By Michael Ruiz
Published in the September 2010 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
It’s hardly surprising that facility managers (fms) would be among the first professionals to recognize the value of having their buildings designed, built, and operated using the Building Information Modeling (BIM) method. In part due to the slumping economy, fms are extremely concerned with how to operate and maintain their buildings more efficiently in order to save money.
In fact, many architecture, engineering, and contractor (AEC) companies that use BIM today indicate client demand drove them to adopt the technology. Because of this, BIM has quickly become the method of choice for AEC consultants who want to serve fms and their high performance sites.
BIM provides sustainability, because it simplifies the reporting process and allows a knowledge base to be built over time from live data gathered in real time from systems and databases. This information provides fms with a historical record of the building and serves as the foundation for making informed decisions and planning for the future.
However, despite its clear benefits, BIM has been gaining ground slowly with fms responsible for design and construction. One of the reasons for this reluctance is the perceived learning curve and the impression of complexity.
When BIM software was first introduced, fms interfaced with the data via a 3D model. Viewing and manipulating a 3D model of a building was a bit intimidating and might have seemed like overkill to a veteran fm who has relied on a manual system and spreadsheets to maintain the property for years.
BIM For The Techie Generation
Yet, the routine use of BIM for the operations and maintenance (O&M) of buildings will be essential in the near future. Tomorrow’s professional fms are being trained at the university level in its use. This new generation of professionals understands data driven, computerized building management and is competent in using 3D models to manage the building life cycle.
What’s more, social networking is second nature to them. They’re comfortable receiving trouble alerts via Twitter and instant messaging, for example. Communicating through Internet-based computing environments is commonplace to them.
Fortunately, a new way of using BIM at the O&M level has emerged, which should make it much easier for current fms to benefit from building life cycle management to improve operations, lower costs, and extend the life of equipment and assets.
Today’s web based BIM O&M portals allow fms to access and analyze building information in more familiar ways.
Web based portals provide an easy to use interface for locating and working with building information. They require little training and display information and produce reports in register format (and in the form of floor plans, graphs, and charts) to ease the transition from traditional, manual facilities management (FM) methods.
Web based BIM portals provide access to an O&M system that typically includes maps, a best in class O&M suite, an energy management system, a building automation system, building security, a model viewer, and plan views. They use a secure oriented architecture (SOA) that enables a hierarchy of professionals to operate and maintain multiple facilities and manage information flow across a campus, a region, the nation, and even across borders. Access to the portal is restricted based on roles and responsibilities and is password protected.
Down To The Details
The user interface is an information repository that includes a search engine. Among other uses, this makes it easy to find information related to a specific piece of equipment.
Once the search is completed, the information appears in register form and might include the unit’s location, name, model number, manufacturer, product type, operations and maintenance manuals, commissioning information, and performance data.
Any system that has a wireless sensor can transmit performance data in real time to a database. In the event of a problem, the system notifies a designated member of the maintenance team who can then use the dashboard to locate the information needed to fix the problem (such as product manuals and maintenance histories) or even locate tools or parts.
Implementing A Web BIM O&M Portal
When a building is designed using BIM, the anticipated information is readily available to a BIM O&M portal, and the portal can be implemented very quickly. However, fms of older buildings designed and built using traditional paper plans or a 2D CAD system can still benefit from BIM using a web based portal. This can be done by entering building information in two ways: 3D laser scan or manual input.
The fastest and most beneficial way of entering building information is to use 3D laser scan technology. This is accomplished by using a 3D laser camera to capture the existing building in 3D using an extremely accurate X, Y, and Z coordinate system.
Web based BIM portals are typically comprised of seven life cycle operations and maintenance modules, as follows:
Space Management Module: Maintains an accurate, centralized inventory of space, including locations, room numbers, space types, areas, and capacities, and links this information to CAD drawings and cost centers to provide visibility to management and improve occupancy rates and space use.
Strategic Planning Module: Aligns real estate and facilities plans with business operations by analyzing space requirements and forecasting future space needs with “what if” scenarios and reporting on space and occupancy projections.
Asset Management Module: Tracks and locates corporate assets such as furniture, equipment, computers, life safety systems, building systems, and artwork on floor plans by owner, serial number, and installation dates, and tracks asset depreciation for financial reporting and compliance.
Real Estate Portfolio Management Module: Centralizes all lease information for both owned and leased properties and issues alerts on critical dates such as lease options and TI expirations.
Move Management Module: Enables internal customers to submit move requests (which are automatically routed through the approval process) and coordinates move details for people, assets, and infrastructure components.
Project Management Module: Maintains and monitors status, budgets, and schedules across multiple projects and locations, providing visibility to management and internal customers.
Facility Maintenance Management Module: Extends the life of building equipment by automating preventive maintenance scheduling and work orders and by keeping an inventory and detailed history of building equipment and related maintenance requirements. The module issues e-mail reminders for routine maintenance tasks and creates maintenance tickets automatically.
The scanned data is then converted into a building information model so it can be used in an O&M application to manage the building life cycle in the same way as a new building that was architected, engineered, and constructed using BIM.
As an alternative, building information can be input manually by scanning 2D CAD drawings or pen drawn plans. However, this is analogous to entering transactions manually into Quicken, compared to enabling Quicken to link directly to a bank account through a web based link. The manual method will require more time and effort in terms of upkeep.
Using 3D laser scans to enter building information is preferable to manual entry not only because it’s faster, but also because it produces higher data quality. This enables fms to gain a true, holistic understanding of the building specifically because of its 3D nature.
What’s The Difference?
Having the ability to understand a building’s life cycle O&M objectives in 3D is more beneficial and far reaching, because it is more comprehensive and accurate than using O&M data derived from 2D plans. For example, 2D floor plans provide a view of the floor from a height of about 4′ from the ceiling, which makes it difficult to understand what’s happening in the ceiling where most of the difficulties occur from faulty air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical equipment.
Being able to use the computer to see in 3D where the mechanical, plumbing, and electrical components are in a building helps lower the cost of maintenance by taking the guesswork out of locating equipment for repair or replacement. It also helps fms determine the easiest access route. Sending the right technician with the right tool at the right time to fix a problem enables fms to run a leaner operation, which contributes to lowering the cost of building maintenance.
Regardless of how information feeds into the portal, over time the portal gathers and integrates information relevant to equipment, assets, and other building information that provides a historical perspective and contributes to establishing an effective building life cycle management program.
The Importance Of Names
The information in many building information systems is often out of date and unreliable or uses non-standard naming conventions for installed equipment. For example, a project plan developed by the building’s architect may call a piece of equipment by one name, but the actual piece of installed equipment is under a different name. This makes it difficult to track and find the corresponding documentation for equipment (such as the manufacturer’s warranty, product manuals, or the cost of a previous repair) when there’s a malfunction. The cost of non-standard names is huge, leading to errors and stretching the time required to address problems from minutes to days.
Several industry associations are now supporting the building life cycle concept and are conducting research into better ways to design, construct, and operate buildings by using a more systematic process. These groups are also driving the industry toward implementing best in class O&M systems. This includes the adoption of naming conventions such as those recommended in the Construction Operations and Building Information Exchange Process Model (COBie), which was devised in an effort to standardize building component names and promote and support strategic building management practices.
Industry organizations involved in these efforts to standardize information include the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), the Smart Building Alliance, the Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE), and the National Institute of Building Sciences (through its Whole Building Design Guide).
Clearly, a web based O&M strategy could have positive implications for fms of any enterprise, especially those seeking to reap the benefits of having ready accessibility to accurate historical data. Tracking the condition of each building through a single consolidated portal will streamline operations and allow fms to aggregate all information. Simply put, this tool allows fms to manage, operate, and maintain their facilities with accurate, comprehensive design and construction information.
Best of all, the look and feel of the new web based BIM O&M portals are more familiar to current fms but are also equally adaptable to the new breed of fms educated in using 3D modeling to manage building life cycles. Web based portals are maturing quickly and will continue to evolve to incorporate handheld devices and social networking.
By experiencing lower operations costs, fms will benefit from the rich data contained in BIM while having access to accurate information and a host of time saving tools, available through a single portal, to aid in the O&M of multiple properties.
Ruiz is vice president of BIM Strategies for Atlanta, GA-based Applied Software, the largest Authorized Autodesk Reseller in the Southeastern United States and one of the nation’s leading providers of BIM services including BIM modeling, analysis, training, integration, and mentoring.