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BIM for Facility Management


A “Building Information Model” (BIM) is a parametric, computable representation of the project design developed by the Architect (and consultants), the Contractor (and subcontractors), including construction details developed by the Contractor and its respective consultants and subcontractors that are integrated into the model, or a specialized BIM consulting firm (i.e. to deal with existing facilities) hired by the Owner.

Many large building owners see great benefits for developing and maintaining lifecycle data for its facilities. The overall purpose of utilizing BIM for data handover and facility management is to enable facility owners to leverage design and construction data to provide safe, healthy, effective and efficient work environments. The maintenance of this data will create greater efficiencies such as having accurate as-built information to reduce the cost & time required for renovations; increasing customer satisfaction; and optimizing the operation and maintenance of the building systems to reduce energy usage.

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study “Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry” (NIST GCR 04-867) shows that all stakeholders in the capital facilities industry – designers, contractors, product suppliers, and owners – waste a huge amount of money looking for, validating, and/or recreating facility information that should be readily available. The total cost of these activities within the capital facilities industries was conservatively estimated at $15.8 billion per year in 2002, with eighty-five percent of owners and operators’ interoperability costs incurred during the operations and maintenance phase. It means owners and operators waste $.23 per square foot of managed facility space per year. EcoDomus collaborated with Paul Teicholz, the author of the recently published book “BIM for Facility Managers” (published by the International Facility Management Association, IFMA) and came to the similar results of ~$.26 per square foot ($2.6 per square meter) wasted per year. Reasons for this loss include:

  • Warranty repairs done at owner’s expense
  • Labor populating CMMS/CAFM and other databases
  • Labor researching actual conditions prior to project execution
  • Labor researching actual conditions prior to maintenance and repair
  • Energy management is complicated by the lack of data

A BIM for facility management provides visualization, access to the precise location and relationships of building systems and equipment, and access to accurate existing condition attribute data. Building Information Management (another way to decipher BIM) provides several advantages over traditional 2D drawings. BIM is a data-rich, object-based, intelligent and parametric digital representation of the facility.

BIM objects know what they are (walls, doors, spaces, lights, plumbing fixtures, etc.) and where they are located. BIM software tools support the creation of zones that can identify areas serviced by common components. For example, rooms 1, 2, and 3 are supplied by Air Handling Unit 21, or supplied electrical service from panel L-1. BIMs capture building system relationships. For example, each electrical panel knows which transformer supplies its power.

The purpose of defining a BIM for facility lifecycle management is to specify the information needed to be passed from design and construction to operations and maintenance. A BIM for facility management can automate the creation of equipment inventory lists, populate facility management systems, and reduce redundancy in the maintenance of facility data for facility management activities.

While many facility owners do a good job in retaining staff over the long term, they face a continuing loss of organizational knowledge as key members of its maintenance, engineering, and management staffs reach retirement. Facility owners can improve the succession planning procedures to mitigate the loss of knowledge as experienced personnel separate from the organization. BIM-based Central Facility Repository can become a knowledge transfer mechanism ensuring that less experienced personnel can quickly gain access to complete facility information.

EcoDomus analysts performed several research projects in the past related to the justification for the necessity of implementing a Component-Level Inventory approach, which is well aligned with the Building Information Model approach. Component-level inventory is an inventory that includes almost all equipment within the building envelope and site boundaries. It includes PM (Preventive Maintenance) and Non-PM equipment down to the component, or product, level but does not include disposable inventories such as supplies. For example, a component-level inventory would contain lighting fixtures but not contain light bulbs or mounting hardware. Component-level inventories are as in-depth as possible for an existing building without performing destructive testing to determine what is behind the walls or underground.

EcoDomus distributed questionnaires among facility engineers, property managers, and interviews were held with clients on-site and over the phone. One of the questionnaires was distributed within the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and more than 230 responses were received.

The results of the research show that:

  • On average, it takes 1.7 hours to find information related to work orders, while a fully populated Component-Level Inventory will reduce it to 5-10 minutes saving thousands of hours.
  • Rework accounts to 20% of time spent due to incomplete information
  • Accurate information about equipment and its performance improves the quality of energy management resulting in significant cost savings.

Examples from other sources highlight other reasons to collect the full component-level inventory. For example, when repairs are performed on the ballast of a 277-volt fluorescent light fixture, the maintenance repairer is usually required to turn off the power at the breaker for the ballast. There are normally two things that occur: two personnel “flip breakers”, one at the ballast and one at the breaker panel cycling the breakers until they find the correct source of power; or one person replaces the ballast “live” without turning off the power. “Flipping breakers” for all of the repairs over the course of a year is a significant outlay of labor. The industry probably spends hundreds of thousands of person-hours just “flipping breakers”. The second action of working the component “live” exposes the organization to legal, safety, and regulatory ramifications. A component-level inventory that captures the electrical distribution system of a facility to include breakers could dramatically mitigate, if not eliminate, these costs.

BIM for Facility Management brings benefits to various stakeholder groups. Some of them are listed below; even more will be uncovered over the next years as technology advances.

Benefits for maintenance workers:

  • Reduces time by eliminating additional trips to the same location to carry out unscheduled work orders by providing accurate field conditions and maintenance information before leaving the office;
  • Reduces cost for repairs by providing faster response times to emergency work orders (e.g. a major leak in the wall and the water needs to be shut off immediately);
  • Mobile access to BIM (i.e. using EcoDomus Mobile software) and other linked/integrated data in the field allows access to all documentation without making trips back to the office.

Benefits for building operators:

  • Reduces the operations and maintenance (O&M) contract costs from incomplete equipment inventories. An accurate equipment inventory can reduce O&M contracting costs from 3% to 6% by identifying and tracking facility equipment and facility square footage.
  • Reduces time creating equipment inventories from plans, specifications and submittals.
  • An accurate equipment inventory can generate a return on investment of 3% in energy savings by identifying all facility components that affect energy usage, require maintenance, and assist in safe operations.
  • Reduces risk and uncertainty of performing work orders by identifying building components that are not easily identified (i.e. valves).
  • Maintains links to equipment histories facilitating equipment condition assessments. An accurate equipment inventory reduces the possibility of catastrophic costs for unforeseen repairs by identifying accurate equipment locations and subcomponents.
  • Optimizes building performance by comparing actual to predicted energy performance generated from BIM using energy simulation software.
  • Provides business analytics through integration of BIM, BAS, CMMS, and GIS data, allowing better review and access to building controls, schedules, readings, and inventory. Cost and performance trending can be used to troubleshoot high tenant work order areas and identify customer satisfaction or building performance issues.

Benefits for design and construction teams:

  • Reduces costs of re-documenting “as-built” conditions and field surveys for building renovation projects. Savings could occur from reduction in time to verify field conditions, change orders due to unforeseen conditions, reduction in destructive testing and repair costs to confirm existing conditions.
  • Greater accuracy in energy model assumptions and better estimation of energy performance.
  • Design and Construction Teams can provide higher quality building systems due to better equipment selection and specifications based on feedback from building operations.
  • Better commissioning through understanding impacts of individual HVAC components on overall HVAC system. For example, a VAV box in Room 1 is adjusted for a tenant. All other VAV boxes within the same HVAC system are affected because of the change in airflow. As adjustments are made to each individual box, the overall system performance can be analyzed and adjusted.

Benefits for spatial data managers:

  • Increases precision in existing condition information, which is used for accuracy of rent bill management, reduction in costs for audits and re-walks.
  • Reduces time to polyline spatial program drawings through automation process

Benefits for building occupants:

  • Increases satisfaction from quicker resolutions to unscheduled work orders
  • Reduces unscheduled work orders and increased communication between tenants and building maintenance workers regarding scheduled work orders.

In order to implement BIM for Facility Management facility owners need to pick up the experienced team consisting of software vendors, BIM experts, FM consultants, preferably with local experience and presence. EcoDomus has been performing BIM for FM and Handover projects throughout the world, including the US and Canada, the Middle East, Japan, China, UK.

BIM Journal would like to thank Igor Starkov for his contribution to this article.  For more information please contact [email protected]

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