BIM Glossary

3-D Modeling

The representation of objects with full geometric description, instead of the traditional plan/section/elevation of paper drawings and 2-D CAD. These traditional drawings can be generated as “views” of the 3-D model.




Building Process Modeling Notation. A formal and structured approach to constructing and documenting workflows.

Building Information Model (or often just Building Model)

A model (or often many models) that describe the geometry and other data regarding a building. Some BIM models are schematic, for planning purposes, and others are highly detailed (for construction purposes).

Building Information Modeling

The process of creating 3-D models linked to extensive information about the materials and components being used.

Digital Product Model

A model of a product or system that includes both geometric information (a 3-D model) as well as non-geometric data such as specifications, material properties, chain of custody, environmental product declarations, etc.


Groups of pre-defined building objects arranged according to given construction practices, which can be applied to 3-D models as part of the design process. A masonry wall family might contain concrete block with brick veneer, the proper ties for the cavity wall, and the lintels used to carry the brick and block across door and window openings. When this family is applied to a given surface in a BIM authoring tool, the proper masonry units, coursing, and details are established in the BIM model.

Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs)

An open, non-proprietary data model used to represent building objects. Used to transfer BIM objects between software platforms.


The ability of multiple software platforms to trade information back and forth, preserving the validity of the data.

Model View Definition

A subset of the BIM model as represented in IFCs, generated with a specific application in mind, for example: cost estimating or building thermal analysis.

Parametric Modeling

Using rules to define the geometry of and relationships between building objects, so that multiple objects can be generated from a parent object, or so that models can adjust/react automatically to changes in geometry.

Schema/Data Structures

The underlying computer database representation of building objects (geometry and other properties) and the relationships between these objects.


Defining rules and macros/scripts/code to propagate and permute objects within a CAD system or to automate some task in a computational environment.

Software Specification

Flowcharts, narratives and diagrams that describe how a piece of software is intended to function, what its inputs and outputs will be, a description of the user interface and of the data structure used by the software.

Solid Models

CAD models that represent objects as Boolean solids a collection of geometric features that is added and removed to create the final part. With solid models it is possible to assign material properties and to the solids and then create queries to determine weight, quantities, etc.

Virtual Design and Construction

The use of BIM and related technologies to inject a 4th dimension (time) and often a 5th dimension (cost) into complex building models.

Virtual Mock-Up

A very highly detailed 3-D model. These models are detailed that they can be used for photorealistic renderings, construction simulation, analysis of tolerances, advanced thermal and moisture finite element analysis, etc. In general, the density of the information in the virtual mock-up is so high, that it is not possible to represent an entire building with this level of detail.


3-D geometry that is represented in a computationally lightweight manner, with only the outer boundaries and major interior features (for example, door and window openings) shown.


A flowchart and narrative that describes how actors in an AEC process work, the digital tools they use, the information that they require to complete tasks, and the information they produce for downstream users. A standardized workflow can be described by a process model, and documented in BPMN.