BIM Awareness in the FM Sector

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From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 5

To present a snapshot of the joint research carried out with the British Institute of Facilities Management, here is Simon Ashworth (Zurich University of Applied Sciences) and Dr Matthew Tucker (Liverpool John Moores University) to tell us more about how the worlds of BIM and digital are impacting this important field.

It has become clear over the last few years that BIM can no longer be considered a passing trend or buzzword as it is increasingly influencing the way that we design, build and operate our facilities across the world. Professionals from a wide range of AEC industries are moving beyond merely seeing BIM as a new technology or a process, and are instead seeing it much more as an approach or a ‘mindset’ to be applied to the entire built environment.

In this bigger picture, when we think about assets over their whole life cycle it is clear that facility managers have a crucial role to play, as they are tasked with the responsibility of managing these assets when they are handed from construction into operation. This recognition has brought the role of FM in the BIM process more into focus with the appreciation that early involvement is crucial if the BIM process is to be successful in delivering long term sustainability in the built environment at all.

That said, the role and utilisation of BIM within the FM industry is a hot topic of debate for facility managers and clients. Increasingly however, awareness of BIM and its potential impact on, and benefits to, the FM industry is growing. However, the findings of a major industry research survey “FM Awareness of BIM” (Ashworth and Tucker, 2017) published by the BIFM in August 2017 shows disparity across many specific organisations, business sectors, industries and indeed countries regarding the level of sophistication and maturity with respect to BIM and its adoption overall.

Crucially the report also captures however, that it is clear that most people have heard about BIM and sincerely believe that it will have a significant impact on the FM industry. However, many also indicate the FM industry is not really clear about what BIM is, which raises concerns about what the FM industry needs to do in terms of education and training in order to ensure successful engagements with the BIM process.


Mark Bew (Chairman, Digital Built Britain) commented in the report’s introduction that “the Asset and Facilities Management (A&FM) sector play a critical part in the safe, reliable and productive delivery of services across the nation. Approaching a third more money is spent each year on operational budgets than capital, but the investment in innovation and development is less”. He also goes on to say “This survey has provided a valuable insight into the current operations market in the light of the Governments Level 2 BIM intervention”.

Accordingly, the following gives a snapshot of the key findings from the executive summary;

Awareness of BIM:

  • A high number of respondents (92%) had heard about BIM, with 84% believing that BIM will help to support the delivery of facilities management. 74% think that BIM will have a significant impact on the FM industry with 84% indicating that BIM is already having an impact, or will do so in the next five years.

  • 81% agree (or strongly agree) that BIM may offer companies that adopt and use it an advantage over those that do not. Furthermore, 84% agree (or strongly agree) that “BIM has the potential to deliver significant added value to FM” and most people (84% overall) agree that “BIM should help to improve data transfer into CAFM systems”.

  • 72% say “the FM industry is not clear what BIM is” and 68% disagree or strongly disagree that the FM industry is well prepared to deal with BIM projects. Clearly indicating that more work needs to be done by the FM industry to ensure that people are better informed about, and more prepared for, BIM projects in general. This aligns with a high number of respondents (91%) who agree that FM professionals would benefit from more familiarisation with BIM, to be able to define the outputs in the BIM process.

  • 88% agree (or strongly agree) that BIM is about “an increased collaboration process and not just software models”.

  • 72% disagree that BIM is only for new-builds.

Of the respondents that agreed, the top three benefits of BIM to FM were:

  1. Strategic decision-making about asset maintenance and management

  2. Visualisation of buildings/assets for customers, health and safety and maintenance

  3. Data transfer from construction into CAFM and other software tools

Whereas the top three concerns were:

  1. CAFM software suppliers should work on tools that allow bi-directional transfer of data between BIM and CAFM

  2. BIM training, and how facilities managers will access data in 3D models at handover

  3. A lack of training (and the cost of training) associated with BIM

Overall, 66% believe that BIM will help the UK government to meet its target for a 33% reduction in the initial cost of construction and the whole life cost of built assets, with 54% being generally confident about the targets for a 50% reduction in the overall time to complete projects.

However, they were slightly less confident about the sustainability and trade targets when questioned.

BIM Experience

When it came to direct or indirect experience with BIM:

  • 40% had some experience of being involved in a BIM project, but only 21% had direct experience of writing or implementing an Asset Management Strategy in line with ISO 55000 or another system.

Tellingly, as assets are often the second biggest expense to organisations after personnel, perhaps more focus should be given to defining initial strategies with respect to both asset management and to BIM.

  • The number of people who had both “written and implemented” key documents used in the BIM process was generally low. The percentages being; OIR (15%), AIR (19%), EIR (20%), BIM strategy (17%) and BEP (13%).

This could be due to BIM being new to FM, but might also indicate that more needs to be done to ensure that the FM industry is equipped to write/implement the key documents that drive the start of the BIM process.

  • 58% (combined) said that they agree or strongly agree “our employees would benefit from BIM certification or further BIM training courses”. 28% were neutral and 14% disagreed.

This indicates a significant number of people who feel that further training is necessary.

  • When respondents were asked to indicate the level of BIM training and support in their organisation only 10% rated it as very good, with 23% recording minimal and a significant 33% even recording none!

It is clear indeed that the sector still has some way to go, but also that the foundational change to this new “mindset” is clearly occuring. At long last.

The report findings includes input from 28 different countries (as the figure shows) and the full report, undertaken as part of a joint collaboration project between LJMU, ZHAW and the BIFM, together with other BIM guidance developed by the BIFM can be downloaded from the BIFM website here.

Read BIM Journal in full here.

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