The intersection of technology and facilities management (FM) is becoming increasingly inevitable. Sustainability is a consistent theme in FM and the use of BIM is a way in which resources can be managed and optimised in advance. Building Information modelling (BIM) is a collaborative technology used by architects, engineers, and contractors to work together on coordinated models. It digitally manifests a model of a building which is used to share information across the process of the design, building and operation of a property. As a result, this gives better insight into how each area of work fits into an overall project and establishes behaviour and relationships between different elements of a premises. The use of BIM throughout the design, construction and handover process is of significant benefit to facilities management as it provides an accurate digitized model of the facility at handover.

How is BIM used for facilities management? 

Throughout the BIM process, data is collected and shared across all disciplines of the project. FM has a part to play at this stage of any project, by reviewing BIM / design data and providing feedback to the project team from an operators’ perspective.

At building handover / practical completion (PC), the BIM data will provide an accurate “as installed” digitized record of the facility.  This data is invaluable to FM in many ways;  For example, the BIM data can be easily transferred to the FM Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS) from which planned preventative maintenance models will be developed.  In addition, the BIM data will provide detailed information about the building fabric, which will be used by FM to maintain and repair building fabric damage / wear and tear using like for like materials.  BIM data can also be used to ensure that warrantees and building certificates are maintained.  There are many more uses of BIM data for FM across the entire lifecycle of the building.

Why does BIM affect facilities management?

The longest stage of the life of a building is its operation and maintenance. This is also the costliest phase due to maintenance, refurbishment, and replacement. Consequently, several areas of BIM will influence the facilities management of a building. Some of these include cost savings, information sharing, reducing uncertainty, reducing safety risks, IoT integration and improve client satisfaction overall.

BIM encourages cost savings by allowing the engineers, architects, and contractors to build a property in a virtual sense multiple times so that issues are seen before construction takes place. This not only reduces costs but brings a greater degree of certainty to the overall cost of the project during construction. Moreover, the cost savings are seen in facilities management in areas such as lower energy costs which contribute to sustainability.  

The information acquired during the modelling phase can improve communications and thus ensures that facilities managers are familiar with the property and its assets in advance. The improved communication and information sharing also reduces uncertainty as it allows a project to be visualised at an early stage and permits for modifications to be made in time.

Other uses for building information modelling include important health and safety considerations. BIM is used to analyse crowd behaviour in relation to fire modelling thus optimising the design of the building for safety in advance. Consequently, this affects the comfort and productivity of the occupants. Moreover, the use of BIM in conjunction with smart buildings will influence facilities management by integrating building and information systems. These systems will then be able to anticipate issues in real time and respond accordingly. 

What about existing buildings?

Although BIM is used to bring a project to life before any building has been done, it also has its place in managing existing facilities. Creating a 3D model of a building is accomplished using original design plans and occasionally scanning a building. Although this can be expensive it is worth noting that it can be used for monitoring and benchmarking systems which may then suggest areas that require modernising or retrofitting. Additionally, BIM for existing building can, if necessary be used for the deconstruction of a building. The benefits of BIM are manifold and provides a focal point for collaboration. The consistent collection and updating of data would suggest that the dynamic nature of BIM will ensure that the records for a building do not become outdated. Additionally, BIM gives the option to reduce the opportunities lost by a lack of information integration and collaborative communication between all contributors to a project. Consequently, using this technology in facilities management has significant potential for cost savings in the future and increasing sustainability.


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