“describe BIM in 10 words (or less)”.
I think you can describe it accurately by looking at what it delivers.
Take as given the things that are said about work process (BIM process change), and look, for the moment, at the delivered result of the use of BIM tools.
The delivered result of BIM tools (and process) is:
A. A stack of drawing documents (plus some other documents). The drawing documents are no better at their intended purpose (communication) than any documents ever have been, although yes perhaps these are somewhat better coordinated than they otherwise may have been.
B. A 3D model that can be used for some specialty purposes (visualization, clashes, sequence animation, analyses..) but that otherwise is practically useless as a means of communication, as starkly demonstrated every time it is discarded as the project moves from design to delivery.
That B (a 3D model) automates some of A (drawings) is (always moving further toward the lighter side of) moderately interesting, but only from a purely technological perspective, because with regard to practical results, the automation of A from B does nothing to improve the communicative effectiveness of either A or B (communicative effectiveness is the primary purpose of drawing and modeling).
For something new (the reverse), automatically presenting all the drawing graphics (A) in the 3D models (B), please see the videos.
When you put the drawings in the models, both the drawings and the models are improved (as communication media) in rather obvious and practical ways:
http://bentley.wmod.llnwd.net/a3822/o9/s/BentleyStream/Platform/2011_CHINA_HYDRO_BENTLEY_HYPERMODEL_8_11.wmv?h=3e82cee558bb4b3330dc1c774e1e5bbd NEW VIDEO
Hypermodeling blog article (1)
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gain insight by putting things in plain sight.
A Hypermodel infuses the project’s documentation into the 3D model, automatically.
Adding to what Robert Jones asked, "...But delivery of what to whom?"...
We design our communications, in the media available to us (drawings and models).
Now we have an additional medium with which to design our communications. The hypermodel is a richer medium, the combinant of 2 others (and more to come).
We (industry users) are going to be designing our project communications in this medium, as we did with the prior media.
What interests me is that this is the start of precisely the question that Robert Jones asks.
Robert, and Jim, yes - notice that because [hypermodel = (drawings in the model)], that a hypermodel does not exist if drawings do not exist.
Therefore, drawings continue to exist as before, and can continue to be printed on paper and delivered in the usual ways. Now there is an additional way to deliver them and view them.
For the jobsite the hypermodel is published to an i-model. That single file is viewable and navigable in free viewers like Bentley View, or the iWare plugin for Windows Explorer, or in a browser, or in a review app like Navigator. Everything you see in these videos works there.
In the job trailer one can use any of these viewers to view and understand the portions of the model (clarified by drawings in place in the model) on which they will work on that day. At any orientation these can be printed as needed, or, the drawings can be printed as usual.
Likewise a tablet device can be carried around where practical.
BIM is a pretty broad church. Everyone is tacking on thier own spin to the BIM paradigm. I think you are correct when you point out that delivery is a good way of measuring what BIM does. But delivery of what to whom?
What is the intended means of delivery in this new world of hypermodeling? The advantage of the 2D in context of; and thereby informing the 3D is pretty obvious. 2D may be an abstracted view of the 3D - but it is easy to deliver to the builder on site. Should I be investing in shares of toughened tablet devices?
bim is or is not the problem its getting the design community to learn use and intergrate into the design process.
Please observe the parallel: this [making clear the difference between locations that are reliable (and about which accountable statements are made) and all other locations] is precisely the primary function of any stack of conventional construction drawings.
In a stack of construction drawings, the locations (physical locations in a project) about which accountable statements are made are quite simply the locations that (purposefully) are selected for inclusion in the drawing document set. They are the locations that are drawn (automated or not). All other locations (those that are not drawn) are simply omitted from the document set. So in a document set, the distinction is very clear (a location is either in the set or it is not).
The equivalent clarity is now present in the 3D model.
Note that both the explicit and implied meanings of drawings are carried forward, in the drawing set as before (as always) and now in the 3D model.
The idea of putting these together is only the beginning of something qualitatively different and useful.