BIM for FM: Getting the basics right

by FM Media
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DR DOMINIK HOLZER from AEC Connect reflects on the lack of communication between stakeholders on building projects concerning building information modelling.

I was recently approached by a lawyer who confirmed that his firm was now increasingly engaged in resolving disputes between project clients and their consultants due to diverging interpretations of deliverables related to building information modelling (BIM). This came as no surprise to me.
On previous occasions I have highlighted the ill-defined and ambiguous nature of requirements for BIM by clients and others. Our industry is undergoing substantial change through the increased use of BIM and this change is making it difficult for all parties involved to agree on standard (or extended) deliverables associated with BIM.
Regulatory frameworks that provide clear guidance on information requirements during project execution and operation have failed to keep up with the changing needs of consultant teams, the contractors and the clients alike.

There exists a lack of communication between stakeholders on building projects. We need to listen to each other more in order to educate collaborators about BIM expectations, the value each party can derive from BIM and the benefits of BIM during operation.
Some clients argue that they have no interest in BIM during design, engineering and construction. Their sole focus lies within the benefits of BIM during operation and maintenance. I would counter that such an approach is somewhat short-sighted.
BIM allows clients to become more directly involved in the design and construction process due to its increased capability to communicate design progress to all stakeholders. Further, if clients are open to alternative procurement options that tie the consultants, the contractor and even some subcontractors closer together at the start of a project, there are substantial benefits to be gained using BIM methods for collaboration. Ultimately, clients can gain advantages from ‘extrapolating’ BIM data to create enterprise information models, where feedback from operations provides useful insights for the generation of future project briefs.
When considering the entire building life cycle, inadequately interoperable project information causes most financial loss during operation. Owner/operators too often depend on incomplete or difficult to access project information that does not directly tie into the tools applied by their facilities managers. Two-dimensional prints of plans and sections tucked away in a pile of boxes, or even a set of pdf files that apparently represent the ‘as built’ condition, are not sufficient to provide clients and facilities managers with the information they need when they need it and in a useful format.
We live in the information age where facilities managers should be able to rely on an up-to-date set of data for the assets of an owner’s portfolio. They should be able to rely on that data to schedule preventive maintenance, automate the issue of work orders and access building information (both geometrical and data-based) live on their mobile devices when conducting inspections in the field.

Increased communication between consultants/contractors and owner/operators is vital for success. At this point in time, clients who want to jump on the BIM bandwagon are likely to demand ‘full BIM’ on their projects. They do so without a clear definition of what this actually requires from their consultants and contractors. In that sense, ‘full BIM’ remains void of meaning. Its use in project briefs and contracts will inevitably lead to increased business for the legal profession, rather than increasing efficiency in the building industry.
It is, therefore, advisable that owner/operators and facility managers become more acquainted with the BIM workflow applied to their projects. There are now several national and international guidelines available that explain BIM processes. In the US, the General Services Administration (GSA) has released a guide entitled BIM Guide for Facility Management and the Penn State University has issued a guide entitled BIM Planning Guide for Facility Owners.
In Australia, the National Specification System of Australia (NATSPEC) has set up a BIM Management Plan template that lists 24 Uses of BIM, with some of those addressing the facilities management side of delivery. In addition, the Australian Institute of Architects and Consult Australia have jointly issued a collection of practice documents that provide short and easy-to-understand guidance to the industry on the use of BIM. The BIM Management Plan papers of this collection complement NATSPEC’s efforts and the Outreach papers of this collection contain specific information for the use of BIM by owners and facilities managers.
The need to communicate BIM requirements goes both ways: consultants and contractors have their share of work to do in learning about the information requirements of the facilities management profession, weaving them into collaborative documents from the early project stages onwards.


  • The GSA’s BIM Guide for Facility Management:
  • Penn State University’s BIM Planning Guide for Facility Owners:
  • NATSPEC’s BIM portal:
  • The Australian Institute of Architects and Consult Australia’s BIM in Practice documents:

Dr Dominik Holzer is the acting chair of the joint Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) Steering Group of the Australian Institute of Architects and Consult Australia. He advises building owners, contractors and consultants on strategic and implementation issues related to BIM and design technology via his firm AEC Connect.

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