Dr Dominik Holzer of AEC Connect looks at custom transfer, middleware and more.
In this column, I present a range of software applications that assist with the interface of geometrical and non-geometrical data between the BIM (building information modelling) and the FM world. Readers who are concerned with various aspects of facilities and asset management in their everyday work will be well aware that there exists a large amount of software covering a broad range of activities, ranging from a basic asset registry to managing defects and commissioning data, to energy monitoring, emergency response and disaster planning, maintenance scheduling, and many more.
Linking geometrical data from planning and construction via BIM therefore brings potential benefits to FM-relevant activities in many different ways. Accordingly, approaches to achieving streamlined data transfer vary greatly from tool to tool and there is no ‘out of the box’ product to provide a one-stop solution to integrate BIM with FM data.
In addition, the tool infrastructure used by facility operators and managers is currently undergoing a dramatic change.
Until recently, paper-based charts, spreadsheets and possibly a camera were the primary instruments for gathering information in the field. That information was then entered manually on desktop computers and cross- referenced to hard-copy O&M (operations and maintenance) manuals and documentation drawings.
Current technological progress highlights the inadequacy of such processes. Instead of manual data entry and the doubling-up of effort, we now increasingly use tablets, such as iPads.
Data from the field is no longer just gathered manually, but barcode scanners, RFID (radio- frequency identification) tag readers, 3D laser scanners and sensors help to capture asset information, building performance and other relevant data.
Web-based applications with centralised and secure data storage and manipulation in the cloud are therefore quickly becoming the norm in an environment where information from manifold sources is seamlessly linked and a number of processes can be automated with strong visual feedback and location awareness.
In the context of all of the above, it becomes apparent that the BIM information produced by the design and construction teams before and during handover can be very useful if formatted adequately and linked to the FM and BMS (building management system). Linking BIM to FM represents a fairly recent effort that only began three to five years ago across the (mainstream) industry. It is only now starting to become a primary focus of BIM/FM software developers.
FIVE APPS TO CONSIDER
In this column I briefly present five applications that operate in the BIM to FM space. There are major differences in the approach taken by their developers to address the BIM to FM interface.
Some tools (like dRofus) primarily aim at supporting the capture of room data appropriated for BIM during design and construction, but their developers now expand on that capability via a plug-in (TIDA) that caters specifically for FM aspects beyond commissioning.
Other tools historically come from the FM and asset management corner. They are now being augmented with capabilities to interface with BIM models and the associated workflows (Zutec). Other tools again are specifically conceived as middleware, meaning they are primarily developed to facilitate the interface between BIM and FM/asset management (Zuuse and Ecodomus).
These tools usually don’t aim at taking over O&M related tasks, but they combine a solid data storage mechanism with intuitive management/interrogation of design data, a supporting 3D geometry engine, and manifold interfaces to other tools and formats.
One entirely novel approach is offered by VEO (M-six) as it is set up to address building life cycle activities (from feasibility studies to design, construction and operation), with VEO Archive being the module that focuses on the FM/asset management side in particular. VEO thereby aims to offer interoperable and transparent linkages between data across all these areas, based on a sophisticated geometry engine.
Despite their differences, all five tools have one thing in common: they include web/tablet-enabled user interfaces that consider activities in the field, while allowing operators to manage O&M data in the cloud (or secure online servers) with multi-user access.
All kinds of media can be associated with geometric objects that represent a detailed virtual version of a facility. The web-based interface makes them more user-friendly and approachable by non BIM-savvy operators. The associated 3D model component, on the other hand, allows users to grasp any issue in a graphically explicit manner.
Still, the potential BIM has to offer in this context will only become apparent with a level of re-skilling and training by O&M teams. In some cases, it may require an ongoing partnership with a software provider (or related service partner) over the life cycle of a project, to ensure the 3D BIM data referred to by the BMS/asset management systems is up-to-date and the quality of information it represents can be assured.
Dominik Holzer can be contacted via www.aecconnect.com if you require more information about the tools introduced here.