BIM for O+M: Less about the model, more about the data


Like the weather, everyone in the AEC industry is talking about using BIM models for operations and maintenance, but no one—well, almost no one—is doing anything about it.

That’s because there’s a fundamental difference between how architects, engineers, and contractors think about BIM modeling and how facilities directors view it.

Architects love BIM for its “parametric” capability, which allows them to play around with a structure under design in three (or more) dimensions, in real time.

MEP engineers also love BIM for its design capabilities, especially in detecting clashes between all the convoluted tangles of pipes and wires that they create.

Contractors love BIM because they can plug the model into project management software and use it to have thousands of individual building elements (like trusses and girders), all individually designed by the structural engineers and tagged with RFID or QR labels, delivered to the job site just in time for their crews to set them in place like so many giant LEGOs.

That’s all well and good for the AEC side of things. But what do facilities people think of BIM?

Frankly, most of them could care less, at least about the model itself. Facilities directors have no interest in becoming BIM experts. What they want is a simple, easy-to-use way to get at the data that’s captured in the BIM model to run their buildings more effectively.

Which brings us to recent BIM-related developments at the renowned Corcoran Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C.


The Corcoran, founded in 1869 by William Wilson Corcoran, opened its doors in 1874. Four years later, the Corcoran School of Art was established. The original building, at 1661 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, was designed by James Renwick (it is now the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery). In 1897, the gallery and school settled in a new Beaux Arts structure designed by Ernest Flagg, at 500 17th Street, NW.

As the oldest private art museum in Washington, the Corcoran held a place of honor in the city’s arts scene for more than a century. In the late 1980s, however, things started to unravel. In 1989, management was forced to cancel a Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective when it was learned that the exhibit, which had funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, would show homoerotic photographs.

In 2005, the Corcoran had to cancel plans for an addition by Frank Gehry when it couldn’t raise the $200 million for the project. Five years later, the museum ended its year $4 million in debt. By 2011, gallery attendance plummeted to a seven-year low (85,000), and the Corcoran was $7.2 million in debt. 

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