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FM Clinic: Reaping the Benefits of BIM in FM

Concept Evolution

09/10/18 | Sally Wotton

According to a speaker at the RICS Digital Built Environment Conference a key tipping point for theadoption of BIM (Building Information Modelling) will come once digital asset management systems can freely enable clients to accept and use BIM data straightaway. What more can be done to encourage FMs to understand and reap the benefits of BIM?In FMJ's regular monthly column, a team of FM experts, including FSI's Paul Durant, answer your questions about the world of facilities management.



I asked a construction software business executive the same question. His response was blunt: "Don't
call it BIM." Despite long involvement in the UK's BIM adoption programme, he felt the abbreviation was
often unhelpful, particularly to people who do not see themselves as being involved in ‘building' (ie: planning, designing or constructing built assets).

"We need to use the language of the people who own, occupy, operate and maintain buildings and other built assets," he said. BIM benefits will include end-users quickly finding the right information at the right time and in the right format they need to do their jobs more easily and at lower cost, without having to learn any complex new terminology, let alone new technology.

"Often the frontline issue does not require comprehensive detail on a component's dimensions, its manufacturer, or its constituent raw materials. It may be a more practical question - how do I clean that surface, or how do I replace that thing when it breaks down?"

FM needs are also raised during design ("Does the design meet the FM's needs e.g. access, adaptability, cost, information on the basis of design, accommodation etc?") and again at handover, when key information (operation guides, maintenance manuals, etc) about how the facility will be operated and maintained are made available for transfer to FM systems.

BIM aficionados may talk about EIRs (Employer's Information Requirements), CDEs (Common Data Environments), or about COBie (Construction Operations Building information exchange) data requirements. But to many busy FMs this is obscure techno-babble best dealt with by their CAFM providers.

Ideally, if the asset has been well designed with the end in mind, relevant asset information should literally be available at the fingertips of owners, FM professionals and their teams. Intuitive-to-use CAFM apps on mobile devices should present instant answers to plain language questions, simple searches and location queries. Frontline staff would thus, inadvertently, become expert users of BIM data. And, as operational data updates the model, users are also creating information to help future ownership and operation become even more efficient.



We all know BIM-enabled facilities management is still fairly rare, especially when compared to BIM adoption levels during a buildings' planning, design and construction phases. While it's still an everyday occurrence to pass physical files between colleagues and handwritten maintenance logs are still commonplace, digitisation is picking up pace and FM BIM adoption is at a tipping point.

BIM adoption rates rise systematically in a way that mirrors the building process, as you'd expect the highest BIM levels are found at the earlier construction stages; planning and design. Time will naturally lead to improved BIM FM rates as those buildings planned, designed and built using BIM come on stream. Realistically, BIM FM is only going to be used in new buildings, retrospective installation is many years away.

There are a few things that need to be addressed and planned for by the industry to truly speed up adoption.

FM is an outsourced function and key to driving adoption is demonstrating the benefits to clients. They need to be aware of how BIM implementation can lead to improved lifetime efficiencies. A few years ago there wasn't the understanding of what it could do at a client level, now the building and construction industry is seeing an uptick in enquiries about how BIM can benefit estates, so it's clear that perceptions are starting to change.

The best FM BIM based software system in the world cannot overcome poor design. FMs need to be in the design phase zero conversations, so that they can say: if you design something that way costs will go up. FMs have to be part of the conversation from day one talking about building lifecycle costs and clients really need to factor this strategic FM involvement into to their design phase costs. When used well BIM allows FMs to plan and make significant and informed decisions about the whole of the building's life including space use, floor planning, maintenance, energy consumption, even before the building is complete. Problems can be swiftly identified before they arise. Consumables such as light bulbs can be automatically re-ordered. This is machine learning in action.

Increasingly BIM data is being passed from the build programme, through to the operations and maintenance phase of the building lifecycle, and we're seeing a digital handover along with the keys. FMs then gain access to a Common Data Environment, a digital logbook for each building of exactly what's been installed and when along with maintenance records. These digital logbooks clearly outline everyone's roles and responsibilities, helping to ensure that no specification is overlooked, maintenance schedules are on track and FMs are alerted to problems with the building's systems.

BIM will allow for smart FM in action where facilities managers can make informed choices with all the information.



The Government Soft Landings Process was launched to champion better outcomes for our built assets during the design and construction stages, and crucially it utilises BIM to help ensure value is achieved in the operation lifecycle of an asset.

I've outlined ten easy steps to ensure you achieve asoft landing to your project using BIM:

  • Identify your soft landings champion for the project and embed them into the project team, this is about true collaboration - preferably the FM responsible for the ongoing operational management of an asset, someone with the skills and ability to challenge design/construction decisions that impact operational outcomes.
  • Ensure you are involved in the strategy stage 0 and input to the OIR (Organisation Information Requirements) and EIR (Employer's Information Requirements) - getting it right here is essential, as it sets the tone including the vision and outcomes of what is trying to be achieved and provides some key performance indicators to be measured on delivery. Better operational outcomes = better business.
  • Read BS8536 BS8536 - Part 1: Code of practice for Facilities Management (Buildings Infrastructure). Briefing for design and construction that focuses on those aspects that are concerned with achieving the required operational performance of a new of refurbished asset.
  • Identify your baseline operational budget - service cost per m2 - use existing data on current assets as a baseline to determine cost for new service design, from this you will start to develop your own reference class to enable future forecasting.
  • Remember that BIM is a process that enables soft landings to obtain varying degrees of asset information at each stage. Test and challenge (where appropriate) throughout the design/construction process to ensure design continues to meet operational outcomes.
  • Be prepared to validate and receive asset data - have your AIM (Asset information Model) developed (PAS1192.3) and agree data definitions. You will not need all the data that comes out of BIM so be clear on what data you actually need. The data will be used for asset operation and condition, to understand asset performance, define better project briefs and lifecycle cost forecasting and form the basis of the contracting model.
  • Engage and source your supplier base early, ensure they input where appropriate to design of spaces that they will be responsible for.
  • Ensure training for commissioning and handover is early and thorough and with the right people who will run the asset including the FM team and FM suppliers.
  • Develop a post occupancy evaluation model - who will be responsible for auditing, what is the remedy of not achieving the outcomes set down in the strategy - is contractual or reputational? Identify and capture lessons learnt for future projects.
  • Remember the asset will change over time and it is important to keep the BIM model up to date periodically with changes identified from the asset management/CAFM system.



Up until very recently FM operational requirements have been neglected in the early stages of BIM projects, or, if they are considered at all, they are not evaluated with specific emphasis on how FM requirements would be implemented in an operational CAFM system. Our early experience with UK BIM projects is that the FM team is involved only after construction or right at the point of handover, leaving the FM team with a digital output from the BIM authoring software expecting them to work out how to use that data operationally on their own.

As BIM becomes more prevalent in FM we hope that FM teams are engaged much earlier in BIM projects. But, while we are still in the early days of adoption, it's important for us to address the challenges posed at handover by simplifying the flow of data between BIM software and CAFM. We need to change the perception that the transition from BIM to CAFM is challenging or complex and instead focus on how BIM project outputs could have an immediate and practical benefit to FM Service Providers and Facilities Managers. These benefits can be realised at the CAFM mobilisation phase and well in to the operational lifecycle of the facility.

To start with mobilisation, most CAFM systems and FM providers will probably have their own methods for manually collating and importing data, consuming time and resource. With BIM, the FM teams are provided with 'as built' asset data, including accurate connections and sub-components of assets, as well as a wealth of type-specific asset detail such as product specifications and expected lifespan. Typically BIM projects will also use a universally recognised categorisation standard for facility and asset data.

However, simply dumping this BIM data in to a CAFM database isn't appropriate and FMs also need to be confident that the data they receive from BIM projects is fit for purpose. Many BIM outputs contain information which isn't relevant to the operation and maintenance of the facility, and can often use unfamiliar terminology which doesn't match up with the client's established asset naming and classification terms. Too much detail in an unfiltered BIM output can be overwhelming when imported directly into a CAFM asset register.

To meet these challenges FSI developed an import tool that takes the BIM Authoring software output and automatically creates all of the Facility and Asset information in the FSI Concept Evolution CAFM system, including Buildings, Floors, Locations, Areas, Assets, Asset Systems, Asset Classifications, Asset Connections and Networks

The import process is configurable, agile and repeatable so users can run, discard and then re-run different versions of the data. To ensure that the CAFM Asset Register is not swamped with unnecessary detail, the imported information can be filtered to ensure that only the critical information needed to operate the facility reaches the system.

Most importantly, all of the standard BIM object classifications (e.g. Uniclass) can be translated to the terminology appropriate to the FM client meaning assets are grouped and classified in a way that makes sense to the on-site teams and fits in with any existing FM asset maintenance strategy.

By simplifying the transition from BIM to CAFM it's much easier for FM teams to have a clear vision of how BIM data maps to the software and business processes they will use in the day-to-day operation of the facility. FMs can begin to see how BIM data can work together with their established Asset Management strategies to give them truly 'soft landings' for new facilities. Consistent asset categorisation will make it much easier to automate the creation of all Planned Maintenance requirements for new facilities, based on SFG20 or other established standards.

It also makes it possible for FM teams to get involved early on in the BIM project. As BIM data can be imported into the CAFM system at any stage, FMs can visualise the data in a working CAFM system and analyse whether the model is developing in a way that will allow them to maintain the facility as efficiently as possible.