Symbol libraries for construction and facilities management
ISO/TR 16310:2014 intends to specify the requirements and needs for supplying and managing standardized symbolic descriptions of objects that need to be specified in the construction process. Within this context, the term "symbol" is interpreted to cover pure symbolic presentation as well as simplified representation of geometrical shapes of objects.
Librairie de symboles pour la gestion de la construction et des aménagements
Standards Content (Sample)
Symbol libraries for construction and
Librairie de symboles pour la gestion de la construction et des
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1 Scope . 1
2 Existing standards . 1
3 Ongoing standardization related to symbols . 3
3.1 BIM . 3
3.2 Distribution . 4
3.3 Other disciplines . 4
4 Objects and symbols . 4
4.1 Representation and presentation . 4
4.2 Classification . 6
5 Industry cooperation . 7
5.1 Key roles . 8
6 Suggestions for further standardization . 8
6.1 General . 8
6.2 Concepts and principles . 8
6.3 Overall library . 8
6.4 Access to symbols . 9
6.5 Development of libraries . 9
6.6 Organization . 9
6.7 Preparations and marketing for implementation . 9
6.8 Maintenance of symbol libraries managed by ISO .10
Annex A (informative) Structuring of symbols .11
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ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) is a worldwide federation of national standards
bodies (ISO member bodies). The work of preparing International Standards is normally carried out
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Subcommittee SC 8, Construction documentation.
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Drawings, documents, and other presentations are increasingly being derived from models instead
of being produced independently. The content, text, and graphics of the presentation are defined by
applying rules, filters, to the model.
a) Content is selected from the model by using classification or other properties of the objects therein.
b) Appearance, using the presentation filter, is defined by selecting views, including formatting of
content, and applying graphics. The graphics can be taken directly from the model but is often
simplified and/or made more distinct by using symbols or simplified representation.
c) Presentations in the form of text, drawings, images, or other forms are the result, to be viewed on
screen or printed.
Technical documentation relies heavily on graphics, whether it is presented on paper as drawings,
or displayed on a computer screen. Also, much of the graphics is usually in the form of symbols or
simplified representation. A symbol is a shape or a sign which represents something else, like the “flag”
that symbolizes a light switch, while simplified representation resembles the object, and has physical
dimensions equal to the object.
Standardized symbols play the role of a uniform (non-lexical) language that is understood in the
same way by different readers. The potential benefits of using standardized symbols include savings
in producing models and documentation, but above all, they serve to facilitate the efficient use of the
documentation, and not least to avoid costly mistakes caused by misinterpretation.
This Technical Report investigates the needs and requirements within the construction and facilities
management sector for symbol libraries, in digital form as well as the conventional printed form. Which
libraries are needed? And how should they be defined, distributed, and maintained? The conclusions
will be used to make decisions on future standardization.
Present standards for construction-related symbols have been created mainly to support uniform
appearance on paper drawings produced by different authors.
The need for libraries of agreed symbols has not diminished over the years, but new issues related to
the use of symbols have surfaced as practice has shifted from manual drafting to the use of computers
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for producing drawings and CAD/BIM models. Also, the roles of national and international standards
have changed over the past few years. Overlapping parts of national and international standards have
required the withdrawal of national standards without them being fully replaced by international
standards. In particular, this applies to Europe, where published EN standards must not in any part be
conflicting with national standards. Altogether, there is a need for a new approach to symbol standards.
This Technical Report is the outcome of a proposal for a joint effort of the committees ISO TC 10/SC 8,
Construction Documentation, and ISO TC 59/SC 13, Organization of information about construction work.
In the final section of this Technical Report are recommendations for future standardization work,
for sharing and discussion within the standardization community, in particular ISO TC 10/SC 8 and
ISO TC 59/SC 13. Also, the work should be coordinated with standards and activities of buildingSmart
International. The intended goal is to arrive at a common roadmap. Out of this, concrete standardization
efforts can be initiated and carried out.
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TECHNICAL REPORT ISO/TR 16310:2014(E)
Symbol libraries for construction and facilities management
This Technical Report intends to specify the requirements and needs for supplying and managing
standardized symbolic descriptions of objects that need to be specified in the construction process.
Within this context, the term “symbol” is interpreted to cover pure symbolic presentation as well as
simplified representation of geometrical shapes of objects.
2 Existing standards
The present situation is that standards are available only for some arbitrary categories of symbols, not
covering the everyday needs of those producing and using documentation for buildings and civil works.
The following table shows a brief review of ISO and EN standards as well as national standards for some
countries. It is not a complete list but rather examples of the present situation.
Standard number Title
ISO 3766 Construction drawings — Simplified representation
of concrete reinforcement
ISO 7518 Technical drawings — Construction drawings —
Simplified representation of demolition and rebuild-
ISO 5261 Technical drawings — Simplified representation of
bars and profile sections
ISO 5845 (all parts) Technical drawings — Simplified representation of
the assembly of parts with fasteners
ISO 6411 Technical drawings — Simplified representation of
ISO 6410 (all parts) Technical drawings — Screw threads and threaded
ISO 4067-2 Building and civil engineering drawings — Installa-
tions — Part 2: Simplified representation of sanitary
ISO 14617 (all parts) Graphical symbols for diagrams
ISO 1219-1 Fluid power systems and components — Graphic
symbols and circuit diagrams — Part 1: Graphical
symbols for conventional use and data-processing
ISO 11091 Construction drawings — Landscape drawing prac-
ISO 7519 Technical drawings — Construction drawings —
General principles of presentation for general
arrangement and assembly drawings
ISO 7437 Construction drawings — General rules for exe-
cution of production drawings for prefabricated
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Standard number Title
ISO 2553 Welded, brazed and soldered joints — Symbolic
representation on drawings
ISO 6790 Equipment for fire protection and firefighting —
Graphical symbols for fire protection plans — Spec-
ISO 128-50 Technical drawings — General principles of pres-
entation — Part 50: Basic conventions for represent-
ing areas on cuts and sections
EN 1861 Refrigerating systems and heat pumps — System
flow diagrams and piping and instrument diagrams
— Layout and symbols
SS - Swedish Standard
SS 32269:2008 Construction drawings — Representation of fasten-
SS 32268:2008 Construction drawings — Representation— Beams
and columns of steel
SS 32267:1994 Construction drawings— Representation — Excava-
SS 32270:1994 Construction drawings — Symbols and designations
SS 32264:1993 Construction drawings — Representation on
drawings for drainage, water services, heating and
SS 32260:1986 Construction drawings — Installations — Symbols
and designation for heating, ventilation and sanitary
installation and for automatic control
SS 32231:1974 Symbols and designations for refrigerating plants
NS - Norwegian Standard
NS 2410:1984 Technical drawings — Building drawings — Draw-
ings for structural metal work
NS 3037:1975 Building drawing — Drawings for concrete compo-
NS 8313:1983 Building and civil engineering drawings — Simpli-
fied representation of fittings
NS 8330:1982 Building and civil engineering drawings — Draw-
ings for construction of reinforced concrete
NS 8331:1982 Building and civil engineering drawings — Symbols
for concrete reinforcement
NS 8340:1987 Construction drawings — Installations — Graphical
symbols for plumbing, heating, ducting and ventila-
NS 8341:1987 Construction drawings — Installations — Simpli-
fied representation of sanitary appliances
NS 8342:1987 Construction drawings — Installations — Graphical
symbols for automatic control
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Standard number Title
NS 8343:1987 Construction drawings — Installations — Graphical
symbols for refrigerating plants
NS-ISO 6790:1986 Equipment for fire protection and fire protection
plans — Specifications
BS - British Standard
BS 8541-1 Library objects for architecture, engineering and
construction — Identification and classification —
Code of practice
BS 8541-2 Library objects for architecture, engineering and
construction — Recommended 2D symbols of
building elements for use in building information
BS 8541-3 Library objects for architecture, engineering and
construction — Shape and measurement — Code of
BS 8541-4 Library objects for architecture, engineering and
construction — Attributes for specification and
assessment — Code of practice
In the process of producing symbol libraries, each standardization project should include further
research about existing standards within its scope.
3 Ongoing standardization related to symbols
3.1.1 Current standardization revolves to a great extent around building information modelling (BIM).
Coordination with product modelling efforts such as Standard for the Exchange of Product data (STEP)
and buildingSmart is naturally of the essence, and should contribute to the presentation facilities of
3.1.2 IFC, Industry Foundation Classes, is a buildingSmart specification for the structure and format
for the exchange of building information models and their objects. The current IFC version, IFC 4, has
been approved as an International Standard, ISO 16739.
3.1.3 buildingSmart data dictionary (previously IFD), also a buildingSmart initiative, is a publicly
accessible database to hold the terminology to use for properties connected to different classes of objects
in an object library. The properties are identified in a language-independent way, making it possible to
exchange objects across system borders and languages. IFD is work in progress, and so far suggestions for
properties within a limited number of object classes exist.
3.1.4 IDM, Information Delivery Manual, specifies a method for defining information sets to be
exchanged between systems. The method takes its starting point in a process map for the process to
be supported, then further specified into exchange requirements, and finally detailed to describe the
functional parts, i.e. the units of information to be exchanged. The general description has been approved
as a part of an International Standard, ISO 29481-1, and one more part of the International Standard is
being produced, for management communication.
3.1.5 MVD, model view definitions, specifies a subset of IFC standard objects to be used in specific
information exchanges, as a technical implementation of the IDM. A number of MVD’s are being defined
by buildingSmart International, but are not yet broadly adopted in the market.
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3.1.6 BIM guidance, ISO/TS 12911, suggests a framework for BIM manuals on the generic level. The
framework is intended as a basis for further detailing appropriate on different levels such as the national
level, the company level, or the construction project level. Possible connections to symbols are the
prescription of symbols and symbol libraries to be used as well as the process of retrieving, exchanging,
and storing them.
3.1.7 Product data for building services systems models, an ISO TC 59/SC 13 work item, is to offer
a common interface which allows the uniform handling of data relating to building service sectors about
technical, commercial, maintenance, service, as well as geometric data, images, video, and text information.
The general description has been under development as an International Standard, ISO 16757-1:—. The
proposed part 2 and part 5 of ISO 16757 are to, respectively, deal with geometry and product catalogue, to
which the symbol library issue will be closely related. An important aspect of the International Standard
is that it deals with parametric representation of objects.
3.2.1 Within IEC, the use of databases for symbols and other libraries is a reality for a number of years
already. Maintenance teams are responsible for adjusting and developing the libraries in a smoother way
than the revision procedure for an International Standard requires. The experience from this should be
3.2.2 ISO OBP (Open Browsing Platform) contains a collection of concepts, terms, and symbols.
It is fully operational but there are suggestions for developing it. In particular, there is a demand for
establishing a structure that allows symbols and terms to carry the requirements of the International
Standard. Essentially, the entire International Standard should then be available in the database, not just
the representation of separate symbols. Also, the format for symbols needs to be revised to allow for use
in CAD/BIM application software.
3.3 Other disciplines
Within ISO TC 10/SC 10, symbols for the process industry are being developed, in particular for use
with process diagrams. These International Standards have several objects in common with building
services systems, such as pumps, valves, and fans. Main products are ISO 14617 (all parts), ISO 10628
(all parts), ISO 14084-1:— and ISO 14084-2:—, and ISO 15519-1 and ISO 15519-2:—.
4 Objects and symbols
4.1 Representation and presentation
Any representation of a real-world (physical) object consists of a set of data corresponding to it. The
same applies to any other (intangible) phenomenon which needs to be represented in a model-based
construction process. The data for the object are always a subset of the potential complete description
of the object, containing a number of properties that are perceived. In most cases, the properties are a
subset adapted to the intended use of the data.
For example, the representation of a tree, in a literary text, can consist of a description of the way it
looks, how it moves in the wind, and how the bark feels to the hand. A representation of the same tree,
for the use of a landscape architect, can instead co