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May 28, 2014

A BIM in the management phase? Start with these six questions

The Building Information Model (BIM) seems unstoppable. This digital, three-dimensional model is gaining popularity during the design and realization of buildings, and contains more and more information about things such as the composition of the building, the properties of components and even the activities schedule.

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No wonder building managers are highly interested in these models. Whereas they used to receive stacks of paper drawings and documents from a contractor upon completion of a building, they now receive the BIM more and more often. However, a lot of building managers are wondering how they can use them, and whether the data can be loaded into their Computer-Aided Facility Management (CAFM) system. The answers to those questions are not simple. And to be honest, these are even the wrong questions – but more about that later.

BIM in management
About 70% of building costs are incurred during the management phase of a building. The automation of building management leads to a lot of efficiency gains, and that is where a BIM can add value. For instance, these models contain a bill of materials. This is a list of components that, when combined, form the building; for example the number of exterior doors of a certain type, the number of square meters of wall brick work, the number of square meters of paint work, the type of central heating system, etc.

It is obvious that this information is useful and handy for a building manager. However, how can they use the information from the BIM to schedule maintenance and estimate the costs, for instance? The answer to that question depends on different factors. It is therefore important to ask a number of other questions first.

1. What is it that you wish to achieve with the BIM?
During the management phase, a BIM can be used for various purposes: from estimating the management costs to scheduling maintenance work. Every purpose demands different things from the model. Would it be enough to retrieve a bill of materials from the model once, or should the model be kept updated throughout a building’s management phase?

2. Who supplies the model?
The BIM is always a combination of multiple sub-models. Furthermore, both the architect and the contractor provide input for the model. Make sure you make one party (preferably the contractor) responsible for supplying all sub-models, and make it clear in advance which requirements this data should meet, such as space coding, room functions and component coding. This makes it easier to read this data into the CAFM system and increases the usability of this data.

3. How complete and up-to-date is the model?
A BIM is not always updated in accordance with the actual realization of a building (as built). That would give you a false start. You therefore have to analyze the completeness and topicality of the model before copying the relevant data into the CAFM system.

4. What information from the model do you really want to use?
Not all data from the BIM can be used during the management phase. It is therefore important to determine which information from the model you really need and where this data will be managed. By way of example: from a management point of view, there is no need to know the reinforcement of a concrete floor. What would be interesting to know is how many square meters of floor and ceiling finish there are in a building, making it possible to correctly schedule maintenance of plaster work and paint work.

5. Which modeling software was used to create the BIM?
There are quite a lot of differences between the systems used during the construction phase. If you want to update or change the BIM during the management phase yourself, you will need to buy the necessary modeling software. However, this does require very specific expertise and in practice, consulting the BIM will suffice.

6. Who will be using the data and the model?
Different users have different needs. That applies to both the BIM and the CAFM system. The maintenance manager is interested in systems, technology and structural information, while the accommodation manager wants to know which indoor walls are mobile and which are structural. It is important to organize these systems in such a way that users can consult and manage the information that is relevant to them fast and effectively.

The answers to these six questions do not guarantee that a BIM can be used during the management phase, but they do form an important starting point. It is particularly important to ask these questions during the design phase and to coordinate them with the architect and contractor in time. After all, it enables the client to formulate requirements early on in the process, making it possible for data to be transferred to the CAFM system after completion.

BIMs will be designed for the construction phase, but if you ask the right questions in time and set requirements to the right parties, you can save yourself a lot of time and energy. By linking a BIM to the CAFM system, data can be automatically read into the CAFM system. This prevents manual data entry as well as errors, and it reduces the effort of having to reuse data from the BIM.

Eelco de Bruijn
Product Manager Space & Workplace Management