Did you know that the Model Progression Specification was adopted in 2008 as the AIA E202 as a way to assist IPD teams?


Since then, we've continued to refine the process, and even expanded it with the use of our Standard 5D Library (a collection of scheduling tasks, activities, formulas, and values required for many building elements) and Standard 5D Warehouse (a collection of over 5,000 typical building elements in Revit and ArchiCAD which have been modeled to the accuracy necessary for construction-caliber quantity takeoff).


what is an mps

Caption: The MPS is an organizational framework for an IPD or collaborative team.  It sorts out which elements need to be modeled and to what level of detail at what time.  With this information, the estimating team and scheduling team can also perform their work using the BIM.  For more information, please read the popular blog article "Why You Need an MPS on Every 5D BIM Project."


The MPS is the lingua franca of the AEC community. It allows IPD teams to organize around a common framework for model fidelity and level of detail necessary for estimating and scheduling.


Here are some questions we frequently receive about the MPS.  If you don't find yours here, please ask!


Q:  How is it possible to start the MPS preparation during the 3D design? For example, if we work in ArchiCAD what can we do in order to prepare the model with all the necessary information for an MPS?


A:  Yes, absolutely. Before you have a project specifically you might not have an idea or naming convention for the specific types in a project although you might have a standard within the company. So you know that a type 1, type 2, type 3 pile cap is always going to be represented as a certain format and require a certain element type and have a certain ID.  And you can predefine that as a favorite in ArchiCAD and that’s what we have for the virtual warehouse.


So essentially it is predetermining the element type… It's specification much like the 2D specification where you would have a block to represent something and you define which line types and line colors… essentially how that element would be built. So it’s the same way but it’s just packaging it as a favorite.


Here's an example of what the element specification looks like...

element specification per stage


Within Revit it’s actually families and family types that we use to generate the takeoff items. So we can create family types and be able to put those in a packaged file in our warehouse.


Q:  Does Vico provide different levels of templates for project types or scales? For example, is there a different MPS for healthcare vs. commercial?


A:  It is up to the user as to how to set up the MPS. Originally the MPS was more how the model was developed and then because that model developed at different rates for different parts of it…we’ve made it more flexible and it’s very much up to the actual users as to how you want to use it.


So you could create an MPS which was fairly generic or you could create one specifically for healthcare, specifically for commercial… it is up to the end user.


We have different versions which we use for different levels of detail. The way that our Cost Planner system works is that you expand it to the level of granularity that you would like to work at. So you can stop at a very high level or you can go down to a very granular level.


MPS definitions

Caption: The same definitions work across multiple project types, but can be honed for specific project types like healthcare.


Q:  From the Owners side, what should you define in the specification for 3D, 4D and 5D? What level of detail and what value does it all have for the owner?


A:  For the owner it’s about transparency. The integration allows the owner to have more rapid feedback and it allows everyone in the project team a lot more collaboration.  Everyone singing from the same hymn sheet… We use that term that integration and collaborating in an integrated fashion is extremely beneficial for the owner. Communicating design intent obviously using 3D BIM, but then communicating with an owner as to what the cost is and why the cost is certain levels in certain areas. 


So from visual estimating and seeing that if you click on one line item in the cost plan you can see where the quantities and costs are being designed from. There’s a lot more detail and the system allows you to spend time on the detail rather than creating it. So really making it more likely that you’re going to meet end dates because the accuracy of the data. 


And communicating change is very powerful for the owner. So if something changes describing that change generally in a meeting the owner has to be put out of their comfort zone usually…. The comfort zone of knowing that they are spending their money and getting value for money is a lot clearer if you are able to, in a three or four way split view, click on where the change has occurred and showing whether it’s a quantity change, whether the design has changed, how those quantities have affected the cost and then how the quantity increase/decrease change has then affected the schedule.


cost elements dynamically linked to model

Caption: You can see in this example how the highlighted cost plan items are also highlighted in the 3D model, as well as in the quantity takeoff calculations.  This gives the project team, and of course, the Owner, a view into the cost drivers.


The "all in one view" rather than sitting there with a printed flick book of the estimate from an excel spreadsheet or a complex estimating system and also a roll of 200 drawings trying to flick between the two to see where they are different. And then also when the scheduling starts you might have a 50 page schedule where it’s pretty difficult to understand the changes between the two. So using this integrated approach I think the owners really do benefit from interactive and better communication tools.


Q:  What’s the best way for an end user to start working with the 5D standard library and warehouse?


A:  The way that the warehouse works is that we have one for ArchiCAD and one for Revit.  You import in just a library into your CAD system and then you pick out an element and you start modeling with it. And then when you export that information into Vico Office from the model.  The naming and nomenclature is exactly the same from the model for the database; and you pull the cost plan items in and they will automatically link up. Going back to the pile cap example we would automatically have a resource based estimate for that pile cap.


It could be an in-house use so you could buy the complete data set library which consists of the warehouse of elements and the knowledge base of cost and time. You could buy that and start implementing it on your own if you are a construction team. Or, if you’re working with architects closely and some of the architects don’t have standard practices yet, then you can offer that to your partners that you work closely with and help them to generate models that are then going to push directly into your knowledgebase of cost and time and provide a very seamless link.


On some projects where we’ve done an MPS, the GC purchased the 5D data pack and they provided that to the architect. We went and spent some time with the architect to check processes and that they were doing things correctly and would follow the MPS. So they used the warehouse and then the GC had the estimating database and then every time they produced the models they would link automatically. So that was just provided from the contractor to the architect and structural engineer and they set out using that right from the start.


scheduling knowledgebase in 5D library

Caption: The Vico Standard 5D Library is organized by the set of activities required to construct each building element and the sequence in which these activities are performed.  Included in the Library are average productivity rates by trade and standard formulas for deriving labor and material resource requirements.



Q:   What triggers a progression from a level of detail 300 to a greater level of detail? Specifically reflecting the aspects associated.  In the example that you used you have a level of detail 300 and it’s now an LOD 400 or is it just an LOD 300 with more mature aspects?


A:   It is whatever you decide. So if you think that what you call an LOD 300 really requires a model class 4 (so including the penetrations for MEP) then you map the M4 class to the level of 300.  So this is not adding up numbers from classes… It is making sure that what you expect from level of detail 300 data sets matches what’s really going to be built. So the classes for the aspects are a way to document and communicate what the team members should work on. In our example we mapped the M4, E4, S4 to level of detail 300 but that might be a different mix… So it could be a model class 3 an estimate class 4 because maybe you can get to a higher level of detail with your estimate with less information and maybe your using some calculation rules in your estimate that allow you to do that.  So it depends on how you want to work within your company on how you are going to link those up. The nice thing, we believe, is the flexibility to do that. So not just one number… you can mix and match the various aspects that play a role in defining these data sets.


Q:   What typically triggers the progression? Is it simply a date on a calendar?


A:   It would be what I called defining the goals for a stage in the presentation. So if you need to complete a certain part of your estimate or need to complete a certain level of detail for your schedule, then that is what triggers the level of data that you want to include in your data set. And actually, coordination meetings may be the most important driver for your model. If you need to do coordination of miscellaneous steel, that might require a model class M4 or 5. So depending on what goals you have for that stage you would define the level of detail.


Q:   Primitives seems to be presented as a solution to the large number of descriptions generated by stages, categories and aspects. But I am not clear on the introduction of primitives reduces the number of descriptions needed to implement the MPS. It does not surprise me that there are so many descriptions that need to be defined.


A:    It is true that you do need to describe behavior for modeling, estimating and scheduling for the classes that you would like to recognize. But the number of descriptions is much less than when you would have to do it for each unique element in your project.  You can have hundreds of unique elements in your project and by just referring to a primitive you reduce the number of descriptions significantly.


Q:   Is the 5D data pack part of Vico Office?


A:    Yes, you can elect to purchase the 5D Data Pack with the Vico Office configuration you choose.


Q:    What level of detail is required for facilities management?


A:     It depends on how you define your level of detail, of course, which is company-specific. The way that we’ve set it up is that LOD 100 is your building footprint with the building levels. LOD 150 is the departments and then LOD 175 is the individual rooms. I assume that you need at least the individual rooms to understand what equipment is in there, what finishes are in there and that type of information that you would need for facilities management. In one of the services we offer, Coordination Resolution, the stage one of that to get to 85% coordinated if we said that that was LOD 300 then we may work with the subcontractors after that to get to an LOD 400 to make sure we’ve got  the right level of detail ion the model so that we can provide lift drawings or shop drawings. That LOD 400 may not be needed for FM requirements. The LOD 300 may have all of the equipment in there and that is typically the sort of level that we need. So it is typically a level before the actual shop drawing level.

Q:   Where does the energy usage analysis fit into the progression of models and costing?


A:   I would make that a fourth aspect that you include in your planning of primitives and building elements.  You would look at the quantities that you need to do those calculations. And probably the requirements from the model, so that the energy analysis software can do what it needs to do.  So probably you would look a t the requirements from those rules and define in your modeling classes to what detail you need to go to have done that work correctly


Q:   How would the object warehouse assist with renovation projects? Let’s say waste generated and asbestos abatement costs.


A:     You could develop elements in your warehouse that have associated cost assemblies and components that can be used to calculate the quantities and cost for the waste and waste removal. We’d have to look at the exact use case but that can definitely be included in your data sets.


Q: Architects and engineers who have moved through the BIM learning curve over the past few years have built up their own libraries, families and procedures. Have you found a lot of resistance from designers adopting uniformat and MPS processes when collaborating with contractors and Vico services?


A: I wouldn’t say resistance… It depends on how well their own process has been defined.


So we’ve worked with architects and engineers who have said “this is brilliant for us because we didn’t exactly have our own process. We have only just started to get into the 3D environment and we started making things up as we go along. But this really makes sense and helps us establish a process for ourselves.” 


Then we’ve had some people that already have their own libraries.  But once you explain how if they called something zyxabc123 and they knew what it was when they were modeling they understand the concept that when they pass that information to the contractor they didn’t know what that actually meant. So the naming of it makes sense and they want other people to be able to use the models.


naming structure comparison in mps

Caption: You can immediately tell the difference between the lack of a naming convention on the right, and a rigorous naming convention on the left.


So we have had different replies form different people. One thing they have said is “We don’t like this numbering at the start this isn't how we work we’d rather just have a naming” and that’s absolutely fine.


The whole concept of the MPS is not for Vico to say use will use this number and this name. It’s just the concept of using something which suits all parties. So everyone is working together and the design team says this is what we want to call these items and it’s up to the other stakeholders in the process to decide if that name is agreeable and if it isn’t come up with something they all agree on. So that is that key point… that everyone agrees that this is how they want to go forward. And it isn’t a surprise for any party when the model is delivered.


So we have a preferred process, we like to have uniformat naming. We think it’s an excellent way to group your take off items and group your model. We break models down into substructure, superstructure, exterior walls… they all become sub models and will also suit a uniformat elemental breakdown. But we understand that not everyone wants to work like that… It’s up to the user.


Q:  Do the pre created families that Vico provides contain e-SPECS info? Do you plan to integrate that or something similar?


A:  Yes we do, actually.  They don’t contain specification data as they stand… they are quite generic so it’s a starting point with all the data in there. Every job is going to be slightly different. If we create the database and try to cover every different variation of the pile caps let’s say… which could be many different concrete grades and types and it could have lots of different rebar sizing… so you couldn’t create a pre-defined assembly which suited every single scenario.


So we’ve tried to keep it relatively generic and then you make them project specific on a per project basis. Something we do have in our future plans is to actually be able to create a link to a specification document which then could be read in so you could formulate the price based on that real data. And that will be a wonderful reporting capability.


Q:  What modeling software do you recommend for integration with your product? Thinking of the object warehouse, the standard practices etc.


A:  Everyone has probably heard of Revit, Tekla,  and ArchiCAD  - thy are the main BIM authoring tools. We also work with fabrication level tools such as CAD-Duct… your subcontractors may be using a tool such as that. There is also the opportunity to actually bring in a Sketchup model… we have an importer for Sketchup… and an importer for IFC and 3D DWG files, as well.


Q:  What is the best way to implement quality control on our BIM models for new firms just starting out on BIM platforms?


A:  I don’t know if you know this, but we have a Professional Services department at Vico Software – much like professional BIM Consultants.  In our work with Owners and GCs, we use “gate checks.”  As we go through the modeling process, the model is actually checked three times. There is a virtual construction specialist that is actually creating the model and they have their own QA checks and that’s part of a best practice in order to ensure that everything they do is correct in the first place. But then it is handed off for a quality check from the project leader so that there is a project leader in charge of a number of virtual construction specialists. And the project leader then has to perform a quality check and there are certain procedures that they have to make sure they are checking… So it’s like a tick list…


Once they are happy they then approve and send the deliverables to one of our on-site project managers and s/he will then perform the third check before the model is than actually used. So before our clients receive our deliverables, the deliverable is checked three times. It’s a very good process for us and if you are looking for advice and want some further information then just get in touch with us.


To learn more about the MPS, please navigate through these additional resources:


Webpage: The History and Evolution of the MPS

Webpage: MPS Terms and Definitions

Webpage: What is the BIM Level of Detail?

Webpage: The MPS as Sheet Music for an Orchestra

Webpage: What Is a Purpose-Built BIM Model?

Webpage: Who is Authoring the BIM Model?

Webpage: What You Need in Your Virtual Construction Toolkit

Webpage: Rollout the MPS to a New Project

Webinar: Webcor and the MPS

Webinar: Using the Content Plan and MPS

Webinar: Understanding the Model Progression Specification

Webinar: The MPS 3.0

Blog: What Can Be Done to Improve BIM Model Fidelity?

Blog: Why You Need an MPS on Every 5D Project

Blog: The 5D Data Pack Is Your Shortcut to 5D BIM

FAQs: MPS Frequently-Asked Questions