BIM for Facility Management
Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been an industry term for years and is now well entrenched in the Architecture/Construction world psyche. At its core is a way to share data through the lifecycle of the built environment, without rekeying it, which translates to the holy grail of the facility management world: useable data directly from the building plans. At a quick glance, it appears to be the perfect solution, but as with any solution, it requires planning and dedication to the end goal to make it work.
The key fact to grasp here is the ability share data. In order for that data to be useful, you need to understand the following
- What BIM data is going to be used?
- How is that BIM data going to be used?
- Who is going to use it?
Most BIM models include thousands of objects, all of which can carry tens, or hundreds of fields of data. At each stage of the building model’s life, different data is going to be needed by different people (architect, construction supervisor, facility manager); while some of the data will be used by all groups, most will only use a subset. Also consider that while one group may find the organization of the data more useful in a granular form (office chair, stacking chair, reception chair), another group might only care for the data to be grouped as chairs – or have no use for that particular data at all. The key to making the data useful is to understand how/if the data will be used by each person in each phase of the building model’s life – and to understand this right from the start of the project.
Once you understand the data use, you need to apply a basic data concept: consistency. Much like a CAD Standard is to a drawing/model, data consistency is key in making the data useable. Naming conventions become critical, perhaps all chairs are prefixed with the word chair so the objects from the model group appropriately. Data fields attached to the objects need to have meaningful, consistent names even between objects. Lastly and possibly most importantly, the data needs to be filled out consistently. If you fill out the model field on and object, it really should be filled out on all the objects (especially if they are of the same type, as in the chairs example). Nothing makes the data less trusted than having it included in one object but not in another. It causes the person using the data to doubt its accuracy and therefore its validity.
The BIM model is a useful and powerful tool in the right hands, but just like any tool, with the level of flexibility offered in the BIM model, it takes time, effort and, yes, additional work to get something that can pass from design, construction, then to facilities management and be useful to each of those stakeholders. If you can’t invest the time and effort needed to understand the end goal and consistently apply naming and data standards to your model, then the promise of the BIM model as it applies to use in facilities management will never be realized.