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The Key to the Future

Concept Evolution

15/09/19 | Sally Wotton

As awareness and adoption of BIM slowly spreads, Jon Clark, Sales Manager at FSI, reiterates the benefits of what should be a fundamental FM tool

We all hear that BIM (building information modelling) holds the keys to the future of the FM industry. Yet, when we examine the landscape in greater detail, the uptake of this process to support the operation and maintenance of buildings across the UK has struggled to maintain momentum.

BIM's absorption into the process of designing, constructing and running structures has come a long way, as illustrated in NBS's National BIM Report for 2019 (reference note 1). In 2011 only 13 per cent of 1,000 industry professionals they survey each year were utilising BIM in projects. In 2019, that's risen to 69 per cent.

Sounds amazing, doesn't it? While it is undoubtedly encouraging for greater adoption of BIM, when they delved down deeper into the information, NBS discovered that this 69 per cent drops to 40 per cent if we filter out those who are not adhering to what many consider to be "full implementation" of BIM.

Why is there a 29 per cent gap? A large component of this disconnect lies in those who are using BIM in the design and construction of buildings - boosted by the government mandate in 2016 enforcing the use of BIM level 2 in all public building - and BIM's use in supporting structures throughout their lifecycle. This is where BIM's uptake is lagging. The FM sector needs a better understanding of the technology behind BIM, and how it supports the needs of professionals involved far beyond the construction stage.

Fundamentally, BIM provides detailed insight into a building's structure and content. This is accomplished in two parts:

  1. 3D modelling technology that provides an effective CAD layout of a building's look, characteristics and features. These designs provide a clear blueprint for those responsible for bringing the building to life, as well as assisting FMs in the space management of the assets.
  2. Deep databases of information, presenting all professionals connected to a project with ‘as-built' asset data and details relevant to their continued operation and maintenance, such as product specifications and their expected lifespan, contained within clear, accessible graphical representations and COBie spreadsheets.

Both aspects of BIM technology are extremely useful in helping FMs with their various responsibilities. But the most important of the two in efficiently maintaining and operating a building across its lifecycle are those valuable databases.

This data is at the heart of BIM's seamless synergy with CAFM/IWMS systems. By transferring this reservoir of information on a building's assets into these systems, FM teams receive a clear, organised picture of the layout and component parts of the facility for which they're responsible. This means they can develop the most e ective plan for maintenance and repairs, as well as quickly source replacements and retrofits in line with their specifications

In short, BIM is critical in applying "soft landings" to buildings. By offering a clearer visualisation of the connections between assets and their specifications, the crossover of BIM with CAFM improves the transition from a structure's construction or refurbishment to its continued operation. This helps FMs manage a building in a way that saves time, money and unnecessary effort.

From BIM to CAFM

The transfer of data from the BIM model into a CAFM system is not complicated with the right support. It can be broken down to these four steps:

  • Define asset management rules: This is where the CAFM system is configured to filter in only the relevant data from the BIM model to operate and maintain the building
  • Import and plan: The filtered data is imported into the CAFM system, and a plan is developed for tasks relating to each asset and area
  • Add, review and verify: Once the data is imported, this is reviewed to ensure nothing has been missed to support the management of the building
  • Maintain: The CAFM system automatically generates the maintenance schedule to support the operation of the building

The process is examined in greater detail in our white paper, "Optimising BIM for facilities management" (2). It's important to note that the earlier FMs are engaged in this process, the greater the cost and time management benefits down the line. However, the powerful data contained in a BIM model can be retroactively applied if it was not considered in the formative stages.

Once this transfer is complete, the CAFM system will be teeming with data relevant to the operation of the building in question. And, in addition to supporting plans for maintenance and repairs, FMs can use this platform to track and analyse if assets are matching their expected performance or energy-efficiency levels. This makes them more agile in spotting inefficiencies and recommending improvements across the building's lifecycle.

Furthermore, BIM offers a way to start bridging the gap between design and construction teams and FMs. A BIM model presents a single, collaborative, cloud-based space. This means everyone involved in the design, building and operation of the structure can offer their professional insight at an early stage, so it can be run efficiently, cost effectively and in as straightforward a fashion as possible.

BIM is the platform giving a stronger voice to FMs. Rather than having to make do with what has been presented to them on handover by the construction team, which may or may not be fit for purpose, BIM's collaborative space empowers FM professionals to proactively influence the long-term future of their building.

The impact of BIM

The benefits described above are just a snapshot of how BIM can support the work of FM professionals. We hope that opening the window into its technology and advantages will help break the knowledge barrier that is preventing many FMs from reaping the benefits of BIM in their day-to-day work.

But that is not the only barrier standing in the way of universal BIM adoption. Another is the cost. The initial cost of BIM can be daunting for companies due to the lack of education and understanding of the savings this offers over time. Especially for smaller companies, not being clear on the long-term financial savings BIM delivers can make it appear a non-essential luxury rather than the way of all projects going forward. The NBS survey suggests that only 56 per cent of practices with 15 employees or fewer have adopted BIM, compared to 80 per cent of practices with more than 15 staff.

It's important that we continue to emphasise how BIM is not a perk exclusive to larger organisations. The technology can be scaled up or scaled down depending on the needs of the client. This flexibility means smaller firms don't need to reach too deep to enjoy the efficiency benefits the BIM process offers.

This perceived risk over investing in BIM can be abated by a greater demonstration of the return on this investment. Until recently, it has been di icult to adequately quantify the cost savings presented by BIM. However, last year PwC developed a methodology to quantify the financial benefits of BIM level 2 (3). Its analysis of an office refurbishment in Victoria Street, London, revealed that BIM-enabled savings equated to £676,907. Of this, £492,669 was for the building's expected operation over 12 years - that's nearly 73 per cent of the overall savings BIM provided attached to the management and maintenance of the building.

It's crucial that we as an industry continue to highlight examples like this going forward to keep tearing down the barriers preventing BIM adoption by FMs. The industry needs to recognise that improving the cost-effectiveness of a building's entire lifecycle (20-30 years) greatly outweighs the design and construction stage (five to 10 years). And for this, BIM is a fundamental tool.

As published in FMJ Magazine.