Within Arup, we have developed a huge library of our own building objects which we can drop into 3D models. We have created these using Revit and have over 25,000 objects covering a large proportion of our needs which include engineering as well as architecture. These have been created to suit our needs and incorporate specific parameters to make our processes more efficient, from scheduling to calculations. With BIM libraries eagerly creating more and more content, why are we bothering with our own, bespoke library?

One of the persistent problems we find is with data attached to objects, from inconsistent data, to too much data and no naming conventions for each parameter. Every object created by a different organisation or manufacturer organises its data differently, resulting in little opportunity for interoperability.

The SPie (Specifiers Properties' information exchange) project being developed by buildingSMART is attempting to address this by creating a set of product templates to be used by manufacturers, in a similar vein to COBie, but this is still in development stage.

Poorly built objects have also tarnished these libraries' reputations. Objects that break or connect incorrectly to the planes they are supposed to sit on only help to create a feeling of mistrust amongst many. One also has to wonder if the manufacturers are also being exploited for their naivety in what's needed for BIM. Do modellers really need to have individual nuts modelled to add in to the BIM? Other objects come over loaded with content, up to 2GB in one instance, making the model file size enormous for limited benefit.

If you are not a native Revit user the selection of available objects from manufacturers rapidly narrows. Architecturally there are fairly extensive Vectorworks and ArchiCAD objects available, but on the whole as a multidisciplinary offer it's Revit or bust. There are IFC objects available, but it is not clear what use these can be in a real project; currently IFC is a 'project' format, incorporating all the characteristics of a project, effectively importing a project within a project. BuildingSMART are looking to develop an IFC library format, but the expectation is this will take 3 to 4 years to land.

Of course it's easy to find fault, especially in the fast evolving world of BIM. There is a genuine need for BIM libraries - where else do smaller firms in particular go to get content? But there is still plenty of room for improvement so we can get good quality, reliable products for our models. The libraries themselves should, I believe, take a certain amount of responsibility and help the manufacturers to create trustworthy, high quality objects.

For Arup and Arup Associates, we'll be sticking to our own content for the foreseeable future, especially for MEP objects. But in BIM, nothing stays still, so never say never.


Kate Fletcher, Arup Associates

Kate is an Associate and leads the Public Health team in Arup Associates. She has led the Public Health teams on wide range of projects that include a LEED Platinum Data Centre in Qatar, King Abdullah Sports City in Saudi Arabia and the multi-award winning Engineering and Computing Building at Coventry University. She has worked in London, Manchester and Mauritius offices for Arup before joining Arup Associates.

She is an engineer at the heart of integrated design, pioneering virtual design at Arup Associates. She plays a key role in the leadership of BIM in the practice and BIM implementation across the UK in the wider Arup Group.

Kate believes in challenging convention, seeking out new and alternative ways to design to create beautiful, efficient and sustainable buildings with a key emphasis on sustainable water strategies. She is a fellow of CIBSE and a LEED AP.