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30 June 2016

Building Information Modelling – When should Facility Managers get involved?

A short while ago I was talking with a Head of Hard FM at a large international organisation who has a good understanding of Building Information Modelling (BIM). He understood that the surge of BIM adoption is something Facility Managers (FMs) cannot ignore, but was unclear as to the involvement a FM should have. He also suggested that the large design and construction (D&C) companies should be detailing, and working to, standards based on FM best practices and almost deliver a model that is ready to be integrated into an IWMS. This sparked a long discussion and I thought I would share my thoughts on this via our company blog.

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BIM is widely accepted in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry to be a technology and process to provide substantial benefits over the traditional 2D design methods, such as AutoCAD. A model not only provides the benefit of an enhanced 3D graphical representation and the ease of assimilating how the geometric properties work as a whole, but it also provides tools such as clash detection, model walkthroughs and project visualisation. Utilising 4D, 5D and 6D BIM, planning and management, quantity take-offs, costs, lifecycle management and data capture (through the use of strategically installed sensors) can be realised and mapped out even before any plant reaches the building site.

But when should FMs get involved? Should the contractors just design and construct the building as per the client’s initial Employers Information Requirement (EIR) with no ongoing involvement from the people that will have to ultimately manage the building for the next 60+ years? If so, would the design teams make all decisions that may impact the maintenance and ongoing cost of operations? Wouldn’t FMs want to challenge these decisions as early as possible? This leads to the realisation that FMs should be involved and incorporated into the D&C teams right from the initial stages of a project. This will provide FMs the chance to detail their requirements whilst keeping operational maintenance and overall lifecycle costs to a minimum.

FMs should also work closely with their IWMS solution to ensure that the finalised ‘as built’ model can be integrated into the system with minimal alteration. Emphasis should be placed on ensuring data formats are specified at the earliest stage and standardisations created, that if delivered correctly, will meet the framework of the IWMS. This approach could save considerable time and cost at the later stages of a project.

With the UK Government Soft Landings (GSL) programme, D&C teams will be more adverse to listening, understanding and acting on the client’s requirement. The GSL objective is as follows: ‘Aligning the interests of those who design and construct an asset with those who subsequently use it’. This is key for FMs to gain the greatest benefit from a BIM project. As buildings will be designed based on how they will operate and performance benchmarking established, remedial control processes can be put in place to hold the D&C teams accountable if the asset falls below the predicted performance.

FMs have a great opportunity to leverage the technology and data associated with a BIM project but they must be integrated into the design teams. They must have enough confidence and understanding to challenge the D&C teams if operational costs are increasing and ensure a thorough specification is in place for all contractors to adhere to. Ongoing collaboration between all disciplines, right into the operational phase of a building is key to the long term success of the built environment. One organisation will require alternative operational data and data formats to another. Therefore, it is up to the client’s FM teams to collaborate, drive, and take ownership of the ‘as built’ model that will be delivered, ensuring it will provide the greatest strategic and operational benefit throughout the lifecycle of the built asset.

Sean Mackay
Implementation Consultant Planon United Kingdom