Building Industry is Busy with BIM for Design and Construction; but is it FM Friendly?


Qatar has been in news for quite a while now. Its infrastructure projects and vision 2030 has definitely raised the eyebrows of top notch investors. But also let’s not forget, it is preparing for FIFA World CUP too.

Qatar has a huge responsibility to justify the billion dollar investments in its mega projects. However it is lagging behind when it comes to adopting the technology that it has geared up to integrate, at least in its Government projects. Like any other client it too faces common BIM implementation problems across a handful of various sectors.

Deadlines are already fast approaching and sometimes without the expected development, with facility managers being no exception here. This is because it has been difficult to integrate facilities management from the conceptual stage of the project, and with little knowledge of BIM it could be difficult for the Qatarian Construction Industry to resolve the issue.

However; by integrating with BIM and BS1192 workflows the projects can be completed smoothly. Both on time and within budget.

The acronym BIM is of course used for a series of different but allied definitions: Building Information Modelling, Building Information Model, and Building Information Management are known examples. The BIM process offers a virtual platform for immediate collaboration; architects and engineers can share design and construction facets of the structure, thereby letting them work in parallel, thus reducing time spent on a certain project.

Problems are figured out quite early which vividly reduces costs if the architectural and structural designs are shared at the onset. In regards to this we can say BIM solutions are not just generating a Model of a building, but also giving a platform for real-time collaboration, logistics, and quality management too.

This leads to BIM adoption in design and construction. Delivering rich BIM's that describe the facilities (to be) built. So the fundamental question to ask is, can these models deliver value during the use phase as well?

What' in it for FM?
Facilities management is synonymous with 6D BIM, an acronym for 6D Building Information Modelling and a term widely used in the Construction industry. A 6D BIM model integrates and connects all related Building Information, such as product data and details, maintenance/operation manuals, cut sheet specifications, manufacturer information and the like. This model is provided to the owner as a broad standalone platform. Using the BIM model, undertakings and calculations for routine maintenance, Energy Efficiency, Space Management, Remodel and Renovation and Life Cycle Management are simplified to the construction DNA and this can save a considerable amount of time.

One of the prime concerns of the FM professional is managing the operational and maintenance aspects of the building, given that the expected life-cycle can extend up to 30 years or more. This is especially importance accepting that a building goes through several retrofitting phases too, in the same lifespan.

Commissioning — One of the most substantial events is the hand-over from construction to use. We have all come across various articles opinions and conversations regarding Facilities Management, where beliefs vary but often include “if only they had involved us in the design, the building would have been so much cheaper and simpler to operate and maintain”. Instead, on handover then, facilities managers must begin to identify all components needing regular maintenance within the building and work up a planned maintenance regime therafter.

The building asset register lists the components and includes a description, warranty information and maintenance information too. This can be contained within a computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) system, which is used to manage the same data and generate the planned preventative maintenance schedules more swiftly.

Traditionally this information arrives as a huge pile of operation and maintenance manuals. Most facilities managers find this so daunting that they simply pick up the phone and get a surveyor in to determine what is in the building instead. Once this has been done, the information is then entered into the asset register. This is not just irritating and exhaustive but expensive too.

However, BIM has the potential to cut out the survey and mind-numbing labour-intensive data entry process needed to assemble an asset register, saving both time and money further. The objects confined within a 3D model and associated database contains many attributes, not just the location of the item in the building. This data can be exported straight into the CAFM system at the push of a button.

If only life was that simple!

The BIM includes massive amounts of data, even data that is completely irrelevant to the facility's management, structural information for example. So the challenge remains of cataloguing and combining this data into an accurate asset database overall.
Even today, the industry has been so absorbed on getting to grips with BIM for Design and Construction that it has completely sidelined the aim of making it FM friendly. And it’s not just the D&B industry, even facility managers lag behind in taking showing initiative and interest in the BIM process. What is now needed is a cultural change that can consider FM as an integral part of the construction process, involving FM in the process from the beginning.

COBie can bridge the gap

In 2007, the UK issued the BS 1192 standard — Collaborative Production of Architectural, Engineering and Construction Information. This standard forms the basis for achieving Level 1 BIM. Recently the U.K. BIM Task Group—in collaboration with the Construction Industry Council-published three additional BIM standards. This workflow has helped to smooth the functioning of the process, thereby addressing the needs of all stakeholders more easily.

The BS 1192-4 workflow permits the exchange of information through the life of a facility. It states the expectations for the design and construction project levels that precede both the handover and the ensuing in-use phases. This code of practice aids the portfolio managers, asset managers and facility managers in specifying their expectations while facilitating information providers too. Not to mention giving the lead designers and contractors their formula concise, explicit and accessible information too.

The use of COBie makes sure that information can be prepared and used easily. It also guarantees information exchanges can be studied and validated for compliance, consistency and comprehensiveness as well.

Expanding further, COBie stands for “Construction Operations Building Information Exchange” and it specifies the type and way in which information can be captured during the design and construction phase and provide to the Facility manger. It is a data schema for holding and conveying information around the handover to support the client’s possession and operation of a facility (both new and existing). Hence, COBie serves two main purposes: a data exchange format and a scrutiny tool during the design process. The regimen for importing data from BIM models includes a further four data drops during the provision stage of the project to manage both cost and carbon as well.

In several countries already, clients have been using OpenBIM standards and data specifications for handing over the information for the operational stage of the built asset. Industry has been inclined mainly towards certifying software and benchmarking its output for accuracy and completeness of COBie, rather than understanding the actual need of the information requirements of the FM industry.

I believe we still need to asses and investigate ways that such open standards and specifications can meet the requirements of the Facility management sector at large.

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