BIM (Building Information Modeling) has become an essential tool in building architecture and construction. Creating a logical, structured model of all information related to a building project can help the project move seamlessly from one phase to the next.
BIM helps keep building projects on schedule and on budget. It helps ensure regulatory compliance. It helps facilitate the necessary collaboration that must occur between a project’s planning and eventual construction. A quality BIM also helps keep stakeholders involved in the process, adding a kind of transparency that inspires trust and confidence.
For most people, the notion of a Building Information Model implies a detailed 3-dimensional rendering of a building. With the 3D imaging and design software technology available today, it is true that designers and architects are enjoying powerful new tools to do their jobs, and these 3D models are in fact a big part of BIM. They are not, however, what BIM is all about.
A typical BIM will include not only detailed renderings of the planned building, but also specific information related to the engineering, construction, and operation of the building. This information can include designs, architectural specifications, site information, material sheets, budgets, schedules, personnel and more. BIM is not only useful in the design and construction of a building, but can also be very helpful in the management of the building once construction is complete.
In 2007, a pilot standard was developed by Bill East of the United States Army Corps of Engineers for the delivery of building information that is essential to the operations, maintenance, and asset management of a building once construction is complete. COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) was accepted by the National Institute of Building Sciences in December 2011 as part of its National Building Information Model (NBIMS-US) standard.
COBie is used to capture and record essential project data at the point of origin, including: product data sheets, spare parts lists, warranties, and preventive maintenance schedules. COBie’s popularity is increasing, and in September 2014 it was included in a code of practice issued as a British standard (BS 1192-4:2014 “Collaborative production of information Part 4: Fulfilling employer’s information exchange requirements using COBie – Code of practice”). This standard will require contractors involved in the construction of government buildings to comply with COBie when delivering facility information to the building owner after construction is completed.
While this expectation in Britain is controversial, and it has been characterized as “unrealistic”, it is becoming increasingly clear that the information involved in Building Information Models can, should, and will be used to aid in the maintenance and management of the building after its construction. This is where BIM becomes facility management, and this is where some enterprising software developers are creating a new market for themselves.
Some developers of BIM software have expanded their product portfolios by including Facility Management products that transfer the information from BIMs into a useful format for operating and maintaining the constructed building. This seems to be a natural extension of BIM, and these companies will benefit greatly by placing themselves ahead of their competition in what is nearly certain to become a large and lucrative market.
In the space between BIM and Facility Management, there is often a need for greater automation. The exchange of building information today frequently requires a tremendous amount of labor – an amount of labor described in man-years.
Often, facility managers are provided several large boxes of paper documents, from which they must manually retrieve asset information and maintenance schedules to be entered into Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS). This process usually involves pallets of boxes full of paper of operations and maintenance manuals and drawings. Imagine the time required to create, review and transcribe hundreds of pages of documents, validate the transcriptions, and manually enter data, assuming a system like a CMMS is even used.
Even if a CMMS is used, maintenance technicians often still need to search for information in these paper boxes to complete many of their jobs. As time passes, documents can be moved or lost, increasing the cost of maintenance activities and potentially increasing downtime in mission-critical facilities. A study in 2011 suggested that 8% of annual maintenance budgets could be eliminated if open-standard electronic information were made available to technicians before starting complex work orders.
This is where some BIM software developers are finding a new market by providing the tools to painlessly transfer BIM information into a facility management system. This is also where there are still many who would benefit from an open software platform that allows users to consolidate and organize disparate information, making it available for real-time visualization on any device.