BIM for Facilities Managers: 3 Key Benefits

by:
on December 20, 2016

The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good started as a model that gave stakeholders an idea of what the building would look like.

 

Mr. Zoolander ignorantly dismissing the benefits of a 3D model
 

Unfortunately, Derek is exquisitely dumb—He doesn’t realize the benefits of a three-dimensional model can help teams involved in every phase of a facility’s life cycle, from design and construction through to operations.

A building information model, or BIM, has become a hot topic in facilities management. When paired with an integrated workplace management system (IWMS), it serves as a living repository of building data used by multiple departments.

I spoke with a facilities management BIM expert who explains how BIM improves maintenance, asset management and space planning processes.

What Is BIM?

Building information modeling is “a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility,” according to the U.S. National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee.

Simply put: A facilities management BIM is a three-dimensional, digital model that can contain several important details about a building, such as:

  • Spatial dimensions and geometry
  • Locations of assets (such as HVAC units, motors, servers etc.)
  • Material characteristics of objects (for walls, doors, machinery etc.)
  • The impact of time and schedules (4D BIM)
  • The related costs of operations (5D BIM)

The BIM stores these details and recognizes the relationships among objects in the model so that it adapts to changes. For example, a user could move a wall in the BIM, and any other objects dependent on that wall will change accordingly.

A Planon BIM file showing an office building, with a roof panel highlighted
 

A BIM is typically paired with an IWMS in a bidirectional manner, says Jay Shah, a consultant with Planon, which provides BIM and IWMS technology.

“It’s not just one-way traffic,” he says. “It’s a bidirectional exchange of information to make sure the BIM model is always live, always breathing.”

Like Shah says, BIM capabilities offer facility management teams a sort of living “building handbook” that is created and used by teams from the beginning of the design and construction phases and maintained by facilities managers in the operations phase.

Below, we explain some key BIM benefits for a few major facilities management processes.

BIM Gives Asset Managers a Seat at the Planning Table

BIM offers much more than just the location of your assets in a building, but it does that too. More importantly, though, the use of BIM can help get all stakeholders involved from the start.

Traditionally, Shah says, asset managers would only be included near the tail end of the building’s life cycle, when assets are already chosen and operating, so they could never really have a say in how assets should be installed or located.

“With a BIM platform, [asset managers] can get involved in the process very early on during the design and construction phase. So they have a voice in what types of equipment will be selected and installed in the building and in making sure all the information and documents are being captured in the right place, time and manner.”

Jay Shah, Consultant with Planon

So instead of simply inheriting the building information compiled by other teams, the asset management professionals can plan asset installations in a way that makes maintenance and operations more efficient throughout the building’s life cycle.

BIM Facilitates Smarter Maintenance Planning and Execution

BIM’s role as a “building handbook” helps out maintenance teams as well, in two key ways, Shah says.

1. Access to real-time, shared asset profiles

Just like a maintenance management or enterprise asset management system, the BIM stores asset profiles for each object in the model.

Let’s say you have a chiller. A user can click the object in the BIM to retrieve all information about the asset, which may include performance and condition data, physical dimensions and important documents related to the object or asset.

Users can add BIM characteristics for any asset, as shown in Planon IWMS
 

“All that is housed in BIM,” Shah says. “So when a maintenance planner sees all this info, he or she can leverage this information to create the preventive maintenance programs for the chillers across the portfolio.”

2. Improved awareness of asset locations

When technicians are dispatched to solve a problem in a building, sometimes it’s necessary to punch holes in walls or remove fixtures. But this could lead to costly mistakes.

“With a 3D model, they can see exactly what assets are behind that wall or behind the ceiling, so they can detect where the issue is and fix it quickly without having to spend much time locating the problem or avoiding nearby assets,” Shah says.

And again, the BIM model’s connection to the IWMS is a two-way street—this means any changes to asset locations or details in the core IWMS will be reflected in the BIM, so every department has the same real-time information to make smarter decisions.

BIM Streamlines Measuring and Scenario Testing for Space Planners

Planning and managing for a space is an important step in creating a productive office space or efficient manufacturing floor. A BIM can help save time and money in two ways:

1. Greater accuracy in measuring spaces

Facility managers need correct numbers for the dimensions of a space, and a BIM helps automate that process, Shah says.

There are many industry standards for measuring a space, such as those created by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) or the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).

Traditionally, Shah says, a planner would have to create multiple measurements based on each standard. With a BIM, they can avoid that extra work.

“Different organizations use different standards for measuring an area, and in BIM, these areas are automatically adapted and created based on the area type the space planner selects,” he says.

2. Relational objects help test scenarios at no cost

The second space planning benefit of BIM stems from the details housed within BIM objects. Because the objects understand their own qualities, such as material, cost and dimensions, they also understand how they react to other objects in the model.

For example, let’s say a facility manager needs to renovate an entire floor of an office building. In the BIM model, he or she could grab a wall “object” and drag it to another spot, Shah says.

“So as the space planner moves that wall to a different space, that change automatically ripples through all the affected views of the model,” he says.

mixed-use floor plan
 

BIM’s capabilities help managers test office layouts, such as a mixed-use floor plan shown here
 

This can reveal opportunities for a more efficient layout, or highlight conflicts that may have not been discovered with traditional space planning methods. This lets planners test scenarios before physically touching the renovation space, saving time and money.

Next Steps

BIM, coupled with an IWMS, delivers significant benefits for various roles of facilities managers, while also serving as a living master file that contains a wealth of information about the building and its contents.

As with any software investment, Shah says it’s critical that your team set expectations for BIM and have a specific goal in mind, such as improved document storage or increased collaboration among various building operations teams.

“BIM is not just used in one phase of building life cycle; it’s used throughout, from design to construction to operations,” he says. “That’s where everyone, all the key stakeholders involved, can take advantage and leverage the BIM platform.”

  • Learn more about the features included in IWMS software, and how it can form the foundation for a BIM model.
  • Email me at taylorshort@softwareadvice.com if you need further guidance about BIM implementations or other facilities management topics.

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