The Facilities Manager’s Role in a BIM Project

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From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 5

As the devil is so often in the detail, here is Paul Thomas (FM Principal Consultant at Turner & Townsend) to advise how FMs can contribute to provide a far better BIM project outcome.

During all stages of a building’s life-cycle, the role of the Facilities Manager (FM) is to maintain the focus of all parties on the required project outcomes and operational performance. In the design and construction phases, the FM is one of the end user’s key representatives. The FM will help to define operational outcomes and performance targets, including environment performance.

As such, the sooner the FM can be involved with the BIM project the greater their influence and steer will be, which then increases the likelihood of a better building. The FM’s function and focus of influence changes throughout the building lifecycle, as outlined below.

Before the Project Starts

  • A large part of the FM role is to influence other stakeholders when it comes to the operational stage of the building. Early engagement with stakeholders can help here, as people generally collaborate better with people that they know and trust. Establishing a strong rapport early also facilitates an even stronger influence during the design process.

  • Invest time before a BIM project starts to improve and expand your network. Meet other members of the likely design team by using the BIFM membership of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) to network outside of your normal FM circle. The BIM community likes to collaborate so join your local BIM region too.

  • Consider what the BIM data will be used for when the building is complete and how the data will be maintained as a valid trusted source of information for the whole life of the facility. Dependent upon the size and complexity of the building, also check that you have a suitable CAFM/ CMMS/ IWMS that is capable of managing the data and processes to update the asset information. If you do not have a suitable system, start the process to obtain one. The BIFM have a useful good practice guide “Selecting FM Software” and a flow chart is included in the BIFM good practice guide “The Role of FM in BIM Projects” which will help.

  • Consider the need to develop a clearly defined space naming protocol, which may be linked to other locations to allocate assets to a named location.  

  • Learn about your core business. As the end users’ representative, you need to fully understand the requirements and the culture of the business. This knowledge needs to include maintenance strategy, health and safety requirements, critical business systems and environmental considerations.

  • Download and read BS 8536-1:2015 Briefing for Design and Construction Code of practice for Facilities Management (Buildings/ Infrastructure) and the PAS BIM related documents. If nothing else, these documents will help you to understand the basic processes and the many three letter abbreviations.

  • Develop a list of what you want and equally what you do not want in any new building. Try to gain an understanding of the whole life cost of both lists. This list is based upon your experience of what has worked well and not so well for your business in other locations in the past.

  • The FM will be asked to input into the Asset Information Requirements (AIR). The FM can test the need for the contents of the AIR by comparing them with your current Asset database in terms of what extra information would make it easier to manage the building.

  • If the new facility is a project linked to existing assets, the FM will have to supply the design team with the current asset information.

  • Check and possibly lobby to ensure that a realistic budget has been allocated for maintenance of the new building to protect the investment.

Once the Project has Started

  • Do not try to manage a large complex BIM project alongside your day job. Use the project to develop and strengthen your team by delegating some duties and backfilling roles.

  • Do not get distracted or put off by the technology. The FM needs to be aware of when the data drops will take place and how to view the drawings - but does not need to know how to carry-out the data drops or edit the drawings.

  • It is likely that the new building will have different equipment and new technology. Develop an understanding of the maintenance requirements of any new technology, including any environmental technology being considered. We hear lots of stories of teams not being able to operate or understand the grey water system or biomass boiler.

  • Consider an appropriate method of procuring additional maintenance expertise that will be required to manage the new building. This may involve an OJEU procurement and will take anywhere from nine to twelve months, so ensure that you start in time for the project handover.

  • Review the design, scope and content of operating and maintenance manuals appropriate for the project.

  • During the design of the building the FM should consider how to replace large items of plant during the life of the building. Review access routes, plant size and weight in relation to future plant removal and replacement.

  • Have in place a system for receiving and working with the Asset Information Model.

  • During the design phase, if you do not understand the reasoning behind the design then ask!

  • Monitor the project during the construction phase for unwanted changes to the design.

  • To help the occupants settle into the new building, develop a building-user guide and arrange for its production.

  • Mobilise the FM team in preparation for operational use.

At Handover

  • Verify the Asset Information Model (AIM) by checking a sample. If you find errors, increase the level of checks and continue to do so if more errors are found. Check the legal agreement on the resolution of defects and monitor their resolution.

  • Check that all systems perform correctly, in the required manner, as intended by the specification.

  • Check that health and safety strategies are suitable, for example; action in the event of a fire.

  • Provide inductions to the new building for end users.

In Use

  • Protect the investment and maintain the facilities.

  • Use the CAFM / CMMS / IWMS to keep the asset information up to date.

  • Check that the processes for maintaining the AIM are being followed. If not, investigate why not and fix it. The problem may be that the maintenance team are reverting to old habits, or the process does not work as intended.

  • If identified, inform the relevant parties what design features do not work and what features work well.

  • Update your own design guide and lessons learnt ready for the next project.

  • At the end of the asset life, update the AIM with related data and information.   

By being methodical, thorough and friendly a great deal of the above tasks can be readily addressed and overcome. If you’re looking for further or more detailed information on any of the lifecycle stages, then visit the BIFM here.


Read BIM Journal in full here.

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