Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology is changing the way buildings are designed and built but having less of an impact on their operation and maintenance. This despite the facts that 90% of a building’s life cycle cost, and thus one could say 90% of its opportunity cost, occur after construction is complete; and that BIM, when used correctly, delivers significant life cycle cost and operational benefits. As beneficial as it may be, however, facility management (FM) as a whole has been slow to adopt BIM.
There are many reasons BIM is struggling to gain traction in FM, most of which are related to the overall business climate or long engrained business practices. For starters, “doing BIM right” requires an investment in technology and talent. Even with BIM’s typically short ROI and long term leverage it has been a tough road to gain needed investment approvals in many instances. Without a full appreciation of BIM’s advantages FM’s are often unprepared to make a compelling case for the required investment. From one FM’s perspective, here are actions FM can take to inform itself and speed the adoption of BIM:
- Understanding the full breadth and depth of the BIM advantage will position FM as an intelligent partner. Being better informed will not only allow us to make a stronger case for BIM but will also increase the actual benefit yield as a result of knowledgeable implementation and use of the technology.
- Acquiring BIM talent, including data management expertise will allow us to take full advantage now and throughout the building life cycle.
- Recognizing that BIM is a long view activity helps establish a culture that recognizes the validity of long term investment in talent and processes, and the reality of long term returns. BIM is not something you do once – data must be kept current as the building lives its life. As-Built documents become less and less relevant over time. Keeping the BIM model current as changes occur, however, enables real time information on real time conditions.
- Viewing BIM as an operational tool rather than only a design and construction tool opens the way to leveraging its advantages across the operational spectrum. Instant access to equipment and system documentation, life cycle cost planning, replacement specifications, and modeling energy efficiency in conjunction with business process operations are just a few of BIM’s operational advantages.
- Designing business processes to maximize BIM benefit may be required in some organizations, especially those with strict linear design-bid-build contracting rules. Such rules inhibit 360 degree stakeholder involvement that encourages collaboration across the project enterprise, and robs the organization of the time, quality and cost benefits the strategic alliances that BIM fosters. Ironically, public entities including higher education and government, i.e. those with the largest projects and highest fiduciary responsibilities, and therefore the most transparency and oversight, are among the earliest adopters and strongest champions.
- Don’t wait for your next mega project to start taking advantage of the technology. A good example of this strategy is the U.S. Coast Guard. Unable to redesign every structure in BIM they never the less decreed BIM as the standard for all new projects, regardless of size. By creating a BIM record for each installation and designing all new projects in BIM they have ensured that over time they will develop the culture and data required to take full advantage. At that scale the advantage is large indeed.
- Lead the dialogue in your organization about the advantages of BIM and why adopting it makes good business sense. Learn the numbers and the story and be able to talk about the technology in the bottom line manner that the C-suite listens to.
The AEC community is rapidly adopting BIM as a de facto standard because they know the competitive advantages it offers. It is time that FM joined the party, influencing corporate leaders and becoming a full partner in the process.