009UKRICS 
Talo 2000 (Construction 2000)2000FinlandRTSISO 12006
CoClass (BSAB)2019SwedenTrafikverketISO 81346
Cuneco (CCS)2011Denmark Danish GovernmentISO 81346
Table 1 – Classification systems [3] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16]


Several research papers have been published with a comparison of the current classification systems, most of the papers offer comparisons highlighting the deficiencies, suitability for BIM use and the need for further development.

In the paper ‘A comparative suitability study between classification systems for BIM in Heritage’, authors suggest that additional specialized classification systems for Heritage should be developed based on faceted classification models.

John Gelder the co-author of  Uniclass 2015 concluded that the Uniclass 2015 classification system is ‘ready for full project use’ on BIM Projects,[17] I believe it would be useful if such a single unified classification system was used globally.

Instead of introducing new systems, leading to further fragmentation of standards in the construction industry, I would like to see the development of existing dynamic and unified models.

[1] F. Barbosa et al., “REINVENTING CONSTRUCTION: A ROUTE TO HIGHER PRODUCTIVITY,” 2017. Accessed: 02 November, 2019. [Online].

[2] The Infrastructure and Projects Authority, “Government Construction Strategy 2016-2020,” p. 16, 2016.

[3] C. Panteli et al., “Overview of BIM integration into the Construction Sector in European Member States and European Union Acquis,” in IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, Jan. 2020, vol. 410, no. 1, doi: 10.1088/1755-1315/410/1/012073

[4] M. Poljansek, “Building Information Modelling (BIM) standardization,” 2018, doi: 10.2760/36471.

[5] B. Allen, “The Future of BIM Will Not Be BIM and It’s Coming Faster Than You Think | Autodesk University.” (accessed 18 November, 2019).

[6] Cambridge English Dictionary, “STANDARDIZATION.” (accessed 19 November, 2019).

[7] British Standards Institution, Transition guidance to BS EN ISO 19650. 2019.

[8] Uniclass 2015 uses both description and codes

[9] R. H. Crawford, A. Stephan, and J. Gelder, “The principles of a classification system for BIM: Uniclass 2015,” 2015

[10] P. Medeiros Ferreira De Andrade, “BIM Classification and Standardization Systems,” 2019-20 PDE4301 Technical BIM Management, Ejournal Discussion (group 1), 2019.

[11] CoClass 2019 (Sweden) & Cuneco (CCS) 2011 (Denmark)

[12] C. Finne et al., Construction 2000 Classification. 2010.

[13] P. Jackson, “Nordic Study of Classification Systems for Infrastructure & Transportation,” 2019.

[14] H. Eriksson et al., “Requirements, development, and evaluation of a national building standard— a Swedish case study,” ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, vol. 9, no. 2, 2020, doi: 10.3390/ijgi9020078

[15] International Construction Information Society, “Comparison of OmniClass, Uniclass, Cuneco and CoClass with reference to ISO 12006-2 and ISO 81346-12,” 2018.

[16] Rakennustietosäätiö RTS, “The Finnish Construction 2000 classification system,” 2016. [Online].

[17] J.Gelder, “The principles of a classification system for BIM: Uniclass 2015,” 2015.

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