BIM and Facilities Management: Bridging The Gap

See what Facilities Managers can expect from a BIM model.

What is BIM?

Building information modeling (BIM) is a method of creating and using coordinated, internally consistent, computable information about a building project in design, construction and operation. BIM is gaining significant momentum around the world, producing new ways of analysing models in ways that were not previously possible.  So how can facilities managers take advantage of a BIM model

It's important to understand that that BIM is not a technology. While technology does aid in the creation of a building information model, the software used does not equate to BIM. BIM is more about processes and collaboration—it is the way in which the model is created, shared and used throughout the entire design and build project. 

BIM means different things to different stakeholders. Its meaning can be different based upon experience, process and where the team lies in the workflow. A construction manager, for example, needs different things from a building model than a structural engineer does. What BIM means to each of them is unique to how they interact with a project.

BIM is able to deliver a broad range of benefits. Architects can analyze designs and look at more design iterations earlier in  the process and provide basic rendered models faster to help communicate design intent. Engineers can understand how their systems will affect building design, sustainability and cost. Construction teams can use the model to provide more accurate estimates—both on time and cost—and be able to easily see interferences or issues with construction methods (like keeping the toilets from being brought in before the piping is complete). Facility managers can have an electronic model of the design and the data from this model can be imported into facility management systems to better manage the building.

To make use of all of these benefits however, you need to put a large volume of information into one model. Depending on how well this data is managed, there is the risk of something commonly referred to as “model bloat”. This is where the model contains so much data it becomes large and unwieldy. This can cause many problems including slow software performance, or requiring more powerful computers to open and manipulate the model. While it should be understood that designing and analyzing a building does require more computer resources than the typical facilities management workstation, careful management of the data in the model can go a long way to help prevent model bloat.

BIM and Facilities Management – Where Data Meets Data

Effective facilities management is all about maintaining accurate data. Knowing where your assets (and people and space) lie and how to fix things that are broken are key to being able to respond quickly to unknown issues and anticipate upkeep. Having new buildings created using BIM provides a lot of rich data—from being able to anticipate a building’s energy costs to knowing when that new equipment might require maintenance. As-built documentation (hopefully a digital file, not paper documents) will be much closer to reality if everyone on the project team is committed to using BIM.

There is a growing amount of data available to provide within a model. Manufacturers are now offering their products in a BIM format so engineers and architects can provide specific product data to the owner. This means knowing what model your toilets, HVAC units, new equipment, windows and more are—right from the start. You could even get a link directly to the manufacturer manual to keep within your facilities management system.

Beyond just the data, there is a movement both in the design and the facilities world to create more sustainable environments. Being able to estimate energy consumption and cost before a project is built helps owners manage future building budgets. But even more important is the ability to report back on the reality of those estimates. Did you really save 30% by using a UV filter on your windows?

How about the added cost of the building envelope—was it worth the extra money spent? With a rich data model provided, a facilities manager should be able to track reality versus estimates and report to the owner on the true cost over the life of the building.

How BIM and FM Work Today

Keeping in mind that BIM is a process, not a technology, the link between the model and the facilities management system is different depending upon the software used. The building design team uses a variety of software products to conceptualize and analyze a model in conjunction with the Autodesk Revit platform of products, the de-facto standard in BIM design software. In addition to Revit, construction teams use Autodesk Navisworks to pull multiple models together from the architect and engineers, helping them visualize any construction issues or discrepancies and giving them the ability to provide timelines virtually. A virtual construction model helps the contractor provide a more accurate time and cost estimate as well as helps them avoid costly on-site changes.

With all of the possible software combinations that exist in the design and construction world, when you’re requesting a building model as a final deliverable (along with the physical building), be sure you know what software your project team is using and to specify what classifications and standards you expect to see within the model. If your organization does not have its own standards, there is an industry standard for building operations called COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) and your development team can use their model to create a COBie output for you at the end of the project. Each part of the team will provide different aspects of COBie output. Architects would give you spaces and equipment locations, construction teams can give manufacturer and installed product information. This will help you import the relevant data into your facilities management system instead of trying to go through a model provided and create the link yourself.

Getting a relevant model, either via COBie or your own designated standards, allows you immediate access to your as-built data making it easier to get your facilities system updated with information that can be used not only by the facilities team but also the rest of the organization for better strategic planning. Understand that some facility management systems allow you to directly link with Revit, meaning you could conceivably skip some steps in having a separate COBie deliverable, though you likely want to request this in addition so you can augment the model.

As mentioned, there are some limitations on what a building model can provide to a facilities manager today. Not all manufacturers are providing their products for inclusion in a building model. That means when a construction team uses a product without a manufacturer model provided, the facilities manager may have to track down the relevant data to include in the facilities management system. And remember that model bloat mentioned earlier? The more data you want to get from a model, the larger
the file will be. Bear this in mind when you’re talking with your project teams. Have each team member know what will be expected of them so they can model appropriately and not include irrelevant data.

Coming Soon to BIM and FM Near You

The latest progression within BIM is the unique contractual agreement known as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). IPD (as defined
by the Associated General Contractors of America) is “a delivery methodology that fully integrates project teams in order to take
advantage of the knowledge of all team members to maximize the project outcome. Integrated Project Delivery is the highest form
of collaboration because all three parties (Owner, Architect, Constructor) are aligned by a single contract.” Note that the definition
does not include facilities managers but does state that all parties are bound by one contract. Usually within that contract there is
shared risk—both fiscal and legal—for the project. Sometimes there is a shared reward as well for early and/or under-budget delivery.
Collaboration is truly at the heart of BIM, and for IPD to work; all parties must be open to communicating more often and more openly than in a traditional contractual arrangement. 

Within IPD, project delivery includes a lot of valuable information, not just the model but also the requested revisions, email conversations, project approvals and more. Being able to track this data is one thing, being able to work on it in a team environment—whether that team is internal or contracted—is something else entirely. New ways of working together virtually allow teams from across the globe to keep on track. Cloud computing, data management as well as virtual building models keep all team members up-to-date on the latest developments within their project. Of all these technologies, Cloud computing has the largest potential impact on BIM and IPD because it enables the delivery of computing services over the internet in real-time, allowing end-users access to data and applications from any device with an Internet connection. By hosting a model within the Cloud, teams can view pieces of the model relevant to them, without fear of being behind an iteration (or two or three). It also allows for project participants to add more data to the model, since the model is not delivered in one system or another. Finally, it allows owners and facilities managers insight into the project at any time, knowing that the data they are viewing is up-to-date. However, because the final deliverable may not be Cloudbased today, model bloat is still a concern.

All of these new technologies hold potential, but it will depend on how the software manufacturers develop and partner together. Given that even today there are not only multiple Cloud computing options, but there are also different types of Cloud offerings—public, semi-private and private—will one Cloud rule over all or will there be multiple Cloud sites that your team will have to work within? Also, using Cloud computing is new to BIM. Adding this technology to the process means rethinking how the team works together. This is still an evolving practice and what works today may not be what is best in the future.

Life After BIM – Building Lifecycle Management

The next logical step in BIM is BLM or Building Lifecycle Management. This is where the model is just one integrated piece of data used
by a facility manager or owner to help with the life of the building. When BIM and FM completely tie together we’ll have BLM. The
technology is moving towards a living, breathing building model that will sustain itself as the as-built environment. It will get integrated into the facilities management system and data will flow back and forth between the two, allowing individuals to get the information they need in the system they need to view it.

Cloud computing will also play a large role in BLM. Having one site where the model and the facilities management system come
together—perhaps even being one program—will allow facilities managers to use the rich data available in the building model. They’ll
be able to look directly at a model, hiding irrelevant information—sharing that model data with management in a meaningful way. And their project teams on redevelopment will have the most accurate picture of the building because the model has been kept up to date as changes were made.

IMAGINiT Clarity Owner Data Portal: Bridging the gap between BIM and FM

Exclusive to Redstack, IMAGINiT have released their Clarity Owner Data Portal product. 

The latest member of the Clarity family of products, IMAGINiT Clarity Owner Data Portal allows building operators to utilise 3D model data in their facilities management systems,  extending the value of the building information model (BIM). By adding a layer of functionality to Revit, the Clarity Owner Data Portal:

  • Makes information accessible to non-Revit users
  • Liberates valuable information from Revit models for integration with existing facilities management systems
  • Generates building-centric reports automatically, including room, equipment, and furniture specific reports
  • Enables round trip editing of data, so changes made in Clarity ODP can be sent back into the Revit model.

Learn more about IMAGINiT Clarity Owner Data Portal.

Understanding BIM Today and Tomorrow

Since we’re still mostly working with 2D drawings but everyone says, “We do BIM!”, start by looking at your projects and identifying
what you need—is BIM necessary for you? Can the benefits of BIM provide a tangible positive effect on your FM data entry, renovation
process, and building analysis?

Take the time to educate yourself on the latest BIM tools so you can add to the conversation, and know what you expect from a deliverable. 

Be sure you understand what each team member brings to the table. What software are they using? How many projects have they completed in BIM or IPD? What have been their takeaways? What information will they expect from you and in what format? Will
they be able to provide the deliverables you need? You can build into any request for work or proposal your standards and constraints, ensuring that the model provided will be better prepped for interlinking into your facilities management system and providing
you a repeatable program for successful projects.

Finally, take a moment to step back and think about what you want from the process. Don’t just require or implement BIM because you believe you should. Be sure you’ll get relevant information, that your project will shave time or costs, which you will be able to re-use the data provided when you move into the maintenance of your building or space. Building information modeling can be a powerful system, but only if everyone agrees on what the final outcome should be.

Getting started with BIM and Facilities Management

Contact us today to start making a plan on how to best implement BIM and FM on your next project.


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