Acronyms – How to lose friends and confuse people

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As an introduction to his presentation at BIM Show LIVE on February 2, Autodesk’s Lee Mullin looks to simplify an industry ridden with TLAs

Who remembers the secret codes of the newspaper lonely hearts ads: –

HAN SOLO, 34, WLTM his Princess Leia with GSOH

Now if you’re in this world and well versed in the ‘Would Love to Meet’ and ‘Good Sense of Humour’s’ of this world then this strange code is all well and fine, but what if you’re newly single, and never seen this all before? Well it’s a daunting task to familiarise yourself with the wide range of terms bandied about by this secretive club and a misunderstanding could lead to FWB rather than a LTR.

Even our old prime minister famously ‘laughed out loud’ thinking he was sending ‘lots of love’, not the best way to send best wishes to an ill friend.

How does this differ to how we go about our everyday work? Well I know my company is as guilty as any other of flooding everyday conversations with three and four letter acronyms, something we have to bear in mind with any new starters and even those who work in different departments.

The UK Mandate for BIM (Building Information Modelling) brought through a whole trench of new terms to learn in an industry where we already have too many, how many people in your business today really know and understand what a PLQ is, or an EIR, or a COBie. You may get elements of your business that understand them inside out but once you get past that core expertise, how well prepared are you really for the UK Mandate?


If you look at one of the reasons why there’s the need for these mandates, productivity in construction has been shown to have lagged behind all industries other than farming over the last fifty years. The sudden rate of change in technology, particularly on the site, is leading to a different clash of cultures, the wealth of experience versus those who think an app can do everything for them. Those who ‘have seen it all before’ and seen where adoption has stumbled or failed are being seen as blockers to change, whilst those who think technology solves everything are ‘running before they can walk’.

Lee Mullin, Construction Technical Specialist, Autodesk

Both approaches can be flawed, a resistance to change will bring more of the same and leave you susceptible to more agile competition, and rushing into change will leave you exposed by alienating those who have delivered before and potentially ignoring risks that are not fixed by technology.

The skills gaps across construction are forcing some of this change and accentuating other parts of it, as some move towards retirement, knowledge is being lost completely out of the industry. As we rush towards a ‘utopian’ BIM vision we are finding holes where we cannot recruit enough people into the industry and then the quality of modelling and data suffers as more and more is being asked of less and less people.

At the top end, those at the bleeding edge of technology still struggle to keep up with the software and hardware announcements on a daily basis, so what chance does a site supervisor who’s still trying to work out how to send an email on a smartphone have.

Throw in this increase in complexity with standards, terminology and processes and it’s no wonder that whilst odd project teams can proudly consider themselves as ready to deliver the Construction 2025 vision, many firms have a long way to go before they can deliver.

One of the biggest problems with implementing any sort of technology or process is winning over the hearts and minds of those involved. Complicating terminology and throwing isolated technologies without providing a translated version for all to understand can be one way to lose them and make the job more difficult.

See Lee at BIM SHOW LIVE – February 2


In a world where acronym is king and a data is a measure of currency, are we missing the point? With EIRs, BEPs, PLQs, LODs, LOIs, IFCs, LODs, PIMs, AIMs, CDEs, PASs and COBie are we missing the point of what BIM is all about? Industry reports from around the world cite many of the industry’s problems, is the current approach of three letter acronyms and a library of standards to understand really going to help change an industry that’s got enough pressures of capacity, increased demands of sustainability and global competition

This no-nonsense session will question if the principles behind the UK mandate are right, what it and other standards and mandates get right and wrong, and if you should pack it all in, get down to the pub and think about doing something completely different. If you’ve not decided to switch careers by the end of the session then at least you’ll be better prepared to challenge the BS in the industry and LOL at the next person who asks for the 21st century equivalent of tartan paint.

Find out more about BIM Show LIVE.

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