The power of intelligent building information modelling

by FM Media
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Intelligent building information modelling (iBIM) has transformed from a fairy tale to a facility management reality. ROB MILES of fmpi! and Tandem’s TIM HILL delve into the realm of BIM and reveal the many opportunities it yields for facility managers.

Once upon a time Jack asked for some shiny new offices to be built. Jack was forward thinking and thought that asking for building information modelling (BIM) would be a great idea. When his offices were finally finished, Jack and his facility manager gazed at the BIM files, which had cost a surprising amount of money. The disappointed facility manager said, “What possible use are these to me?” The End.
Or, is it? Can facility managers turn BIM into something powerful? Our journey into the world of BIM has revealed that it can be done, with some surprising and positive side effects along the way.

BIM is defined as “the process of generating and managing building data during its life cycle” in Specifying parametric building object behaviour (BOB) for a building information modelling system: automation in construction. According to a National Institute of Standards and Technology survey, in the US, an estimated US$15 billion is wasted annually by not using BIM, 66 percent of which is borne by owners during the operational phase.
This cost is illustrated by a study conducted by Sandia that asked the question: if you could get all the information (about a work order) you needed in five minutes, how much time would that save? The response was surprising – up to two hours per work order. Imagine how much time and money could be saved over the course of a year.
Building data comes in various forms. In the past – if you were lucky – truck loads of instruction manuals, plans and specifications were handed over at the completion of a building project, after which vast amounts of time and money were expended to convert the paper mountain into useful and accessible information to aid facility managers.
Then along came BIM as we know it today, the supposed universal panacea, where data files or ‘objects’ are used to describe physical components or spaces to produce a three-dimensional graphical model of the building with associated rich information. Building system relationships are captured and visualised. So, for example, each electrical panel knows which transformer supplies its power. Zones are created, so areas are identified that are serviced by common components, energy usage is modelled and benchmarked, and so the benefits go on.
Unfortunately, as our tale will tell, there is BIM… and then there’s BIM. A load of information in the incorrect format, out of context and sorted illogically may well be BIM, but is it useful?

The University of Southern California’s computerised maintenance management system interrogates the iBIM to ensure efficient work order processing, the management of maintenance schedules and energy consumption, and ultimately drives the life cycle management of the building and its components.

Our journey into BIM started when we were due to take over the management of a major retail client’s newly built head office. “It’s OK,” they said excitedly, “we have the BIM files.”
We quickly realised that the BIM information supplied was insufficient, incompatible, not logically arranged and wasn’t going to help us locate components, let alone complete their job requests effectively. Which condenser has gone down? Where is it? What are its specifications? Who’s the manufacturer? Is this repair covered by warranty? Having all this information in our system would have been handy from the word go. So, we set off to discover how we could capture, maintain and use BIM to get over this initial handover setback and make our operations smarter across all of our clients through the use of accurate and intelligent building information modelling – iBIM. Here’s what we learned.

Learning Point 1: iBIM is ever-evolving
iBIM should evolve as the project moves throughout all phases of its life cycle. In 2009, the University of Southern California (USC) opened a new US$165 million facility, housing classrooms, production labs and offices, as well as a theatre, exhibition hall and café for its School of Cinematic Arts. USC used iBIM across the entire construction process, culminating in a custom solution that enabled USC to use ‘as-operated’ data collected from building sensors to drive maintenance systems and manage performance.
So, from the very earliest planning phases, USC initiated iBIM. Simple concept drawings evolved to show increasing amounts of detail. iBIM was constantly updated and enriched, so that ultimately a complete set of ‘as-built’ plans could be delivered to USC in a format that could be loaded into its computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) to drive operational performance.
Here’s how the process could have unfolded in a simple example: a room on the draft architectural plan shows the location of an air-conditioning unit; subsequently, details of condensers, plumbing and electrics are associated to the unit when detailed plans are completed; during construction the actual make, model, warranty, specifications and energy benchmarking information are added to the iBIM. Post-handover and throughout the life of the building, USC updates the iBIM to reflect what components are actually on-site and their relationships to other components as the air-conditioner is updated or replaced. USC’s CMMS will interrogate the iBIM information to ensure efficient work order processing, the management of maintenance schedules and energy consumption, and ultimately drive the life cycle management of the building and its components.
The point is that iBIM is ever-evolving. If changes to a building and its components are not captured throughout the project’s life cycle, then it is of little use to owners for maximising operational efficiency.

An intelligent 3D BIM model allows each element of a model to have a full set of attributes/parameters, attached documents and links to external systems.

Learning Point 2: you will get what you ask for
We’ve talked to a lot of disappointed owners who thought they were doing the right thing by asking for BIM. What they failed to realise is that, if you do not specify the exact information you want in exactly the format you need it, you are going to end up with data that may require as much cleansing, harmonising and rekeying as having a truck full of paper instruction manuals turn up on your doorstep. So, what to do?

  • it is of upmost importance that you define your contractual requirements with detailed and explicit instructions as to what information you need, what relationships should be expressed and the format required to ensure it can be uploaded into your CMMS
  • have an implementation plan with clearly defined and measurable goals to smooth the path of integration into your CMMS, and
  • gather your team – get help from professionals who can see the bigger picture, not just on the architectural and construction side, but also those that understand the impact of iBIM right through to facility management operations and that understand all elements of the technologies involved.

Learning Point 3: incorporate the data into everyday operations
Ensure you incorporate the data into your everyday operations to maximise your performance. By ensuring that the BIM information is intelligent (iBIM) – that it is complete, logically ordered and in a format that can be integrated with your CMMS – you should expect to see cost and performance improvements in the following areas if you use your iBIM correctly:

  • maintenance should not be paid for on items under warranty
  • emergency situations are rectified swiftly, mitigating your risks and reducing exposure to occupational health and safety, and public liability; for example, where is the origin of that leak and how do I turn off the valve?
  • predictive and preventative maintenance is used, reducing the cost of replacement parts and manpower
  • contractor and user productivity is maximised as work order requests are enhanced with location and specification information improving first time job completion rates
  • actual on-site energy consumption is compared to benchmarked performance information for components and across the entire site
  • regarding disaster planning, emergency services have access to real-time building layouts and schematics to assist in an effective response
  • site utilisation is maximised, facilitating planning for tenants, renovations and owner usage, and
  • service level compliance is optimised delivering availability, amenity and sustainability.

The university updates the iBIM to reflect what components are actually on-site and their relationships to other components. If changes are not captured throughout a project’s life cycle, it will be of little use.

Learning Point 4: iBIM results in some surprising side effects
We have found that if iBIM is undertaken at all phases of a construction project, there are some surprising side effects that will positively impact operational efficiency. Using iBIM at all phases of a construction project turns traditional integrated project delivery (IPD) into integrated project delivery and operations (IPDO).
iBIM provides a collaborative framework where all participants are working towards delivering accurate effective and compatible iBIM, rather than focusing solely on their traditional silos of influence. Having comprehensive information from all areas in the one place allows for clashes to be easily rectified prior to construction. We have heard of owners changing their minds rapidly and specifying the use of iBIM for projects when they realise costly errors could have been avoided.
For instance, one developer experienced so many design conflicts and issues in a traditional project that they would have had a return on the iBIM implementation investment in the first eight weeks of the project by avoiding the delay to construction and additional fees. Having an iBIM process in place would also have delivered a multitude of other benefits concerning efficiency, not only in the design and construction phases, but also throughout the operational life of the building.
Plus, imagine involving operational personnel early in the design and construction process, and having buildings designed with maintenance and operational efficiency at the top of mind, rather than being an afterthought.

iBIM is no longer a fairy tale, but a reality that can deliver some clear and ongoing benefits to facility management professionals in the successful delivery of their day-to-day operations. You just have to know how.

Read the latest issue of Facility Management magazine to find out how BIM is being used to improve the management of Melbourne’s Fed Square.

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. fm performance ideas! provides consulting, technology and operational services for retail, utility, banking, design and construction clients.

Tim Hill is an architect with 15 years of experience, who runs an architectural practise called Tandem. Tim’s expertise in BIM arose from his experience on the Federation Square Project where, working for Lab Architecture Studio, he was responsible for the Atrium, BMW Edge and numerous international competition entries, eventually winning large-scale commercial projects in Beijing. Tim established Tandem in 2005 with James Murray, and BIM has become a core element of their business, creating efficiencies in design, communication, coordination, documentation and construction communication.

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