This paper is the first two that report on the results of ASHRAE Research Project RP-1468. This paper presents an overview of the project and the three volumes of documentation included in the final report (Clayton et al. 2013). The purpose of the project was to produce reference models and guidelines for developing software to automate thermal model creation from a building information model into a building energy simulation (BES) for energy simulations. This paper describes the methods of the research and presents highlights of the guidelines. The variety of uses for energy simulation in the building design process leads to a differentiation of several different kinds of thermal models that may be extracted from a BIM. A Series 2, Level 1 model that addresses whole-building energy use at schematic stages of design is developed into a set of guidelines. A recommendation is to use the centerlines of enclosure elements to determine areas of thermal surfaces. Various recommendations are made for resolving curved surfaces, shading elements, and site elements. The guidelines are supported by detailed sensitivity studies and analysis, presented in the final report (Clayton et al. 2013). The investigations led to identification of future work to improve energy simulation tools and BIM tools. © 2016 ASHRAE.