For design, planning, and construction, the focus is on going green, with the market for sustainable buildings set to grow to 1312.12 billion by 2030. Architects design structures that blend into the environment. Planners look for materials from renewable sources, and construction teams worry about their carbon footprint. But what about facility managers? How can they keep the green going once the building is in operations and maintenance?

By leveraging BIM for FM, they can both make the most of existing sustainable elements while introducing new ones.  

Working definition of BIM for FM 

BIM for FM is the process of adapting existing investments in data from the design, planning, and construction phases for operations and maintenance. Instead of the facility manager restarting from zero when the facility opens, they already have access to comprehensive data on all the assets and equipment inside their enterprise asset management (EAM) solution.

From there, they can run daily operations, including setting up and scheduling their maintenance programs.  

Solid understanding of sustainability 

According to the Global Design Research Center, a sustainable facility can “conserve energy, resources, and recycling materials and reduce the amounts of hazardous substances to which human and other organisms are exposed.” 

Here, sustainability means being careful about what goes into a building and what comes out. In terms of inputs, you want to make sure you’re using the smallest amounts possible of both renewable and non-renewable resources like power and water. All systems are efficient, and where possible, they include internal recycling.

For example, you can add aerators to all your faucets and then redirect office breakroom grey water to landscaping. For outputs, a sustainable facility has, for example, comprehensive recycling programs and filters to scrub any emissions. 

Why is sustainability for facilities important? According to the World Economic Forum, buildings consume 40% of global energy and produce 33% of greenhouse gas emissions. Facilities are the cornerstone of a sustainable future. 

Use cases for BIM for FM and sustainability 

There’s a built-in connection between BIM for FM and sustainability. With both, you’re making investments upfront so you can run more efficiently later. With BIM for FM, you take the data from earlier life cycle stages to reduce waste and cut costs in operations and maintenance. With sustainability, you might install solar panels now for smaller electric bills later. 

Using BIM for sustainability should involve a multi-prong approach. The more places you can find to employ the strategy, the better. 

Cut energy costs with BIM for FM 

There’s a lot you can do with BIM during design to lower the electricity bill. For example, you can look at building orientation and envelope leakage to find where you could be using less energy. You can also model different ways to use sunlight to lower your dependence on lighting without increasing solar heat gain. Done right, the facility manager doesn’t have to run the lights or the AC as often. 

But that’s all before the operations and maintenance phases. With BIM for FM, you can find even more ways to use less energy. The BIM data you’ve adapted to use in your facility management software solution includes a complete asset register, a list of all the assets and equipment in the facility with all their maintenance and repair histories, schematics, and OEM manuals.

Once you know which assets are the most “power hungry,” you can set up targeted preventive maintenance schedules to ensure everything is running as efficiently as possible.  

You can also use this data to start thinking about your older assets and equipment. Even if they’re still reliable, there might be more energy-efficient options available. For example, you might be able to find better options for everything from breakroom appliances to HVAC systems.       

Reduce, reuse, and recycle even more 

Can you recycle pizza boxes? Coffee pods? The plastic in your printer toner cartridges?  

One of the big challenges with recycling programs is knowing what to include. With BIM for FM, you have comprehensive lists of what’s in the facility, from the types of fluorescent tubes to the sizes of the batteries in the emergency flashlights, making it much easier to find all the products you should be directing away from the landfill.

It also helps you find places where you should be changing vendors or products. If you’re running lights that you can’t recycle, you can quickly see the costs connected to switching to a more environmentally friendly option. 

Choose better ways to renovate and replace 

By choosing materials more carefully, you can reduce waste. Early in the process, you can use BIM data to ensure your construction materials are coming from renewable sources. Need to check where the lumber is sourced? All that information is inside the building model.

At the construction phase, BIM delivers clash detection much earlier and more reliably than old manual methods, so you don’t have to worry about getting halfway through framing a wall before you realize it’s in the wrong spot in the plans. 

Clash detection is also available later in the life cycle when you need to renovate, repurpose, or add an extension to the existing facility. For example, the designs for the new breakroom might call for moving the sink to the other side of the room. If you know that the wall is full of air ducts before you start the demos, you can save a lot of construction materials. 

Get the most for the least with preventive maintenance 

We often only think about the financial costs of downtime, but there are environmental costs, too. Need to replace a part because a poorly maintained asset broke? Someone had to manufacture and ship it, using water, power, and non-renewable resources at every step.

The fewer parts you need, the better it is for the environment. Avoiding breakdowns is only part of it. When you properly maintain your assets and equipment, they use fewer resources overall. A tuned engine burns less gas, required less oil. A looked-after AC unit needs less power.  


BIM for FM helps you leverage earlier investments in data for the later operations and main phases of the facility life cycle. Facility managers can use the comprehensive facility, asset, and equipment data inside a dedicated EAM solution to gain visibility and take control. You can leverage the power of BIM for FM for sustainability.

For example, you can target the assets that use the most power for additional preventive maintenance or replacement. For recycling, the comprehensive lists of assets and equipment help you find what you can recycle. For renovations, you can use the BIM clash detection to catch issues earlier, before you waste materials.    

About the author

Jonathan Davis

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