Demystifying BIM for Facilities Managers


From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 5

With BIM being notoriously difficult for newcomers to grasp, here is Mike Packham (Director, BWA (Europe) Ltd) to delicately guide all willing participants.

I am sure that for many in the FM sector Building Information Modelling (BIM) is nothing more than a meaningless jumble of three letter acronyms (EIR, OIR, GSL) complete with frequent references to obscure standards, such as PAS 1192 and the like. So let us start at the beginning, what is BIM?  

Well, it is certainly not a computer application, despite what the software providers would like us to believe. Indeed, there is a lot of debate about what BIM actually stands for - is it Building Information Modelling or, as is strongly argued by others, does it more correctly refer to ‘Building Information Management’ or even ‘Better Information Management’? This latter definition gives us a clue as to the true purpose of BIM, thus it, and its far less acknowledged sibling ‘Soft Landings’ provides us with a process that helps to facilitate a more efficient method of designing, creating and maintaining our assets.

The emphasis on the word “maintaining” is important, because maintaining the asset is precisely what most of us in facilities management are employed to do in one way or another. Consequently, it was a little worrying therefore to read the result of the recent (August 2017) BIFM ‘Awareness of BIM’ Survey, where roughly two-thirds of respondents reported themselves as having either none or very limited knowledge or involvement in BIM.

But why is this? Are the TLA’s and standards the root cause? Or is it a question of many FM’s being so heavily involved in the day-to-day management of their organisation’s premises and that, from their perspective, BIM is simply something that could involve a lot of additional work when they have better things to do?

In short, and this is a core feature of this situation, it must be said that the very real operational benefits to be derived from the implementation of BIM/Soft Landings have not been very well articulated to the very people who stand to gain the most from these initiatives.

This is a shame as, to my mind the operational benefits are distinct, and they subsequently fall into two broad categories:

Involvement in the witness testing, commissioning and handover process. Indeed, we have probably all been in the situation where the building has been completed and we get handed a box of (allegedly) fully comprehensive O&M manuals just as the construction team heads to the nearest hostelry to celebrate.

Now the first thing that happens of course is that there is a leak and we cannot find the right valve to turn the water off. With BIM, such circumstances should be a thing of the past as we will have the opportunity to define right from the very outset of the project how we want to be involved in the witness testing, commissioning and handover stage, and indeed what training we believe will be necessary. We are involved throughout, with decisions revolving around our and the facilities’ needs.

Asset information, perhaps not so much of a hands-on operational issue as described above, nevertheless this is one that is critical to us to embrace if we are to proactively manage the premises for which we are responsible. After all, what use is the provision of inaccurate and or unavailable useless information? Again BIM provides us with the opportunity to define our information requirements in this regard from the outset, such that the information required is available, in the prescribed format, immediately as we move into the building’s operational phase.

Of course there are undoubtedly a number of potential barriers to be overcome before these benefits can be fully realised, and these are well documented. However, if we do not at least try to get to grips with BIM, to ‘demystify’ it if you like, then these benefits will never be forthcoming.

As such, to help with the demystification process, the BIFM have published a number of explanatory notes; among them are their two guides ‘The Role of FM in BIM Projects’ and the ‘Operational Readiness Guide’ which are, of course, very much worth a read and nowhere near as sleep inducing as they may sound.

Read BIM Journal in full here.

Thanks for reading!

Please enjoy a limited number of articles over the next 30 days.

For total access log in to your The BIM Hub account. Or register now, it's free.

Register Sign in