Monday, December 12, 2011

Protect the fluffy kittens

Have you ever been frustrated when people say "ATM machine" or "department of redundancy department?" I feel your pain. Since the building industry has adopted the acronym BIM, it has generated a new phenomenon...the "BIM model." If you're reading this and thinking to yourself, 'hey, what's wrong with that?' then perhaps you mean to say 'building information model model?' Some of my friends and colleagues have suggested that saying 'BIM model' implies the verb interpretation of BIM so you get 'building information modeling model,' but I think that's a thin argument.

In an attempt to relieve some of our pain and mental anguish, some of us have taken to social media channels to clarify this sampling of techno-speak. John Tocci, Jr (@tocci2) tweeted: "Every time someone says 'BIM model' a fluffy kitten dies.' Being a big fan of dramatic statements as a vehicle to get a point across, I shared this theory during my presentation at the Washington, DC BIMForum and it seems to have gone viral. Check out the hashtag #fluffy_kittens.


The 'fluffy kitten' theory has even expanded beyond the borders of 'BIM model' into the realm of Levels of Development or LOD. Jim Bedrick now evokes the kitten theory when someone refers to an 'LOD### model.' This will be a full topic I'll discuss in a future post, but let's just say Jim gets equally upset with this as he does with 'BIM model!' Other folks such as Dan Russell from Sundt Construction prefer to apply a more positive spin to the kitten theory. Instead of 'killing kittens,' Dan says that every time someone says 'BIM model,' a coyote gets lunch!

Now, before you go out to the next BIM conference and start heckling the speaker by meowing every time he or she says...that phrase...let me explain a better solution to the problem. As an involved member of the National BIM Standard-US project committee, I have been a staunch supporter of the definition of standard terminology for industry BIM uses. Although BIM uses, workflows and information exchanges have been under specific development by buildingSMART international for quite some time, definitions were published in Penn State University's BIM Execution Planning Guidelines ( Without describing this effort in too much detail in this post, I encourage you to become familiar with these definitions.

Instead of abusing the redundant term 'BIM model,' perhaps we could start using some of the following terms:

  • Design Authoring model
  • Energy Analysis model
  • Existing Conditions model
  • 3D Coordination model:
    • Discipline Design Model
    • Aggregated Design Model
    • Trade Fabrication Model
    • Aggregated Fabrication Model

Of course, the industry is gradually starting to look at model servers to support collaboration and information exchange, so these ‘model’ terms may be short-lived. In the meantime, do the world a favor and help protect our fuzzy, little feline friends...don't say 'BIM model.'


  1. I'm pretty sure a kitten also dies when people say "LED light." It means light emitting diode light!

    Anyway, I'm going to go work on a BIM :p

  2. Me thinks you'd better cut back on the caffeine. Most people define BIM as Building Information Modeling. Just try Googleing it. So BIM model works for me!

  3. Can I buy a save the fluffy kitten t-shirt at AU next year?

  4. William Safire, late of the NY Times, had a column "On Language". Redundancy was one of his pet peeves. He had a department he called the squad squad, which was intended to root out redundencies in writing, such as "BIM model"

  5. A pretty BIM model from a hamamatsu distributor (did I say it right?) can really save a fluffy kitten. But why does the kitten here isn't fluffy? Perhaps one says BIM model again!