Essential BIM vocabulary

The following table provides descriptions of terms useful when working with BIM data sources in ArcGIS Pro.

ArcGIS Pro BIM terms

Essential vocabulary when working with BIM content in ArcGIS Pro.

ArcGIS BIM termDescription

BIM file to geodatabase

ArcGIS geoprocessing tool to convert, append, and merge the contents of one or more BIM file workspaces into an ArcGIS geodatabase dataset.

BIM file workspace

The ArcGIS Pro representation of a Revit RVT, or Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) file as a workspace of feature classes organized into discipline datasets. The resulting BIM file workspace is used like other ArcGIS file workspaces in ArcGIS Pro.

Building layer

When a BIM file workspace is added to an ArcGIS Pro map or scene, a building layer with special capabilities is added. A building layer is a collection of discipline layers and feature layers as a single composite layer.

Building scene layer

A building scene layer package is a portable expression of a building scene layer that can be uploaded and shared to an ArcGIS portal and shared as a building scene layer. Building scene layer packages are created from building layers using the Create Building Scene Layer Content geoprocessing tool.


Categories are logical groupings of BIM data represented as feature classes in a BIM file workspace— for example, walls, windows, doors, rails, or floors.

Composite layer

Composite layers in ArcGIS Pro are collections of layers organized to express complex groups of feature layers as one layer. A building layer is a form of composite layer.

Discipline dataset

BIM file workspaces are organized into discipline datasets. These datasets are valid input to geoprocessing tools that accept datasets of read-only feature classes.

Discipline layer

A building layer contains discipline layers named after conventional construction disciplines and, similarly, the dataset names of the BIM file workspace. These building discipline layers contain the BIM category feature layers. In the table of contents, you can control the visibility of all the feature layers in a discipline layer by turning the discipline layer on or off.


The ExteriorShell feature class is used as the primary overview visualization of the exterior of a building layer or building scene layer. The ExteriorShell is inferred from a Revit or IFC file. The ExteriorShell is comprised of a single multipatch feature that includes the geometry interpreted as the exterior of the structure depicted in the file.


An ArcGIS BIM file workspace includes the Floorplan discipline dataset of feature classes with useful indoor mapping content derived from a BIM design file. Included in the dataset are feature classes that are useful as floor plan content for indoor mapping applications.


Extract, transform, and load (ETL) is a term often used to describe the customizable, systematic approach using special software tools to define a semantic mapping of one software's digital file format to another's. Tools such as the ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension or the Safe Software FME product are examples of ETL software.


The workflow for selecting a coordinate system definition and defining any necessary coordinate offset transformations for CAD or BIM files. It may involve the creation of PRJ and WLD3 files.

Group layer

ArcGIS Pro layers can be grouped to help organize the content in maps or scenes in the table of contents, and to control the visibility of multiple layers at one time. The layers in a group layer can be of the same type or of many types. Group layers make collections of layers easy to manipulate and control. The Floorplan discipline dataset is added to ArcGIS Pro as a separate group layer when a BIM file workspace is added to a map or scene.

IFC (Industry Foundation Classes)

 Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) is a data interchange format intended to describe architectural, building, and construction data. It is a platform-neutral, open file format specification that is not controlled by a single vendor or group of vendors. IFC is also the file extension for IFC files supported by ArcGIS Pro BIM file workspaces and the data interoperability extension.

Make building layer

ArcGIS geoprocessing tool to establish anArcGIS Pro building layer from a valid data source.

Points of interest

Points of interest are useful point features derived from a BIM design file that can be used in indoor mapping applications to locate various assets depicted in a BIM design file. Points of interest are found in the Floorplan discipline dataset of a BIM file workspace.


PRJ is the file extension of a coordinate system definition file. PRJ files with the same name as a BIM or CAD design file define the coordinate system of that file. A PRJ file named ESRI_CAD.prj will be used to define all CAD and BIM design files in a file folder that don’t have their own coordinate system definition.


Autodesk Revit is software for BIM (building Information modeling) with tools to create intelligent 3D models for architectural design, MEP, structural design, detailing, engineering, and construction, and is used to produce construction documentation.


WLD3 is the file extension of an Esri 3D coordinate offset file. WLD and WLD3 files with the same name as a BIM or CAD design file will be used to offset the coordinate of that file. A WLD3 file named ESRI_CAD.wld3 will be used to offset the coordinates of all CAD and BIM design files in a file folder that don’t have their own coordinate offset definitions.

BIM data (IFC/RVT) in ArcGIS Pro

Essential vocabulary when working with Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) and Autodesk Revit (RVT) files in ArcGIS Pro.


The designation of Revit elements used to model or document a structure that have the same model function—for example, walls, windows, doors. There are a limited number of predefined categories in Revit. Categories in Revit corelate to feature classes in ArcGIS Pro.

Central model

A Revit file in which changes are saved when users synchronize changes in work-sharing workflows. ArcGIS Pro does not distinguish between different types or uses of Revit files.

Curtain wall

In Revit, a curtain wall is an architectural element that often depicts a grid of windows or wall panels.

Design option

Design options are alternative versions of a design to document multiple alternatives within a Revit RVT file. ArcGIS Pro only reads the geometry of the master model and ignores these alternative design option elements.

Direct shape

A Revit software capability to assign imported geometries to standard Revit categories. When read into ArcGIS Pro, these features may not have the same level of attribution as other native Revit elements from that category. ArcGIS Pro ignores direct shapes that were not assigned to formal categories by Revit.


Objects in Revit RVT files are commonly referred to as elements. Elements may be graphic or nongraphic. In ArcGIS Pro, the graphic elements are read as ArcGIS features. Nongraphic elements may be included as feature attributes.

Element properties

Elements in Revit include parametric, user-defined, and descriptive attributes. ArcGIS Pro supports these properties as feature attribute field values.


In Revit software, a family is a group of elements with a common set of properties, called parameters, and a common graphical representation used to define a building object. A family is defined within a category and may have different variations. For example, a family of wood windows that may be a specific model of window from a manufacturer may be of one family with different types for its typical sizes, and be part of the window category. Family name and other distinguishing element properties of a family are supported in ArcGIS Pro as feature attribute field values.

Family instance

A Family instance is a concept in Revit software for providing the same kind of object with design options and element specific parameters, such as physical dimensions that vary. Distinctions of an element's family instance is reflected as feature attribute field values in ArcGIS Pro.

Family type

An alternate version of the same object, often a different nominal size or version of essentially the same kind of object. Family type is supported in ArcGIS Pro as feature attribute field values.


A Revit floorplan is a type of 2D or 3D view that may contain any number of elements, usually those that are defined on one floor level or another. ArcGIS Pro uses a different concept for a floor plan than Revit's floor plan view, that instead derives a set of boundary features exclusively on the different inferred floor levels of a structure. (See floorplan in ArcGIS Pro BIM terms section.)

Generic model

A Revit software category often used for miscellaneous objects that don’t fit in other categories. CAD and 3D graphic model data that is imported into Revit will be included as features in this category. In poorly formatted Revit RVT files, this category can be misused, creating unexpected content in the resulting ArcGIS feature class, since it can contain anything including features that may be expected in other category feature classes.


Revit software geolocation is used to define the geographic location (Lat/Long) of the project in the real world, so that functionality such as shadows, views, and light availability can be approximated within Revit. This information is not incorporated in the Project Base Point and is not used by ArcGIS Pro to position the model. (See Project base point .)

Host element

Revit elements may have the capability to host, or may be required to be hosted by other elements. A window is generally required to be hosted by a wall, for example. ArcGIS Pro supports the parent-child hosting relationship as feature attribute field values. (Host_ID, HostFeatureClass)

Hosted component

Revit elements may have the capability to host, or may be required to be hosted by other elements. A window is generally required to be hosted by a wall, for example. ArcGIS Pro supports the parent-child hosting relationship as feature attribute field values. (Host_ID, HostFeatureClass)

In-place family

An in-place family is a Revit software capability for creating a custom object in an existing category. ArcGIS Pro supports these elements like any other family element in a category.


Some Revit software elements such as roofs and walls depict multiple physical layers. ArcGIS Pro does not support the concept of element layers.


Revit software levels are finite horizontal planes that act as a reference for level-hosted elements, such as roofs, floors, and ceilings. Levels may or may not delineate floors/stories and are identified in Revit software by an alphanumeric name. ArcGIS Pro retains level names as feature attribute field values and attempts to identify those levels that represent building floors for floor awareness capabilities by assigning a sequential integer for each named level and retaining level names as feature attribute field values.

Linked model

A Revit-linked model is an .rvt file referenced into another Revit model. ArcGIS Pro reads each RVT file individually and does not distinguish between linked, central, or master models. It is recommended that linked models first be bound or used individually in ArcGIS Pro.

Master model

In Revit software, the master model is used to derive details for levels and phases in the project. ArcGIS Pro treats each RVT file individually and does not distinguish between linked, central, or master models.


In Revit software, the material assigned to an element determines how the element appears in Revit. ArcGIS Pro uses the material property information to build the default multipatch texture symbology of BIM-sourced features.

Model group

A model group in Revit software is a collection of elements that can be added at one time. ArcGIS Pro supports the individual elements added from a model group.

Model view

In Revit software, model views provide various ways to filter and display Revit elements in Revit software—for example: floorplan views, elevation views, 3D views, and plan views. ArcGIS Pro includes all of the primary elements of the 3D model and does not distinguish between Revit-defined model views.


In Revit software, a mullion is an architectural element that separates parts of a curtain wall or grid of windows.


The origin point in Revit software is the Cartesian coordinate location from which the other coordinates are measured. Properly setting the Revit project base point is the most critical step for geolocation in Revit for use in ArcGIS Pro.


In Revit, data parameters are analogous to ArcGIS Pro feature attributes. Revit authors can add user-defined parameters in Revit. These user-defined parameters are included in ArcGIS Pro as feature attributes for the feature classes of the BIM file workspace created from a Revit .rvt file.


Phases in Revit software are used to document renovation, or multiphase projects. Named phases are created to indicate when elements are created and demolished. ArcGIS Pro includes the geometries of the main model for all named phases, and by default displays the existing and new construction phase and supports other phases by filtering the attribute field values (CreatedPhase, DemolishedPhase). The filtering behavior phase is found in the user interfaces of the building layer and building scene layer.

Project base point

The Revit software project base point can be used to establish the coordinates of the BIM project in terms of a known projected project coordinate system, and the angle to north. To accurately geolocate a Revit model for use in ArcGIS Pro, this coordinate should reflect the desired projected coordinates and units (metric or imperial) that match any included .prj file. Properly assigning coordinates in Revit with an included .prj file prevents the need for future georeferencing in ArcGIS. In practice, this point is often not set or set to a relative coordinate system and would therefore require you to georeference the Revit model in ArcGIS Pro to position it correctly.

Project parameters

User-defined parameter can be added to elements in Revit software through project parameters assigned to families. ArcGIS Pro supports these parameters as feature attribute field values.

Project units

All coordinate values are stored internally in the Revit file in the units of feet. Revit software can display units in metric or imperial. ArcGIS Pro reads the metric, or imperial units interface display flag and then assumes the project base point was defined according to a coordinate system defined in those units. If defined correctly, ArcGIS Pro scales the model appropriately. Any included .prj and .wld3 files must match the project units, either metric or imperial, for proper positioning.


.rfa is the file extension of an Autodesk Revit file containing Revit Family (RFA) element definitions. ArcGIS Pro does not support Revit .rfa files.

Room separation line

In Revit software, the boundary of a room can be a logical line rather than a physical wall. Room separation line geometry is used in ArcGIS Pro to create room multipatch and room polygons but is not represented in the ArcGIS Pro floorplan polylines.


.rvt is the file extension of an Autodesk Revit design file containing the elements of a BIM design model. ArcGIS Pro supports the elements of the Revit master model in an .rvt file.


A schedule is a tabular display of information in Revit software extracted from the parameters of the elements in a Revit model. You can create similar reports from the resultant feature attributes of .rvt content in ArcGIS Pro using the standard reporting tools.

Shared coordinates

Using Autodesk Revit software, when you combine multiple Revit models and files in a single project, shared coordinates establish the positions of the files in relation to each other. ArcGIS Pro does not use Autodesk shared coordinates for geolocation, but rather relies on the values of the Revit project base point and any accompanying Esri .prj file and optional .wld3 file to establish geolocation.

Shared parameters

In Revit software, shared parameters are containers for data that are accessible and shareable among multiple Revit families and projects. ArcGIS Pro includes shared parameters as feature attribute field values in the feature classes it generates from Revit .rvt files.

Survey point

The survey point  in Revit data identifies a real-world location near the model, such as a corner of the project site or the intersection of two property lines, or a survey monument. It can be used to define the origin of the survey coordinate system, which provides a real-world context for the model. The survey point is always spatially relative to the project base point and is often unmodified from the default in Revit (0,0,0) which can unnecessarily expand the spatial extent of resultant data. ArcGIS Pro uses the coordinates, and angle of the project base point and an accompanying, and matching Esri .prj file for geopositioning rather than relying on the survey point.

View discipline

In Revit software, the discipline view property controls how various categories of elements should be displayed. By default, these categories are assigned to the ArcGIS Pro similarly named construction disciplines: Architectural, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Piping, or infrastructure. Bridges, roads, and rail are included in the infrastructure discipline.ArcGIS Pro introduces an additional discipline grouping called Floorplan for derived or inferred feature classes and feature layers that are useful for indoor mapping.