Fact or Fiction: Standards and Specifications

There are several different standards within building and construction. For many, the one that seems to bring the most amount of confusion is LOD. There are many different standards and definitions for this not only in each definition, but also in each country, which makes working together on this challenging. LOD may stand for Level of development or level of detail for example. Then there are others that speak about level of information, level of graphic detail and so on. All in different standards and sometimes the standards come from the same country. Also, for some, level of development is related to model elements. To others it relates to the whole element. To some it is related to geometry and to others to geometry and information. So, when a LOD is required, it’s a big mess, because, which LOD are we talking about? LOD stands for different things and when it stands for the same it might have different understandings of what it is. How did this happened? To get a better understanding we interviewed Marzia Bolpagni, BIM Advisor at Mace London. Marzia will be presenting on this topic at this year’s BILT Europe in Ljubljana, 11-13 October. Marzia chair’s a Task Group on LOD standardization with experts from 11 countries.

  1. Who are you – tell us what you really do and help us to get to know you a little bit better (I.e. what got you excited last Wednesday?)

I am Marzia Bolpagni, I trained as building engineer and now I am BIM Advisor at Mace in London. I spent the first years of my career in research and I am completing my PhD at Politecnico di Milano on how to manage and control public works through innovative digital approaches.

I collaborated with two advanced BIM-aware public clients: the Massachusetts Port Authority (USA) and the UK Ministry of Justice.

I am part of several BIM initiatives: I am a member of BIM Excellence Initiative, Assistant Editor and Italian Language Editor of the BIM Dictionary, member of the Italian Organization for Standardization (UNI), UK BIM Alliance and European Committee for Standardization (CEN) TC 442 where I chair a Task Group on LOD standardization with experts from 11 countries.

What got me excited last Wednesday? I was in Paris working with my European task group!


  1. What’s interesting to you outside of your work?

Is it normal to smile while reading this question?! Well, the time outside work is always very limited, especially if you are doing a PhD.

In my spare time I love travelling and visiting art exhibitions. For my birthday I received a travel to Bilbao, the membership card for the National Gallery and a new trolley. My friends know me very well!


  1. What is interesting about what you do (what motivates you at both work and play)?

I try to innovate and bring new thinking in my daily job. I like to inspire new and old generations and meet students. I am used to ask myself ‘Why are we doing it? Can we do it better?’ I really believe in continuous improvement.




  1. Our theme this year is ‘Death of Disciplinary Silos and Birth of Integrated Industries’ – what does that mean to you? Is BIM and digitization breaking down old borders and hierarchies? Here is a link to the blog post if you have not read it (and would like to!):  https://tinyurl.com/yceot9zp

It is really an important topic. It will take time to break down silos: we need to start from education curricula. If we still teach in the same way, we cannot bring innovation.

BIM requires integration and multidisciplinary integration. It definitely helps breaking down borders and hierarchies: I see more and more young people leading teams, however it is not always easy to be listened. It will take time, changing the identity of the industry is not something that you can do from one day to the other, but we need to work in this direction.


  1. Tell us a little about your session – what was the motivation behind it and why should delegates attend?

I will hold two classes this year, the first is on the Friday morning and it deals with innovative ways of defining and managing LOD. The current way of working is not effective. In my class you will learn the future of LOD.

The second class will take place the same day in the afternoon and it will covers the legal aspects of BIM. If you are a BIM expert, is essential to be aware on the legal implications. Wrong contracts and procurement methods are one of the first barriers against successful BIM projects.


  1. During the extensive research you performed on ‘LOD’ you found that there are several different understandings and definitions of the same acronyms and even when they stand for the same name. Do you think it’s because every country and industry body want to have their own identity or the cultural differences make this necessary or there just isn’t enough collaboration between who creates the standards?

Good question! I think it is a mix of all of them. Each market would like to have its own identity also to increase internal consultancy services. Moreover, there is lack of coordination, and this is the reason why at European level, CEN decided to create a task group on LOD standardization.

In addition, as the LOD concept is not effective, everyone tries to add and change something. For example Italy decided to use letters (A-G) in the UNI 11337-4 to remark the difference with other previous classifications that do not cover existing assets and the entire life-cycle; UK decided to introduce new terms and classifications to underline the importance of alphanumerical information vs the USA approach etc.


  1. BIM also has different definitions and may stand for Building information Modeling as for Building Information Model and some want to call it Building information Management. Many even think we should just leave BIM behind and change it to a completely different name, moving away from the Modeling concept. Do you think we need a name change to reflect what BIM currently represents in order to give credibility, have greater acceptance and a better understanding of what it is?

It is funny to read so many definitions, and it is even worse if you are in USA and they use ‘VDC’.

I discussed about this topic with several experts and the best answer I received is that it is not effective to fix the definition of BIM as it is as a river with water in continuous flow. The meaning associated to BIM has changed a lot in the years and now it is a more and more a synonym of Innovation. In my class related to the legal aspects of BIM, I will explain the need of being specific on project to project base to avoid confusion. If you simply ask for ‘BIM’, it means you do not know what you are speaking about.


  1. We all agree that the I in BIM is crucial, as well as the process, but are we forgetting the B part (Building) and asking all the information we can even if there is no use for the Building and their users?

Another good point. As I mentioned before, we need to ask to ourselves ‘why’ we are producing information and focus on the final users’ needs. Which are the key information to maintain and operate an asset (building as well as infrastructure) till the end of its life? The future of BIM is to investigate the relations between users and assets to support better users’ experience. From ‘Building Information Modelling’ we will deal more and more of ‘User Information Management’: but do not worry, I am not creating a new acronym for now.


  1. You’re an advocate for the definition of information and geometrical requirements according to the use case and not necessarily dependent on the life-cycle stage. Do you think there can be a unique standard to define these requirements, or it should be done from project to project?

I think we need to promote a flexible approach that supports project to project needs. However, at the same time, we cannot start from the beginning every time. Thus, standards should be used as a reference.


  1. What do you enjoy most about BILT?

I joined BILT for the first time last year and I was surprised by the sense of community and the great learning and international networking opportunities. There is space for everyone at BILT: it does not matter if you are a beginner or an expert. I also appreciated the fact that the best in the industry want to attend and share best practices: only in this way we can progress as an industry.


  1. Have you ever been to Ljubljana? If yes, what tips do you have? If not, what are you looking forward to –  and maybe give us one thing you would like a tip on

One of the reasons why I decided to come to BILT EUR this year is because I have never been in Slovenia. I am really looking forward to discovering Ljubljana. I heard about interesting bridges including the triple and the dragon ones. The conference schedule is quite full but I hope to explore the city on Sunday before leaving. If anyone else would like to join me, please let me know. Local guides are also very welcome!

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