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May 04, 2017

Why most real estate managers still need to get used to a digital model called BIM

Many real estate managers are surprised when their contractor shows up with loads of information at the handover of a new construction project. "This is all the information you need for the operations phase," he will say. And, "As we are really innovative, you will find everything in a digital model, called BIM." After a good discussion, during which the real estate manager will explain to the contractor that he only needs a small portion of this information, a common response from the contractor will be: "Real Estate & Facility Management is still old-fashioned; they don't know what they need!" Is this a fair response? 

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The information challenge

Being able to find suitable real estate information has always been a challenge. During the design phase, every inch of a building is described. This information is used to determine such as things as where to position windows, or how much piping to order for a plumber. After the grand opening of the building, usually the first renovation project is not scheduled for at least 10 years. With regard to your own computer, do you still have documents stored that were created more than five years ago? Probably not. Nevertheless, even if you would have kept this information, how would you be able to foresee the types of information that is needed in 10 years?

Typically, users of an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) have dealt with this challenge for many years. They probably have invested in maintaining CAD drawings to be able to import the gross and net square footage of their spaces and update their building assets on a relatively high level. They had to develop maintenance budgets based on estimations of, for example, the amount of square feet of glass for their façades. When planning a renovation, they normally hire an architect to do exact measurements, which has always been the base for comparing contractor estimates to do their work. 

Getting the most out of BIM

As contractors and architects are currently redeveloping their business plans based on the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM), real estate managers are still investigating what this could mean for them. What possible benefits exist for maintaining a space with 3D dimensions? Or, which self-service/job handling processes can really be improved by walking through a 3D model? In maintenance, real estate managers that receive a BIM model will now have a 100 times more assets available than before. With BIM information, they can assign a job ticket to a single glass window at a specific part of the façade. However, who will benefit from this type of information? Before eventually experiencing the potential benefits BIM offers, many existing processes first need to be changed.

Therefore, time is needed to adjust those processes. A real estate manager does not want to be surprised. He just needs information that is necessary for his routine processes. Let him experience the advantages of having a 3D model as a basis for it, but do not blame him if he does not use all information BIM offers yet.

Jan-Fokke Post
Implementation & BIM Consultant Planon Netherlands