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The key to the future

As awareness and adoption of BIM slowly spreads, Jon Clark, Sales Manager at FSI, reiterates the benefits of what should be a fundamental FM tool

We all hear that BIM (building information modelling) holds the keys to the future of the FM industry. Yet, when we examine the landscape in greater detail, the uptake of this process to support the operation and maintenance of buildings across the UK has struggled to maintain momentum.

BIM’s absorption into the process of designing, constructing and running structures has come a long way, as illustrated in NBS’s National BIM Report for 2019 (reference note 1). In 2011 only 13 per cent of 1,000 industry professionals they survey each year were utilising BIM in projects. In 2019, that’s risen to 69 per cent.

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? While it is undoubtedly encouraging for greater adoption of BIM, when they delved down deeper into the information, NBS discovered that this 69 per cent drops to 40 per cent if we filter out those who are not adhering to what many consider to be ‘full implementation’ of BIM.

Why is there a 29 per cent gap? A large component of this disconnect lies in those who are using BIM in the design and construction of buildings – boosted by the government mandate in 2016 enforcing the use of BIM level 2 in all public building – and BIM’s use in supporting structures throughout their lifecycle. This is where BIM’s uptake is lagging. The FM sector needs a better understanding of the technology behind BIM, and how it supports the needs of professionals involved far beyond the construction stage.

Fundamentally, BIM provides detailed insight into a building’s structure and content. This is accomplished in two parts:

1. 3D modelling technology that provides an effective CAD layout of a building’s look, characteristics and features. These designs provide a clear blueprint for those responsible for bringing the building to life, as well as assisting FMs in the space management of the assets.

2. Deep databases of information, presenting all professionals connected to a project with ‘as-built’ asset data and details relevant to their continued operation and maintenance, such as product specifications and their expected lifespan, contained within clear, accessible graphical representations and COBie spreadsheets.

Both aspects of BIM technology are extremely useful in helping FMs with their various responsibilities. But the most important of the two in efficiently maintaining and operating a building across its lifecycle are those valuable databases.

This data is at the heart of BIM’s seamless synergy with CAFM/IWMS systems. By transferring this reservoir of information on a building’s assets into these systems, FM teams receive a clear, organised picture of the layout and component parts of the facility for which they’re responsible. This means they can develop the most effective plan for maintenance and repairs, as well as quickly source replacements and retrofits in line with their specifications.

In short, BIM is critical in applying ‘soft landings’ to buildings. By offering a clearer visualisation of the connections between assets and their specifications, the crossover of BIM with CAFM improves the transition from a structure’s construction or refurbishment to its continued operation. This helps FMs manage a building in a way that saves time, money and unnecessary effort.

About Sarah OBeirne

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