BIM: The Great FM Divide
BIM is rapidly picking up momentum across Australia and New Zealand; already established in the design and construction stages and growing into the operational phase where facility managers are seeing the benefits.
BIM is revolutionising FM by providing an uninterrupted flow of knowledge across the building’s lifecycle. Details such as floorplans, asset location, materials, warranty information, serial numbers, systems and assemblies, and components are readily accessible from 2D and 3D models. Having this level of detail at one’s fingertips provides a great advantage and removes the hours of investigation or even guesswork normally required to keep the building running efficiently.
Some may not have yet adopted BIM due to concerns over training and time constraints, yet at the same time there is a real danger of those not jumping on board getting left behind as their competition reaps the advantages.
A better way
Using BIM, the FM team can easily access information such as building materials, asset information and of course, see the locations of anything in the facility on a 2D or 3D model. This is a great time saver as an engineer called out to a job can use BIM to see where the job is, access relevant digital manuals and documentation, see what parts might be needed, confirm if they are in stock, and check if there are any access restrictions for which a permit or special training is required.
Yet despite the proven benefits, some may still feel hesitant to implement BIM. Lack of in-house skills and training are often cited as the main barriers, but for the FM industry, technology is evolving at a rapid pace to overcome this. Where spreadsheets were previously common for FM tasks, computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS) have become more popular due to their security, ability to make time consuming tasks like reporting and workload scheduling quicker, and the user-friendly interface which reduces the amount of training required.
CMMS is unlocking BIM for facility managers in the same way by bridging the gap between the raw BIM data and complex data models.
Traditionally, 3D models created in computer-aided design (CAD) software required specialist skills, not common with FM professionals. The two-way integration of BIM and CMMS software allows updates to building properties or assets to be easily made from either the asset database or directly on the BIM model.
Considering the digital, visual nature of BIM, it’s hardly surprising to see its close partnership with virtual reality (VR). Over time, the cost of VR solutions has reduced and technology advancements have made it more accessible to FM. For example, CMMS and BIM vendor Service Works Global (SWG) offers a simple cardboard headset and mobile phone system, which allows users to take a virtual tour of a building. They can ‘walk’ around the room, through doors and look in any direction as if they are physically there. VR BIM provides significant benefits for landlords and property owners who can use it to show their facility to potential tenants, or it can be used by FM teams to view remote sites in detail. VR BIM can also help with project or business case sign-off, for example to gain approval for a new extension by giving the Board a better understanding of the benefits or even the changes that need making – which can be difficult to visualise on a 2D floor plan.
At a maintenance level, engineers can use mixed reality devices that overlay virtual data onto real physical assets. For example, when looking at a wall, the engineer can see where wiring and pipework lies to avoid damage which greatly reduces the time spent on each job as well as accidents. Devices such as these can even project instructions to help engineers accurately repair unfamiliar assets.
For those buildings that pre-date BIM, it is not too late to benefit from BIM services. 2D and 3D models can be created retrospectively and asset data added to form a BIM model. Buildings are scanned with a laser, or pictures can be taken using cameras or a drone. A point cloud is created from this data which is then used to create a realistic scale model. This shows correct dimensions of all the rooms and areas within, which can be colour coded according to requirements, such as with their function, who is renting them, or what standard they must be upheld to (for example, the level of cleanliness required for different hospital rooms). A CMMS system such as QFM is then integrated to provide connection with an asset database, which provides the remaining information required for the BIM model.
Time for change
With limited budgets and high pressure to perform, FM can sometimes be a risk averse, ‘wait and see’ industry. But with the government’s support of BIM and digital twins, FMs are gaining a better understanding of what the future holds for them.
It is now easier than ever to use the required tools, thanks to integration with CMMS providing a familiar platform on which to make updates and view the models. 25 years ago, the FM industry was managing its facilities on spreadsheets and paper until CMMS software revolutionised this process. The same is now happening with BIM, and those not planning to incorporate this process into their organisations risk finding themselves lagging behind the competition.