Is interest building in BIM?

The benefits and potential of BIM to assist in improving the running of facilities

Originally published in the June 2016 issue of PFM — With increasingly more buildings being constructed and renovated which include the use of building information modelling (BIM), facilities management professionals need to be aware of the implications of its growth.

Since April this year, it is now compulsory for BIM to be used on all public sector construction projects, and is increasingly also seen within commercial projects of all shapes and sizes.

When these are handed over, it is essential that FMs are able to access and use the information to best effect.

Among those advocating increased use of BIM within the FM sector is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), with its UK Commercial Property associate director Jon Bowey stating that while it is encouraging to see rates of uptake growing, there is still the potential for more to be done.

“There may be numerous reasons that explain why there is still some reluctance to engage with BIM,” he says, including difficulty of addressing problems with initial implementation of the system, such as stakeholder engagement and working in cross disciplinary teams, deterring some organisations.

“However the greatest obstacle could be an enduring lack of understanding of the benefits that BIM can bring.”

One of the reasons for the RICS advocacy is BIM’s role in ensuring that a building performs in as efficient a manner as possible by monitoring energy performance and comparing this to other possible configurations, potentially aided by connecting with the building’s services systems.

“But BIM has other uses, especially in future planning,” Mr Bowey continues. “On a basic level the information stored by BIM can provide an accurate record to assist with any renewals or improvements, as it can incorporate a live record of the building incorporating any physical alterations.”

In addition to running simulations of different project scenarios, allowing informed decisions about the best value options to be made, this can also be applied to ongoing preventative maintenance regimes and identifying the most appropriate programme, he says.

Mr Bowey refers to the 2015 RICS research paper Building Information Modelling and the Value Dimension, recommending an increase in training and a greater embedding of BIM within qualifications, providing an important step in encouraging a greater understanding of how it can be used.

“This focus on education remains highly relevant if the progress that the FM sector is making on BIM is to continue and its huge potential is to be fully realised. It is also likely to ensure that RICS members remain at the forefront of innovation in this area,” says Mr Bowey.

Further opinion is provided by Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) chief executive Paul McLaughlin, who agrees it has the potential to deliver a number of benefits to the FM sector.

“But without collaboration from the start of the process, BIM is just an expensive way of producing 3D design drawings,” he says.

It should be used to assist in designing buildings so the installation of services and their operation closely matches the original vision, he continues.

“If contractors actually know in advance what they will be doing on site, they have a chance of delivering it right first time, removing rework and redesign costs, stripping out waste to actually deliver the building the client wanted in the first place,” he says.

BIM can be a platform for collaboration “across the supply chain”, including lifecycle operation and maintenance tasks. This can include additional digital tools, such as the BESA’s SFG20 service and maintenance system that will soon include a BIM ‘module’ to provide a seamless link between a design object and associated maintenance tasks required so it works efficiently throughout its operating life.

“By harnessing BIM, the supply chain can drive more risk out of the process and deliver something much closer to the client’s expectations along with greater cost certainty,” says Mr McLaughlin.

CIBSE technical director Hywel Davies says BIM is a way of working, rather than a tool and should permeate all aspects of a project. No built environment professional should know this better than the facilities manager, he says.

“The FM should be the guardian of a building’s performance throughout its whole life because few other parties have such a high stake in getting it right.

“There is a tendency for the many parties involved in the design and construction of a project to see the shiny new school, apartment block or hospital as the ultimate objective, when for the FM it is merely the beginning of the life of a valuable asset and the start of a long relationship,” says Mr Davies.

A good building model has the potential to be the thread that runs through the middle of this relationship, providing data to help a building maintain peak performance throughout its lifecycle.

Keeping the model up to date gives the FM actual data about how the building and its systems run in a variety of conditions, which can be used to inform changes to its complex, interdependent and ever-changing needs.

“But a building model can only give the desired results if it is designed and populated properly in the first place. Facilities managers need to ensure that the information being fed into models is what they need, for example standard data for plant items their operational requirements and maintenance.

“This is why CIBSE has led the creation of product data templates that include operational and maintenance data as a standard requirement.

“For the FM, the model should be an asset they’ll use for years, not just a means to achieve compliance, so they need to get their feet under the table early on and ensure that FM and systems thinking is implemented directly into the design process,” says Mr Davies.

Further emphasis of the need to engage with BIM is provided by Andrews Water Heaters sales director Chris Meir, who refers to the UK government’s proposals to adopt BIM Level 3, following Level 2’s implementation in April.

“Whole life costing should be on every facilities manager’s radar and now, with BIM Level 2 becoming the norm, the approach should be a much more practical option,” he says.

A BIM object provides FMs with all the necessary information when planning refurbishment, helping to show the spend profile of its expected life.

This can be further augmented by the ability of using the data from BIM models to create automated maintenance schedules and also assisting engineers, who can check available access without needing physical inspections before carrying out repairs.

“The associated BIM object will make it easier to check the model number and manufacturer details, so that ordering new parts is quicker and simpler,” says Mr Meir.

He also refers to the need for different levels of detail (LOD) at different stages of a project.

“As a result, we’ve developed two types of files to the relevant CIBSE Product PDT – a minimal detail file that can be used in the first stages of a project (LOD 300) and a much more detailed file for the latter stages (LOD 500).”

The latter will offer maximum benefit to FMs, says Mr Meir, including information about energy savings, service and maintenance schedules.

ASSA ABLOY UK Specification BIM manager Andy Stolworthy says government Soft Landing (GSL) principles are designed to ensure early engagement of the FM and end user during the design and construction process to assist in the delivery and operation of buildings, while encouraging aftercare post-handover.

It also calls for more commitment to post-occupancy feedback to architects and contractors, allowing them to ensure lessons learnt are captured for future projects.

“In an ideal scenario, BIM will provide a fully populated asset data set to feed into CAFM systems and modelling will enable planning modifications,” he continues.

Although this vision of BIM is not yet tangible for FMs, this does not mean it cannot help with the running of their buildings in the future, he says.

Improved knowledge transfer will see information made available to FM teams, allowing them to see the efficiency of their management operations.

“As the project lifecyle moves forward, the same model can then be handed back to design teams when the project is due to be refurbished or extended, capturing all the knowledge from the whole operational phase,” says Mr Stolworthy.

Further thoughts on the long-term benefits of BIM are provided by MK Electric & Ex-Or UKI sales strategy leader Logan Colbeck: “With the product and system information of the building at their fingertips, FMs can ensure seamless operations across multiple buildings, managing the entire lifecyle.”

They can also see the final result before construction even begins, he continues, making any necessary adjustment to ensure the final design is compatible with their requirements.

“For example, an office building requires a specific type of lighting sensor for presence and absence detection, due to ceiling height and where exactly the sensor is placed. Using a fully visualised BIM model, a contractor can test different sensor ranges, ensuring the right product is specified.

“Using BIM at the very beginning of the project ensures the right product is used from the outset, saving time and money,” says Mr Colbeck.

He agrees that the use of accurate product information is invaluable for efficient building maintenance.

“With easy access to every product’s lifecycle information, FMs can schedule maintenance and order replacement parts well in advance – minimising the risk of operational delays while the FM waits for the new product to arrive,” he says.

When expanding an existing system, having this accurate BIM model data also ensures FMs are buying the right products longer term.

For instance, BIM data includes information on product compatibility, lifespan, and maintenance cycles – extremely useful for an FM looking to futureproof investments, Mr Colbeck concludes.

Gradus group product manager Lynette Bowden says before BIM, FMs would often rely on a CAD drawing at the completion of a project and disparate “as-built” drawings to get an insight into why architects made their initial investments.

This was not always enough to help them manage space efficiently and cost effectively. Describing the Government Construction Strategy (GCS) Level 2 BIM as creating the pathway to “digital built Britain” and the promise of BIM Level 3 in the future, Ms Bowden says BIM has the potential to serve as an electronic operations and maintenance manual to assist in maintaining the built environment.

It provides a communication portal for the project, creating efficiencies during the planning and build stage, the handover process and the on-going management of the assets. This further highlights the benefits of data attached to BIM objects and assistance in planning maintenance strategies, as well as showing the “true costs” of products and making future selections much easier.

“In the long run this will prevent manufacturers from making unsubstantiated statements and ultimately improve the built environment,” she says.

Facilities managers must engage with the developing BIM agenda to realise the full potential for delivering value over a building’s lifetime.

The supply of real time data will be invaluable for creating future models and stepping toward a digital construction process.

“As FMs report back into BIM models, more useful data will be collected, helping to build valuable bridges between facilities management and the wider built environment,” says Ms Bowden.

As the UK’s leading FM title, PFM has been reporting on facilities management in the UK from its beginnings, and highlighting best practice in Europe and the USA.