When people transition in their BIM journey from geometry co-ordination to also include valuable information it can be daunting. 2 x key classifications need to be associated with each modelled element when you begin this journey. Firstly, an IFC Classification (to enable openBIM collaboration), and an industry classification.

There are numerous classification systems available across the globe that are available to be used, and the classification that is applied should be determined by the receiver of the information or model that you are producing. Here in Australia, where we finally are seeing drive from Government Agencies that procure and own built assets. They have chosen Uniclass 2015 as their preferred Classification System. Uniclass 2015 was created by and maintained by NBS. The NBS was founded in the UK in 1973 by the RIBA and now also has offices in Australia and Canada.

Let’s remove the daunting part of the thousands of codes you can choose from. Classification systems apply to everything we do, every day to describe things. As humans we have sex, race, age, height, eye colour, hair and skin colours and many others. Now I am not a fan of pigeonholing people based on anything to be honest so let’s use a different analogy that people experience a lot in their day to day life.

Let’s use the experience of shopping to explain the Uniclass 2015 Classification system to make you more comfortable with it and its use. Firstly, different companies run competing stores. You could see these competing stores as the available classification systems. They are similar, in that they sell groceries but the way they present and sell them will be slightly different.

Now when you have selected the store you want to shop in (Uniclass 2015). You head to the store, and when you walk into a store for the first time you will see that a store is set out in various areas or departments. We have Deli, Butcher, Seafood, Fruit and Vegetables, Bakery, Grocery and Cold departments. These departments are the same as the first tier or break up in Classification that you can apply to a modelled element. In the early stages of a project you would not know any more information or specification detail about an element other than it is a wall or a floor or a roof. This is where the EF Table or Element/Function Table should be applied. The granularity of this table goes to a Group (15 selections) or a more detailed Sub-Group level (65 selections).

Once we have determined the department we want to visit. In this case we are looking for a product in the Grocery department we then encounter numerous aisles in front of us. These aisles can be represented in both the Ss System Table and Pr Products tables at the Group level. The Ss System Table has 18 groups and Pr Product Table has 15 groups to choose from at the aisle level. Each aisle contains a similar group of products, like the way the classification systems are structured.

I have now found the aisle, I need to go to find the bay where the similar products are located. Each aisle is broken down into bays. In a Classification system these would be considered the Subgroup. The Ss System Table consists of 41 sub-groups and the Pr Product Table 33 sub-groups.

I am now standing at the bay where the section of products is located. The Section level of the Classification System should equate to the shelf number of that specific bay. At this level in both the Ss System and Pr Product Tables grow in number to cater for the large number of products that they need to represent in the construction industry. But you will eventually find the shelf you are looking for, thankfully the NBS do not change classification numbers like shops do all the time.

The last part on finding your product on the shelf, is its position on the shelf. Once again at the Object level of the Ss System and Pr Product Tables there are a significant number of options to cater for the different options you may need to use as part of describing your project elements.

Now I could go onto the creation of baskets and the OCD nature of bagging like products together so they don’t mix, but that might confuse things, rather than clarify them.

How is this not daunting! The first time you visit a shop, yes it can be challenging to find the correct aisle for the product you are searching for, but after a few trips to the store you run on auto-pilot and find the products you need quickly and easily. I do admit that shops do have signage to assist you in finding what you need, but if you use Excel to navigate the Classification System Tables using different methods including filtering or the simple find command it will provide you the signage and direction you need.

To learn more about Uniclass 2015 make sure that you listen to Episode 21 of ‘The Digital Transition’ podcast where I talk to Sarah Delany from NBS about Classification Systems, their importance, and the benefits.

Thanks to Sarah for the store analogy in our podcast interview, as it forms the inspiration and basis of this article.