Tricks Of The Trade: Building Information Modeling Under The Microscope

By James C. Elledge, IFMA Fellow, CFM, FMA, RPA, RIAQM
Published in the February 2011 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Q Everyone is talking about how BIM can benefit facility managers (fms). In theory, that sounds great. However, I haven’t found clear evidence of how a BIM (Bentley or Autodesk based, for instance) can directly interact with any FM tool or application. I find the data can be extracted and added to an Oracle database and work with GIS based Enterprise applications. Are there any FM tools that can directly work with BIM and use the BIM’s 3D model for visualization and the datasets for analysis?

Suresh Neelapala
Lockheed Martin
Washington, DC

A BIM, as you have found out, is not just a CADD or CAFM program interlinked with a database. It’s a system used to allow interoperability between the planners, designers, and builders.

Here’s a great definition from Wikipedia: “BIM covers geometry, spatial relationships, light analysis, geographic information, quantities, and properties of building components (for example manufacturers’ details). It can be used to demonstrate the entire building life cycle including the processes of construction and facility operation. Quantities and shared properties of materials can easily be extracted. Scopes of work can be isolated and defined. Systems, assemblies, and sequences are able to be shown in a relative scale with the entire facility or group of facilities.

“BIM is a process which goes far beyond switching to a new software. It requires changes to the definition of traditional architectural phases and more data sharing than most architects and engineers typically encounter.

“BIM is able to achieve such improvements by modeling representations of the actual parts and pieces being used to build a building. This is a substantial shift from the traditional CAD method of drawing with vector file based lines that combine to represent objects.

“The interoperability requirements of construction documents include the drawings, procurement details, environmental conditions, submittal processes, and other specifications for building quality. It is anticipated by proponents that BIM can be used to bridge the information loss associated with handing a project from design team to construction team and to building owner/operator by allowing each group to add to—and reference back to—all information they acquire during their period of contribution to the BIM model.

“For example, a building owner or facility engineer may find evidence of a leak in the building. Rather than exploring the physical building, he or she may refer to BIM to see that a water valve is located in the suspect location. Building professionals could also have access to more detailed model information, including the specific valve size, manufacturer, part number, and any other data ever researched in the past, dependent on adequate computing power.

“There have been attempts at creating a BIM for older, pre-existing facilities. They generally reference key metrics such as the Facility Condition Index, or FCI. The validity of these models will need to be monitored over time, because trying to model a building constructed in, say 1927, requires numerous assumptions about design standards, building codes, construction methods, materials, etc., and therefore is far more complex than building a BIM at time of initial design.

“The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has further defined BIM as ‘a model based technology linked with a database of project information,’ reflecting the general reliance on database technology as the foundation. In the future, structured text documents such as specifications may be able to be searched and linked to regional, national, and international standards.”

A great report on BIM has been published by McGraw Hill Construction. I think you will find this free report helpful. More information on software interoperability is available from another free download courtesy of the National BIM Standard. You can download the PDF here.

All questions have been submitted via the “Ask The Expert” portion of the magazine’s Web site. To pose a question, visit this link.