flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
Currently Reading

The lowdown on LODs: Bringing clarity to BIM

The lowdown on LODs: Bringing clarity to BIM


Gresham Smith | December 28, 2014

Years ago, GS&P’s architects, engineers and interior designers started talking about the many benefits of transitioning from 2D modeling to 3D building information modeling (BIM).

These days, BIM is par for the course across most facets of design. But a lot of the conversation surrounding BIM still lacks clarity due to ambiguous terminology, a lack of clear-cut guiding illustrations and widely varying implementation. BIM is interpreted different ways by different people in different parts of the world, so it’s very important for designers and clients to get on the same page about deliverables. Let’s talk in more depth about where the challenges occur:

 

Terminology

You can’t talk about BIM without also talking about LOD. But wait, which one? There’s the LOD that means “level of detail” and the LOD that means “level of development.” They’re both legitimate concepts that are relevant to 3D design, so the fact that they share an acronym is problematic. The real challenge, though, is in deciphering their meanings.

Level of detail measures the amount of information a component should provide—it’s about quantity, not quality. A low level of detail means a designer must only indicate that an office chair exists. A higher level of detail means a designer should specify the chair’s width, height and model.

Level of detail eventually morphed into level of development, which is now the more commonly used term. It is meant to measure the quality of a model at five different levels: 100 through 500. Most BIM models in the U.S. are designed to Level 300, where “model elements are modeled as specific assemblies accurate in terms of quantity, size, shape, location, and orientation. Non-geometric information may also be attached to the model elements.”

To complicate matters, the United Kingdom and some other nations hardly use the “LOD” term at all. They instead use the BIM Maturity Diagram to illustrate various BIM maturity levels (0, 1, 2 and 3). Starting in the summer of 2012, the UK government began requiring that all projects implement a level 2 BIM at minimum. They also aspire for all BIM data be fully collaborative and electronic by 2016.

 

Practice

Definitions are fine and good. But the definitions within the AIA’s first BIM contract document—AIA E202 Building Information Modeling Protocol Exhibit – can be interpreted in very different ways, especially without any illustrations depicting what LOD 300 might look like in a plan. In August 2013, Building Design+Construction reported on frustrations with the vague E202 document:

“None of the LODs offered a graphical representation of what a model at that level would look like or detailed instructions for how to use models in each LOD for a variety of disciplines. The document, which the AIA has since updated and published as the AIA G202-2013 Project Building Information Modeling Protocol Form (June 2013), had no specific rules or requirements for exactly what’s in a model at each level. As a result, design firms, general contractors, and subcontractors have no idea exactly what they would be handing off or receiving by way of the BIM model.”

Since then, some progress has been made by way of a first-ever BIM deliverable document produced by a group of BIM users called BIMForum. Still, others are looking to different systems altogether for more guidance. Recently, one of GS&P’s international clients requested that we deliver our project designs using the RIBA Outline Plan of Work. RIBA stands for the Royal Institute of British Architects, and their Plan of Work clearly defines each of a project’s six major work stages (preparation, design, pre-construction, construction, use and R&D) and its associated tasks. 

They have also developed a document called the BIM Overlay to the RIBA Outline Plan of Work, which details the BIM deliverables associated with each work stage. Documents like these help designers stay on track by providing the right amount of detail at the right times, and they also help eliminate confusion about deliverables. Which brings me to my next point…

 

Expectations

The biggest challenge created by the BIM confusion is managing and meeting client expectations. Without a shared perception of what LOD 300 looks like, for example, a designer can potentially under-deliver or over-deliver on what a client is expecting. Under-delivering might mean that the design documents aren’t detailed enough and don’t paint a vivid enough picture of what a space will look like. Over-delivering might mean that superfluous time and/or money is spent on generating unnecessary details. Neither is good; we want to hit the right mark on the first effort.

I hope that we can expect continued clarifications and more uniform documents to guide our BIM designs in the future. But as the industry is working toward that goal, it’s an excellent reminder of the importance of communication. A shared understanding of LODs between client and designer will certainly be aided by better definitions and illustrations, but those things can’t replace a good dialogue. Clear communication about expectations and deliverables should always be a top priority, and then the remaining details are better able to fall into place.

What challenges have you encountered with BIM and LOD? How have you overcome them?

About the Author
John Scannell is a Senior Mechanical Designer with more than 25 years of engineering design experience. He has worked the past 16 years with GS&P. His work has included the development of process piping, mechanical HVAC and structural BIM models along with supporting the layout of electrical and architectural drawings. John is responsible for managing the BIM models that are produced for the firm's Industrial market. More on Scannell.

 

Read more posts from the GS&P Dialogue blog.

More from Author

Gresham Smith | Jan 19, 2023

Maximizing access for everyone: A closer look at universal design in healthcare facilities

Maria Sanchez, Interior Designer at Gresham Smith, shares how universal design bolsters empathy and equity in healthcare facilities.

Gresham Smith | Dec 20, 2022

Designing for a first-in-the-world proton therapy cancer treatment system

Gresham Smith begins designing four proton therapy vaults for a Flint, Mich., medical center.

Gresham Smith | Nov 21, 2022

An inside look at the airport industry's plan to develop a digital twin guidebook

Zoë Fisher, AIA explores how design strategies are changing the way we deliver and design projects in the post-pandemic world.

Gresham Smith | Feb 13, 2022

Helping maximize project dollars: Utility coordination 101

In this post, I take a look at the utility coordination services our Transportation group offers to our clients in an attempt to minimize delays and avoid unforeseen costs.

Gresham Smith | May 7, 2021

Private practice: Designing healthcare spaces that promote patient privacy

If a facility violates HIPAA rules, the penalty can be costly to both their reputation and wallet, with fines up to $250,000 depending on the severity.

Gresham Smith | Mar 4, 2021

Behavior mapping: Taking care of the caregivers through technology

Research suggests that the built environment may help reduce burnout.

Gresham Smith | Feb 10, 2021

Using technology to design better and safer spaces

Our new technology called Gresham Smith’s Empathic Analytics allows us to measure and record a user’s perceived safety.

Gresham Smith | Sep 12, 2019

From project planning to post-construction: Navigating the commissioning process

As building system technology increases in complexity and sustainability remains at the forefront of design, the need for commissioning continues to rise.

Gresham Smith | Feb 12, 2019

The basics of building commissioning

As building system technology increases in complexity and sustainability remains at the forefront of design, the need for commissioning continues to rise. This is the first post in our series examining the basics, benefits and boundaries of building commissioning.

Gresham Smith | Jan 17, 2019

Strategies to improve the human experience during interior renovations

Over the past decade, Flagler Hospital has been undergoing a complex, phased renovation touching every patient room and almost every public space with the aim of improving the patient experience.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category




Architects

The basics of building commissioning

As building system technology increases in complexity and sustainability remains at the forefront of design, the need for commissioning continues to rise. This is the first post in our series examining the basics, benefits and boundaries of building commissioning.

halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021

 



Magazine Subscription
Subscribe

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe

Follow BD+C: