Giulia Carbonari, Assistant Consultant at GVA, considers whether facilities managers are ready for Building Information Modelling (BIM)?

Type Perspectives

Date 09/05/2017

Building Information Modelling (BIM) may not be new to the UK, but there’s certainly still some way to go before we see the process being utilised to its full potential.

BIM represents the next level of process, design and sophistication and, when used correctly, allow for design and construction projects to be managed more efficiently, saving money, making calculated predictions and even allowing for a building’s performance to be simulated and assessed before it is even built. The information model can provide key data and form a reliable data repository for decision making.

In order to be effective, facilities manager’s (FM’s) information needs should be defined before the design and construction phase commence, ensuring all the information necessary to support the management of the property over the next 30 to 40 years is captured and included in the right format within the model. Clear communication of the operational goals at the beginning of the design process will add value to the project and provide a return on investment.

But are FMs ready for BIM and do they understand how their input in the BIM process will affect the building’s life?

The results of an online survey of UK FMs show that less than 10% of the participants are ‘Very Aware’ of BIM as a general topic and over 77% of the respondents have limited or no knowledge of the possible uses of BIM for design/construction and FM.

73% of FMs who took part in the survey have never used BIM and are still deciding what their approach will be, as illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Looking at the possible uses for FM (Figure 2), the respondents indicated maintenance and energy monitoring as the possible BIM application that would mainly add value during occupational phase.

Figure 2

There are a number of standards, ISOs and Best Practices associated with the BIM process, such as PAS1192. There is however, as the online survey and responses indicate below (Figure 3), very little awareness in overall terms.

Figure 3

The results of the survey confirm that FMs are not yet up to speed in terms of BIM. Their knowledge is limited and most are not aware of BIM’s supporting documents.

To realise BIM’s full potential it is important that the process and the model are used and supported throughout all the stages of the building life cycle. The results confirm that the main focus of BIM is still on design and construction and there is little understanding of what is going to happen once the building and the model is handed over to the facilities managers. The results also highlight that facilities managers don’t know what to do and how to use a model once it’s handed over. This directly affects the overall benefits of implementing BIM for a construction project and limits the return on investment that a client should expect.

By looking at the life span of a building it also evident that without a clear understanding of the process and FM’s requirements in terms of information for managing the building, the impact of BIM is quite limited. FMs are expected to input into the BIM process, defining the information that is required and advising on what format the data needs to take to enable effective use once the occupation phase begins.

As a best practice, BIM should be used during occupational stage as a single source of information, reducing the risks linked with data duplication and ensuring consistency over time. The model would also support a more efficient management of the building and enable a new level of interpretation and analysis based on reliable information and with a reduced risk compared to the current practice.

Based on the survey results it could be three to five years before the full benefits of BIM will be appreciated by clients and their facilities management teams.