Thinking BIM and FM

ThinkBIM is helping formulate industry thinking on BIM for FM, but we need more integrated, cross-disciplinary approaches.

It is now almost exactly two years since the UK government published its Construction Strategy committing to the adoption of BIM by 2016 (July 2011 launch), and gradually the thinking is becoming more joined up.

thinkBIMOver the past couple of years, I have helped, and occasionally talked, at ThinkBIM events organised by the Centre for Knowledge Exchange at Leeds Metropolitan University. Typically, the team organise a short series of ‘twilight’ meetings held in the late afternoon/early evening, culminating in a half-day event event – combining conference sessions, workshops and rapid-fire ‘Pecha Kucha’ presentations – to round off each series (a similar format is followed for CKE’s GreenVision events, which I also help with).

Think BIM workshop session, July 2012ThinkBIM has attracted some of the UK’s leading speakers on building information modelling, as well as international contributors. For example, the most recent event, held at WSP’s Leeds office in April, included contributions from UK BIM Task Group chair Mark Bew and BuildingSmart UK’s Nick Tune, plus a transatlantic contribution from a BIM practitioner in California (Nathan Wood of DPR Construct), with all the event content freely shared online. All have pushed the boundaries of BIM thinking; the 11 July 2012 event, for instance, one of the first to explore the implications of BIM for facilities managers.

BIM for FM

This has become an increasingly hot topic in the UK, particularly as client and owner-operator organisations begin to grapple with the implications of BIM for operation and maintenance throughout the life-cycle of a built asset (the BIM Task Group now has a BIM4FM grouping). This does not mean that FM uses a fully detailed BIM for OpEx purposes. BIM “In-use” retains some project information for operational facility management (eg: a database for managing geometric, parametric performance and associated document based information), but a large amount of information is archived. This may be recalled for reference by future projects, or if necessary, be used to resolve any issues should the facility not perform as specified or designed.

Asset users can also then potentially build new data sets that combine data about the physical asset with data about energy use, human interactions with the building, etc, and these will help when it comes to developing future projects. Too often clients may look at projects in isolation as one-offs – better to think about them as a series, with early projects informing the design, construction and future operation of later ones. A key tenet of the UK Government Soft Landings (GSL) is that “BIM will be progressively used as a data management tool to assist the briefing process” – to me, this means FM will have a strategic role in helping develop future projects for each organisation.

“Now BIM?”

More difficult is WIIFM – What’s in it for me? – regarding BIM for FM in existing buildings? BIM may be deployed on new-build projects and on major refurbishments and extensions of existing assets, but can BIM help owners/managers with their existing built assets? I was struggling with this until I saw Nick Blenkarn (Severn Partnerhip) show at the recent RICS Building Conference (post) how laser-scanning and the resulting point clouds could be used to create accurate BIMs of building interiors. These can then be retrospectively linked to databases detailing assets contained in those building spaces and used for computer-aided FM.

Coincidentally, I have had two totally separate but parallel conversations about BIM and CAFM recently, both with people from software organisations looking at what they see as the real world of BIM for FM – or, as one put, it “Now BIM” – and I have also noted a push from some SaaS collaboration vendors to incorporate both BIM and whole asset life-cycle thinking into their future product portfolios.

My fellow ThinkBIM ambassador Duncan Read went to the Facilities Show at Birmingham’s NEC last week, and (in his latest ThinkBIM blog post), identified little consensus on how to ‘do’ CAFM in an integrated way with BIM. But he did spot some:

“… pockets that are realising what BIM can offer to the FM industry and they are working hard to provide that seamless link between the software solutions [though], to make this work effectively, the design and construct businesses need to engage and understand the FM needs and requirements. [And] as ever … it’s not all about the software, though as ever it will have a part to play.”

These debates will continue at forthcoming ThinkBIM events, both twilight sessions and, notably, the next half-day conference on Wednesday 10 July 2013, featuring the return of Cabinet Office GSL leader Deborah Rowland (more details here).

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  1. […] to databases detailing assets contained in those building spaces and used for computer-aided FM (post); his company now has a technology business, SEEABLE, focused on exploiting this approach and […]

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