The value and challenges of BIM

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The challenges that need to be tackled to ensure building information modelling begins to benefit all are discussed by DR DOMINIK HOLZER from AEC Connect.

Building information modelling (BIM) for building owners, and the link between building information models and facility management are currently hot topics among consultants, contractors and software developers who engage in BIM as part of their everyday practice. Why is this the case? Are these parties finally waking up to the importance of operation and maintenance (O&M) considerations as part of their planning and construction processes? If so, what does this have to do with BIM?

So far, the stakeholders involved in design, planning and construction processes in the built environment have given little consideration to the operational side of their work. As long as the functional brief of the clients is fulfilled on time and within budget, and as long as the building is aesthetically pleasing and its construction quality is according to the client’s requirements, the work of the consultants and the contractor is done.
When using traditional (pre-BIM) methods of project delivery, consultants and contractors rarely saw it as their responsibility to delve into the world of building operations, as it does not form part of their core business.
BIM is changing this limited approach to project delivery and the change is happening for one main reason: clients (in particular, owners/operators) are asking for BIM. Not that they necessarily know what they are asking for (yet), but there has been a large increase in clients of mid- to large-scale projects including BIM requirements in their project briefs. Some clients even openly state that they don’t care much about the benefits of BIM during design, planning and construction, but they want to see the value-add of BIM during operation.

BIM addresses – by nature – the entire building life cycle from early feasibility studies to demolition. In addition to this, there are huge benefits to be gained by combining data from multiple building information models to feed into computerised maintenance management systems (CMMSs), thereby creating an enterprise information model (EIM) that allows clients to manage the operational aspect of their assets across their entire portfolio.
These developments are only just emerging. One example is the approach taken by the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Those contributing data to the Royal Hobart Hospital BIM are asked to format it in a way that it can easily tie into the capital portfolio of the DHHS. This is an ambitious plan and there are still a large number of hurdles to overcome in practice.
There are a number of challenges that need to be tackled first. Clients need to become far more proactive in demanding BIM and in defining their actual requirements for facilities management in greater detail to the consultants and the contractor. For this to happen, clients are advised to seek consultancy from experts who are able to help them to establish the exact points of connection between the information emerging from the design and construction process and the information they require to automate the management of their facility.
Joining the dots through tight collaboration between the project team and the facilities manager is a key step. Unfortunately, this often happens too late within the planning and delivery process to be effective. Facilities managers should be involved early on in establishing information requirements for facilities management during the generation of BIM project plans (also called BIM project execution plans).
If the client’s BIM deliverables are ambiguous consultants and the contractor may be reluctant to insert parameters to their BIM components that are relevant for facilities management (as it requires extra effort from which they don’t directly benefit). Even if parameters are inserted, consultants and contractors often ‘tap in the dark’ about what’s useful during operation and they may ‘overload’ their models with unnecessary data.
It is unlikely that useful information coming from building information models can directly be read into CMMSs in an automated fashion. In many cases, it will require an extensive handover period and manual processes to ensure the usefulness and correctness of data the facilities manager receives from the design team. The consultants’ As Built may not be the same as the contractor’s As Construct or the facilities manager’s As Maintained.
It is in the best interest of clients to become proactive and to determine precise deliverables of what they want to get out of BIM for operation. They then need to select consultants and contractors who can deliver value-add to the facilities management side of project delivery in order to gain advantage from BIM.

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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