Last week’s ThinkBIM conference focused on the transition of data from construction to facilities management. FM is getting more involved with BIM from the earliest stages of a project, and will collaborate more frequently during project delivery.
The latest ThinkBIM half-day conference (on 6 July at Squire Patton Boggs’ new offices in Leeds, and sponsored by Trimble and construction collaboration vendor GroupBC, formerly Business Collaborator) looked at the use of building information modelling by those working in facilities management, operations and maintenance for owner-operator organisations, and yet – on a show of hands – only a small handful of attendees were actually employed in FM. The day therefore repeatedly returned to what government and industry needs to do to get more FM professionals engaged with BIM.
The government push on BIM for FM
The business case for BIM has been well made by the UK Government’s BIM Task Group since 2011. Keynote speaker Deborah Rowland (currently director of FM at the Ministry of Justice) has been at the forefront in pushing the BIM for FM message in the public sector. Citing Government Soft Landings (GSL), she underlined how asset management is fundamental to BIM-enabled project delivery, with client facilities managers involved from a project’s inception in helping to define the employer’s information requirements (EIR) and asset information management (AIM) needs.
PAS 1192-3 covering information management in the operational phase was published in March 2014, and since then advice, standards and protocols covering FM inputs to BIM and beyond have expanded. Deborah highlighted recent useful additions, notably a RICS-developed NRM3 dLCC (digital lifeycle cost) toolkit which aligns BIM with SFG20 maintenance information needs (more about SFG20 here). The MoJ’s BIM2AIM group also recently launched a suite of documents providing clear and concise instruction and guidance on how to define, procure and deliver Level 2 BIM projects (read BIM+ news).
The MoJ’s strategy envisages such tools providing, among other things, much-needed transparency and evidence of value for money to taxpayers, while providing the MoJ with key information to make strategic decisions on its asset portfolio, to innovate, and to continually improve. Surely, many other client organisations will want to reap similar benefits?
“Keeping the BIM live”
The second keynote came from CAFM software vendor FSI’s Jacqueline Walpole. She recalled how many FMs were once a paper-based afterthought. Typically, for the client or owner-operator, the completion of a built asset was followed, nine months later, by the handover of a large paper-based archive of information, much of it in paper-based form, some of it already out-of-date (it was for this reason, I remember, that BIW Technologies – later Conject, now Aconex – was one of the first collaboration vendors to digitise the production of the Health and Safety File, work initially undertaken in partnership with retailer Sainsbury’s in 2002 – post).
Computer-aided FM (CAFM), therefore, often tended to start from scratch. Digitising design, construction, commissioning and handover processes, she said, opens up the prospect of a digital flow of information into FM (“keeping the BIM live”), achieving operational readiness almost instantly, and Jacqueline highlighted the publication of a new BIFM guide (available here) to achieving such readiness, which includes an EIR template.
The two short keynotes, therefore, promoted readily available toolkits, guides and templates showing how BIM can be applied to support FM, and, in so doing, to enhance the roles of facilities managers. I would expect collaboration/’common data environment’ (CDE) vendors to be looking to incorporate elements of these templates into their workflows and reporting tools to support clients’ facilities managers.
Data for operation and maintenance
Two of the afternoon’s roundtable workshop sessions underlined the potential value of data to help managers improve the performance of their assets and to connect their built asset’s data with valuable data held in other systems, but recurring themes about people and silo cultures also surfaced.
Jacqueline Walpole chaired one of the roundtables. She got delegates to consider, first, what data might be needed to support asset operations (with a nod to ‘lean’ thinking: “if in doubt, ask the caretaker – what are their ‘must haves’?”), and how some data schemas manage simple issues such as floor-numbering.
Second, we talked about how in-service performance data might be used to support asset management. Applying analogies including cars and jet engines, we talking about creating and maintaining a built asset’s “service history,” and using the data generated by different building systems’ sensors to improve reliability and energy efficiency. Just as Rolls-Royce routinely collates huge volumes of data from every engine and flight as a basis for meeting its customers’ service level agreements, so facilities managers could collate and analyse built environment data (energy use, temperature, humidity, heating, lighting, equipment use, etc, over time) to support post-occupancy evaluation, optimise lifecycle cost efficiency, and – for ‘repeat clients’ – provide data to help them collaborate with design teams to improve the planning, design, construction and operation of future built assets.
Linked data for better decision-making
GroupBC’s Steve Crompton led a roundtable pondering trust issues and other reasons why construction project teams have tended to re-key rather than re-use data. Conflicting standards, industry inertia and resistance to major people and process-related changes quickly cropped up. Old attitudes of ‘knowledge is power’ need to be overcome, as does distrust of ‘other people’s data’ (“We don’t trust digital data yet, because we haven’t moved on from distrusting paper information, or stuff off the web”). This workshop also highlighted some of the messages from June’s ThinkBIM ‘twilight’ event (read my post: Open Data, BIM and the semantic web) – semantic web technologies can help connect data about built assets to other data about the environment and about social aspects of the areas around those built assets. However, security, commercial confidentiality and personal privacy concerns all need to be addressed in selecting what data might be shared and used.
Finally, delegates heard a ‘RetroBIM’ case study from BIM Academy’s Graham Kelly, relating to the compilation of data to support improvement works undertaken at Sydney Opera House in Australia. That a UK-based firm led this project is another indication of how UK BIM experience is prized by clients worldwide, and there is clearly potential for UK FM businesses to similarly become world leaders in applying BIM to FM – though Graham was cautious about some software businesses: “BIM software companies have raised uninformed expectations,” he said.
The conference talked about the return on investment (ROI), but also highlighted it is not only a technological change. ‘Silo cultures’ and ‘change management’ were two of the key risks on Graham’s project. The same people and process themes were voiced in the workshops, and they apply equally to the wider adoption of BIM – and not just by the FM community.
[Disclosures: This is an edited version of a post first published on the ThinkBIM blog, delivered as part of consultancy support for Leeds Beckett University. Separately, I have also delivered consultancy services to GroupBC.]