Improving Facility Management Through BIM Data

Access to building information modeling data provides facilities teams valuable insight, but integrating this data into facility systems is a challenge.

By Peter Costanzo

Until recently, building information models (or BIMs) were primarily used by architects and construction firms to streamline the early stages of the building life cycle. Building owners and facility management professionals, however, are increasingly realizing the value of BIM data for building management and automation. In “The Facility Management Handbook”, authors David G. Cotts, Kathy O. Roper, and Richard P. Payant, note that by maximizing the use of BIM data in facility management and building maintenance, owners and building developers can reduce operational costs. The payoff can be significant, since these expenses often represent up to three times the design and construction cost of a building.

So, how can BIM data be used in the world of facility management? Here are few examples:

  • Asset inventories and registries
  • Space management applications
  • Building system analysis
  • Environmental analysis
  • Regulatory compliance management
  • Accurate as-built information for renovation projects

Each year, IMAGINiT Technologies conducts a survey on building information modeling and facility management practices. The 2017 results revealed that building owners are using this data more frequently for facility management purposes. The percentage of owners integrating BIM data into their facility management systems more than doubled, growing from 6.1% in 2016 to 15% in 2017.

Yet, challenges remain. Owners suggested in the survey that the biggest obstacles associated with using BIM data in their facility management systems are: integrating the information into their facility management platform and maintaining this data once it is received.

(credit: Princeton University)

In addition, data loss is a common problem. Data loss can occur if the information gathered in the model during the design and construction project phases doesn’t include key information needed for the maintenance and operation phases of the building life cycle. For instance, a BIM may include HVAC service or zone information, but it contains no details about the components of that system to import into the maintenance management system. Data loss can also occur if the data isn’t formatted in ways that are compatible with the facility management system. This prevents seamless integration between the BIM and the facility management system.

Overcoming BIM To FM Systems Challenge

The good news is that these challenges can be overcome. Here are three tips for eliminating data integration obstacles and improving building management and automation through better access to BIM data:

1. Conduct a Review of Facility Management BIM Requirements. The best way to make BIM data useful during the operations phase of the building life cycle is to identify upfront what information will be needed by facility management systems. By involving facility management in the initial planning stages of the building information model, it’s possible to bridge the gap and align the stakeholders with a shared goal.

2. Create a BIM Guideline. All stakeholders will follow this guideline during a project, starting from the initial planning stages. Every stakeholder group has its own unique requirements for the building information model. Creating such a guideline upfront ensures that the model development process will go more smoothly. Owners must ask three key questions as they participate in the development of a BIM guideline:

  • What data do you need? All facility management systems need basic information that begins with room numbers and simple asset information. Additional information will be required depending on the systems your organization uses, and the processes implemented in those systems. Your IT department and those maintaining the facility can help define the necessary data elements. In most cases, BIMs used by facilities are simpler than the design or construction models.
  • How will you collect it? Facility managers must maintain what was built. This means that as-built information must be collected for the BIM during construction and commissioning. Sometimes, this data does not originate in the building information model. Stakeholders, including the facilities team, must decide how to gather as-built information and store it for building management purposes.
  • How will it be kept up-to-date? To be most useful, the data in the BIM should be kept current. Remember that buildings change over time. Keeping data current while maintaining history will help facility managers make better decisions.

3. Remember that it’s not “one and done”— data can be added incrementally over time. Naturally, a good starting point is the information that’s needed today for facility management. However, it’s also a good idea to explore what the facility management team would like to know in the future to do their jobs better. This information can support a roadmap for facilities-focused BIM data. For example, your team may initially incorporate asset locations and unique IDs into the BIM. With the right data structure, more asset detail can easily be added to the BIM later.

BIMs can be a great resource for improving building management and automation. To leverage the power of BIM, however, use a structured approach to defining facility management requirements and BIM standards. The reduction in building operation costs can be compelling!

BIMCostanzo is director with the IMAGINiT Facilities Management group, where he has worked for more than 10 years. His blend of experience in hardware, software, mobility platforms, BIM, and facilities management applications allows him to work with clients to craft solutions that meet both current and future facility management needs. Peter is proponent of technical applications for BIM within facilities management.