What do the academics in architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) think about the benefits, best practices, and challenges of repurposing design and construction data for operations and maintenance? Does BIM for FM pass with flying colors? Or is there room for improvement? Most important: For facility and maintenance managers, what are the highlights and where are the crib notes?
Just like the industries it studies, the academic consensus on BIM for FM has evolved over time. That said, there are some important constants.
Academics have always agreed that BIM for FM can deliver many benefits.
Even in earlier papers, back when there were fewer success stories, researchers believed that building information modeling (BIM) for facility management (FM) held a lot of promise. They didn’t have a lot of specific numbers, but they understood the sound logic.
For example, in “Building Information Modeling (BIM) for Facilities Management – Literature Review and Future Needs,” Mehmet Yalcinkaya and Vishal Singh lay out the reasons why stakeholders benefit from BIM for FM.
“The operation and maintenance phase of a construction project is the main trigger that increases the total life-cycle cost. Studies show that the total life-cycle cost of a project is five to seven times higher than the initial investment costs and three times higher than the construction cost.”
Anything you can do to cut operating and maintenance costs has an outsize effect on your total costs, and “BIM, with its visualization, interoperability and information exchange capabilities, can streamline FM activities.”
Benefits of BIM for FM
In BIM for facilities management: A framework and a common data environment using open standards, Mohamad Kassem lists ways you could get smoother operations and maintenance with better data, including improvements to:
- Information handover between life cycle phases
- Facility management and compliance data
- Work order execution and tracking
- Fault reporting and prioritization
- Scenario planning for refurbishment and renovation
So, even though some of the earlier papers prefaced their work with an explanation that there was not a lot of existing academic literature on the specific topic, they all agreed that there were real benefits to BIM for FM. It just made sense.
More current research focuses on BIM for FM implementation
Although academics can clearly see the benefits, they’re also aware of the work required to achieve them. According to Kassem, organizations need to find solutions to “… the interoperability between BIM and FM technologies, the presence of disparate operational systems managing the same building, and finally, the shortage of BIM skills in the FM industry.”
Mehmet Yalcinkaya and Vishal Singh come to some of the same conclusions, then add some of their own, including a lack of:
- Clearly identified roles and responsibilities
- As-built information with BIM and FM technologies
- Open information exchange frameworks such as COBie
The good news is that many academics agree on some of the solutions. The sooner you include facility managers in the process, the better. And a big part of involving them is finding out what sorts of information they need and how they are going to use it for operations and maintenance.
According to a recent literature review, where the authors completed a meta-analysis of existing research, “The results of the survey of FM professionals (with 57 complete responses) reveal that the single most important issue is the lack of FM involvement in project phases when BIM is evolving.”
And in “BIM for FM Developing Information Requirements to Support Facilities Management Systems” by Sandra T. Matarneh and others, the authors reference just some of the research on why FMs are critical early in the process: “Mayo and Issa (2016) concluded that the successful implementation of BIM in FM entails the owners’ and FM teams’ early involvement during the design stage, to include their information requirements and ensure their delivery at the handover stage.
Liu and Issa (2016) highlighted the importance of identifying the required information for FM activities and defining the required level of detail.”
Unless your FMs are there from the beginning, it’s hard to know what information they need and how best to get it to them. In fact, in her paper Matarneh develops a working standard for the types of information required for BIM for FM. In the end, she identifies 39 information types that are then grouped into general facility information and four types of management information for:
Others have also tried to create information standards. For example, João Patacas, Nashwan Dawood, and Mohamad Kassem in “BIM or Facilities Management: A Framework And A Common Data Environment Using Open Standards” suggest the need for a common data environment (CDE) for “(1) the delivery of information models (i.e. Asset Information Models) from distributed data sources; (2) the validation of these information models against the requirements; and (3) the use of their information in facilities management (e.g. operation and maintenance).” They conclude their paper with the claim that it is possible to create an effective CDE using “ … existing technologies.”
BIM for FM industry leaders agree with the academics
Current academic research highlights the need to involve FMs early and think carefully about the types of data they need in the operations and maintenance phases of the life cycle.
Industry leaders agree, and they have proven progress on these exact fronts.
When it comes to process, Eptura partner Autodesk has long advocated the need for organizations to center operations and maintenance teams when implementing BIM for FM.
In fact, in the webinar Leverage BIM to Unlock Facility and Asset Data, Chuck Mies, LEED A.P., Assoc. AIA of Autodesk, and a pioneer in BIM for FM, asks, “If we don’t understand who the final consumers are, what problem are we trying to solve?” His advice: an important part of the process is thinking about the data’s end user, and that can start with the development of user personas.
Start by asking yourself three critical questions about the people set to use the BIM data for operations and maintenance:
- Who are they and what do they do?
- What are their main, overall goals?
- What is preventing them from reaching these goals?
Solid answers here help you determine what data they need and how best to get it to them.
And when it comes to technology, Autodesk has software solutions with a growing suite of features to streamline and strengthen the connections between BIM data and facility and maintenance management platforms. A quick glance at past and upcoming events for Autodesk University gives you a solid sense of the industry’s overall maturity.
In Managing Space, Assets, and Maintenance through BIM to FM, Nick Stefanidakis and Gigi Gonzales explain “how to extend the usability of AutoCAD drawings and Revit models designed for construction, to easily flow hundreds of spaces and assets to FM management software and begin getting immediate results.”
And in a recent talk, Stefanidakis explains specific BIM for FM case studies highlighting the power and potential of BIM for FM, including how Czech financial organization CSOB doubled the accuracy of their estimates through a better data strategy, and how Sied, a utility company, created digital twins of their facilities to streamline maintenance and simplify compliance.
From the beginning, researchers have agreed that the idea of taking data generated in the design and construction phases and modifying it for operations and maintenance would deliver solid benefits for facility and maintenance managers, from improved handover processes to work order tracking.
Currently, the consensus is that for BIM for FM to work, organizations need to bring facility managers into the process as early as possible and leverage the right sets of technologies. Industry leaders outside of academia agree. They’ve long advocated specific steps you can take to involve FMs in the process and developed software solutions that make implementation smoother, stronger.