There’s a perception in the market that more FMs should be using BIM. However, I think we first need to understand its purpose and what it can offer before submerging ourselves in it.
There are so many opinions around BIM, both for and against, but from an operational point-of-view, and having had spent 10 years across sectors and roles in the industry, a few things spring to mind. My opinion is that BIM is only really relevant to new buildings or buildings that are being extensively refurbished.
The majority of FMs in the market operate occupied offices in multi-tenanted, leased buildings, and in most cases ownership of central plant and services sits with the landlord. For FMs that manage such spaces focus therefore is around business administration, supply chain management, service delivery, compliance, financial and performance reporting.
There isn’t much focus on big ticket items in which BIM comes into play. The landlord is usually responsible for HVAC, boilers, chillers, utilities and air handling units, unless, of course, the company in which they serve is an owner occupier.
Take, for example, an FM working in a large London multi-let. If something goes wrong with anything to do with the building, the chances are in the majority of cases, the FM will need to pass the problem on to the landlord anyway.
My question to FMs would be: how much relevance does knowing floor loadings and other calculations, for instance, have on you, or impact your day job? I suspect any such concerns would normally be raised via the appropriate route such as structural engineers and building surveyors.
How much of an impact will, knowing what you know about BIM, have on your day-to-day job, and how much more effective will it make you? Also — what makes BIM better, for a normal FM, than a well-constructed O&M manual?
It’s all about being more strategic, BIM is adding another layer of cost without adding recognisable value. In real terms it would be another pile of papers in the corner with which nobody does anything — a bit like the early information BMS systems produced.
If we tell everybody to use BIM, how many will actually use it, or understand it, and of those who do, how many will use it efficiently and effectively? How do we know it will really make them better at what they are doing?
So what should FMs do instead of BIM? That’s what you need to work out in order to make yourself more efficient or move to the next level. If the answer for you is BIM, then so be it. Personally, I would think about how I can influence workplace change, impact on the culture, and how I can assist the staff of the business in which I work to create greater business value.
Does implementing BIM make us more valued to the organisation or to our businesses?
Technology platforms such as CAD and the like are more relevant areas in which an FM’s time will be far better spent in learning or understanding. The general consensus among those with whom I interact is frustration when their opinions aren’t considered important during conversations surrounding real estate, strategy and/or business relocations.
My opinion is that FMs can reverse this trend by showing a greater understanding of how versatile the spaces are in which they are managed — in both a logistical and operational sense. On many occasions I personally see — in both large corporates and smaller businesses — spaces that are poorly utilised and/or thought out. From a practical point-of-view, we need to remember BIM will mostly be used only for new schemes, as I mentioned above.
If changes are made in the building without factoring in BIM updates, its value is immediately lost. And who will actually own BIM once the designers, contractors and project management teams have gone home? Will FMs be expected to learn, understand and be able to interpret this data?
Having taken all the above into consideration, FMs will agree that there are many far more important responsibilities that they can focus on that will add value to their organisation. I wonder how many FMs are even trained to IOSH standards? Having a better understanding of H&S standards and process is just another example of an area FMs could be focusing on to better themselves and understand their roles.
JACK BUCKLEY is EMEA business development manager for Cushman &
Wakefield Facilities Management, Corporate Occupier & Investor Services