The benefits of BIM and how to get the best out of iBIM

by FM Media
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ROB MILES from fmpi shares how facilities managers can leverage the complete intelligent building information modelling (iBIM) process in order to reap the rewards of productivity optimisation, risk management and cost control.

BIM is variously (and confusingly) referred to as building information model, modelling or management and is typically considered as a 3D model used in the design process, whereas iBIM is a process of generating and managing building data over a building’s entire life cycle, with the additional caveat that this data be complete, logically ordered and in a format that can be used to deliver productivity and savings right to the end of a building’s life. It’s important to remember that the building information model is the enabler, not the outcome.

The primary issue is that BIM/3D models are not built for life cycle deliverables as there is little or no understanding of the model requirements necessary to deliver benefits in the operational phase. Here’s why the industry as a whole is having trouble:

  • Models are not being constructed purposefully, in other words with the operational phase in mind. Many have object data that is missing or inconsistent, have poor navigation or a lack of system definition, for instance HVAC or plumbing.
  • Design and construct teams are using internal draft standards rather than industry standards, resulting in missing, incomplete or incorrectly referenced information. Resulting ‘floating objects’ are not connected to any system and as such cannot be automated or integrated with other systems, resulting in hours of manual business analysis and model updates.
  • Items are not categorised consistently, in other words are not Omniclass compliant (a classification system for the construction industry). This means you cannot easily automate asset detail (SPie information) or decision trees for call centre and self-service initiated work orders.
  • Items are not correctly identified. What if an external glass door is identified as a bathroom door? The result is incorrect asset listings, incorrect warranty information and wrong replacement parts being ordered.
  • Items are duplicated, for example a fire extinguisher may be in the architectural model and duplicated in the fire systems model, which when combined, results in two units being listed in the asset register. This error flows on down the line – two units are quoted on, but crucially, when technicians are sent out they will service all (one) of the fire extinguishers. The owner is still invoiced for two extinguishers and the system is never updated so it shows the correct quantity.
  • Systems are not connected, so in an emergency situation the correct shut off valve cannot be identified or located and when maintenance is required, systems cannot be shut down in a timely manner.
  • Problems are also created when systems are not correctly bounded. Imagine two systems shown as one level across two buildings, you can’t easily identify the location of an item for audit, work order creation or fault location detection.

When done correctly, iBIM delivers a myriad of benefits for facilities managers (never underestimate the value of timely and accurate information). Here are some highlights:

1. Performance optimisation
Right from ‘the word go’ your operational productivity can be enhanced by using iBIM. Imagine, you’ve taken over the new building and you have a room full of instruction manuals, warranty documents and plans to sort through, or if you are really lucky, someone has provided you with soft copies. Rekeying or reformatting this data so it can be entered into your CMMS will take time and money; all while you are trying to get that building up and running.
The difference with having iBIM means that the files that you receive from the lead contractor are facilities management ready, they integrate with your CMMS or asset management software and are ready to use from day one. In addition, if specified correctly, benchmarked performance data can be preloaded so you can ensure that each piece of equipment is behaving as efficiently as the manufacturer anticipated through benchmark/performance comparisons.
Once iBIM information is in your CMMS it provides a data-rich, object-based, intelligent and parametric digital representation of a facility that can then be visualised in the form of models and objects to deliver the precise location and relationships of building systems and equipment. In layman’s terms, where’s that leak is coming from or what condenser is connected to that duct.
Having the right information at your fingertips – visual location details, connections and documentation (user manuals, warranty information, manufacturer’s details…) means that technicians go out prepared and do not need to spend hours searching for manuals or working out where things are located. No more “I didn’t have the right part” or “I know that valve is around here somewhere!”, resulting in faster response times to emergency work orders and reduced clean-up costs.
This improvement in maintenance activities has a flow-on effect. Improved confidence in completion rates and accurately updating data reduces the ‘spin-cycle’ of the end user, we have seen a dramatic reduction in call volumes regarding outstanding work orders once our callers have confidence in the information they are receiving. Furthermore, predictability of performance in each asset reduces reactivity and a proactive approach leads to a reduction in overall work order volumes. No matter which way you look at it, iBIM improves facilities management productivity.

2. Risk reduction
iBIM equals insight; with the right information at your fingertips cause and effect becomes clearer, issues are clearly identifiable and can be rectified so they do not reoccur. Risks associated with emergency response can also be mitigated by having the correct location and part information relating to a system at your fingertips, improving responsiveness and safety. For example, a call comes in about a hot water leak, the source of which is unknown, using iBIM information linked in the CMMS you can:

  • select the hot water system in the list of systems
  • perform search for emergency shut off valve
  • quickly find the room where the valve is located within the building
  • dispatch the technician with this information, armed with the tools and parts required; and
  • fix the problem before the leak causes extensive damage.

We have seen instances of insurance premiums being dramatically reduced by having this type of proactive approach to emergency situations.

3. Cost control
Linking iBIM data with your CMMS delivers certainty that the information provided for maintenance services is correct and up to date, in turn this certainty reduces time and money wasted. For example, assets can be identified and prioritised correctly to reduce the need for premium priced ‘urgent’ services, vendor performance can be monitored and SLA compliance enforced, no more erroneous billing, multiple invoices for same period, routine maintenance on consecutive time periods or excessive travel times. Having accessible iBIM data continues to deliver savings over the life of the building through continuous quality improvements.

iBIM data needs to be complete, logically ordered and in a format that can be used to deliver productivity and savings right to the end of a building’s life. This means that all the planets (aka participants) must be in alignment right from the start of a project – a key challenge as inevitably all are experts in their own fields and not necessarily looking at the bigger picture. In the US and the UK, BIM is being mandated by governments as being a requirement for all public building initiatives. This means that all players in the integrated project delivery (IPD) process from architect to engineer, builder to operator must be focused on the end game, aligning their naming conventions and standardising their modelling processes and platforms. As this is not yet the case in Australia, we need to be proactive and specify what is needed to make a facilities management-ready model.

1. Specifying a facilities management-ready model
You will get what you ask for, so be careful to ensure that it is what you need. At a high level here’s what you will have to think about when specifying a facilities management-ready model from your IPD team: ensure you own the data, insist on a collaborative approach, be specific to avoid misunderstanding and once you have it, keep the data updated. Concerning being specific, be sure to:

  • define the types of assets, their priority and the level of information you need about each type
  • define the model elements – objects, spaces and systems
  • define the naming conventions to be used for elements, attributes, systems and viewpoints
  • define the standards to be used, for example OmniClass, COBie, SPie, NatSpec, ANZRS, BIM MEPAUS
  • determine the data exchange process
  • request model design principles that ensure the model is facilities management ready, taking into consideration the restrictions of your CMMS, the need for maintenance friendly and safe design; and
  • understand the areas of greatest gain or pain, you may have lived with the pain for so long you’ve become numb to it.

2. Put the ‘O’ in IPDO
IPD is the process that brings together all participants in a building project so they can collaborate using tools and processes to deliver value and efficiency. Typically IPD involves architects, engineers, contractors and owners, but largely neglects the area of operations. Getting a facilities manager involved early in the IPD process, ideally when still in the planning and design phase, means that a facility will be maintenance friendly and safe in design. Thus mistakes obvious to a facilities manager, such as having a high maintenance component in an inaccessible location, can be avoided.

3. Get into retro BIM
No, it’s not BIM with flares, its BIM that is applied retrospectively to a building. Buildings such as the Sydney Opera House are being renovated and the opportunity has been taken to implement retro BIM in order to improve its efficiency into the future. But, it’s not only national icons under renovation that are taking steps to implement retro BIM, many owners are recognising the value of integrating BIM into their operations, not only for cost savings, but also to improve performance and sustainability, and are taking the steps of regenerating models with associated rich data that can be integrated into their CMMS. Once created and integrated, the data should be maintained ‘as operated’ to reflect upgrades and replaced components in order to deliver ongoing cost savings and productivity gains.
Our pilot retro BIM project at Federation Square aims to generate a facilities management-ready model using iBIM principles and standards, allow us to quality assure the deliverables and integrate that model with facilities management systems. Other key aims are to explore site navigation options, including augmented reality views on portable devices and learn from testing the collaboration process and technology (in this case Revit/Navisworks, Bentley/Navigator and SmartSight).
Our investigations so far have revealed that, at a minimum, the operators of Federation Square could use iBIM to:

  • access information and systems to resolve emergency situations
  • minimise downtime by accessing documentation for unscheduled maintenance; and
  • reduce the need for multiple trips with accurate field conditions and portable maintenance information.


  • BIM is only intelligent when it is created and managed in a manner that provides consistency and usability right through the operational phase
  • issues endemic to the industry (but not insurmountable) are hindering the successful implementation of iBIM to FM
  • iBIM delivers significant benefits over the life cycle of a building, but particularly during the operational phase, from handover through to maintenance management and beyond; and
  • facilities managers can leverage iBIM in a number of ways – by specifying a facilities management-ready model, by getting involved in the IPD process (IPDO) or by implementing and maintaining retro iBIM.

Rob Miles is an executive consultant for fm performance ideas! His expertise is based on decades of experience in transforming organisational performance by understanding business imperatives, considering human factors and leveraging enabling technology.

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