Better facilities management with BIM

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Building Information Modelling technology is a hot topic across the property sector and there is a lack of recognition of its merits in helping facilities managers maximise efficiency in carrying out building and facilities maintenance. While the highly technical topic can be daunting, its practical application has a wide-ranging positive effect on making managing facilities easier than they are with traditional building plans.

BIM is currently underutilised in the facilities management industry in Australia, according to Ashak Nathwani, Universit of Sydney Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Services, Sustainability and Facilities Management.

While BIM technology continues to revolutionise the design and construction industries by creating significant cost and time efficiencies, it is uncertain whether facilities managers are using the technology to its full advantage in order to attain these same efficiencies and create high performance buildings as a result.

Mr Nathwani said that BIM technology provided an opportunity for a facilities manager to offer valuable insight from an operational perspective before construction has even begun, resulting in a more integrated and holistic product.

Commonly used in the design phase of a project, BIM technology allows a design team to visualise a building and its spaces with all elements in place, allowing them to see a 3D plan with an ability to have visual walk-throughs and fly-throughs.

This enables a design team, including the proposed facilities manager, to understand how a building and its spaces will work in its operation phase before construction has commenced, allowing for the design to be tweaked to better suit the end-users.

Utilised from the first drawing and throughout the design and construction phase, the software also maintains a detailed record of every part of the building, its systems and hardware, making it a powerful documentation tool. BIM can also store all design options and the basis for the selection of building elements as well as services items such as glazing, lighting and chillers.

“A key opportunity for facilities managers to make their job easier is to interface the BIM program with the Facility Management Systems,” Mr Nathwani said.

“The result is a wealth of technical data on every intricate detail of the building and how it operates in a quick and accessible way.

“For something as simple as needing to replace a fan, with BIM and FM software properly linked, facilities managers can have the exact specifications and manufacturer at their fingertips and efficiently effect change.”

Optimising BIM technology through every phase of a building’s lifespan means facilities managers will be able to achieve higher performing buildings.

“Effective use of BIM is crucial in facilities managers achieving the best results,” Mr Nathwani said.

“Many FM software packages are starting to use cloud based solutions in order to better integrate with BIM.

“It allows them to harness the data and documentation input at the design and construction phases, which would contribute to better financial returns for the building.

“By empowering facilities managers with a detailed understanding of how to best control a building’s operating systems, they can achieve greater sustainability in terms of energy and water efficiencies and indoor environment quality by optimising each system.

“When all of these factors are properly integrated the result is a high-performance building that operates at optimum efficiency and cost-effectiveness – the facilities manager’s Holy Grail.”

FM will explore BIM in-depth in the lead up to the Total Facilities Exhibition on 25-26 March 2015, and look out for industry insights on the topic in our upcoming print edition.

Ashak Nathwani is an Honorary Associate in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning and Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Services, Sustainability and Facilities Management at the University of Sydney. He will be giving a seminar, ‘The Way Forward – High Performance Buildings, at this years Total Facilities Exhibition at Sydney Exhibition Centre, Glebe Island, 25-26 March 2015.

The Total Facilities 2015 exhibition will feature a powerful combination of innovation and education, designed to reduce cost and improve performance of the nation’s facilities as well as connect more than 160 suppliers with 2,500 clients and end-users. For further information on the free event or to register your attendance visit www.totalfacilities.com.au

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