The paradigm shift: bringing BIM technology to FM
While the concept of Building Information Modelling (BIM) is not new in design and construction, 3D BIM technology is starting to gain traction in facility management (FM) providing real benefits to asset owners and operators over the long-term.
BIM is a three-dimensional model-based concept that provides a shared knowledge resource linked to a 3D visualisation of a facility, integrating information and activities across the entire life cycle of an asset. With a proven return on investment in design and construction, BIM has revolutionised the way that buildings are constructed, aptly summed up by the old adage ‘measure twice, cut once’.
From basic asset operations and maintenance, to high level and strategic decision-making, 3D BIM-based technology is starting to hit the top of the agendas for facility managers under increasing pressure to stretch their budgets while further improving the performance and life of their assets.
Asset owners are no longer just requiring their FM personnel to ‘do more with less’, but rather are seeking innovative strategies backed by new technologies to deliver results. Specifically, traditional processes are being unravelled by BIM-based technology, resulting in manual, paper-based processes being replaced by software that thrusts an asset into a 3D, cloud-based and mobile world.
Whether small or large in size, public or private, a new or existing build, BIM is said to be a catalyst for change and it seems all assets will inevitably be exposed to this paradigm shift of BIM in FM.
BIM and new assets
Collaboration has always been a challenge for the construction industry. The supply chain consists of multiple parties in different locations using different systems, resulting in duplication, errors and delays.
Removing the ‘disconnect’ between the information gathered during design and construction and the information used in managing a facility is vital if the end goal is a sustainable asset that will yield a stronger bottom line for owners/shareholders. BIM is the solution.
One of the most exciting full life cycle BIM projects in Australia is the new Royal Adelaide Hospital (nRAH), a $1.8 billion world-class 800-bed healthcare facility in South Australia.
The nRAH is part of SA Health’s broader health reform and the state’s patient-centred Model of Care – with a focus on delivering better, more efficient care for all South Australians. In line with this, the project is utilising 3D BIM in the initial design and construction phases and will continue to do so in the ongoing management of the facility.
Deployed in the cloud, the 3D BIM software we developed is currently in use daily by over 200 subcontractors as the central repository for all project documentation, as well as the primary tracking and control platform for the Hansen Yuncken/Leighton BIM team. The highly anticipated project has been described by McGraw-Hill Construction as “the most advanced and innovative application of BIM on any project on the planet”.
Full life cycle BIM seeks to ensure that all of this critical asset information required for ongoing operations – such as schematics, drawings, specifications, certificates and O&M (operations and maintenance) manuals – is captured, stored and easily accessible during the full life of the facility.
Technology is certainly proving to be the backbone of the nRAH BIM project and will continue to be for the life of the asset, providing an excellent example for the FM sector in Australia, which is yet to see a full life cycle BIM project of this scale.
BIM and existing assets
With the ever-increasing focus on improving the performance and life of assets, attention is moving to the existing built environment, specifically the viability of ‘retrofitting’ BIM to existing buildings and infrastructure.
A good case in point is the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA), which has implemented a 3D-based BIM solution to supersede its manual and paper-based processes for the inspection, maintenance and remedial work of the Pyrmont Bridge, a Heritage landmark built in 1901.
Prior to the implementation of the software, bridge inspectors would undertake the annual condition assessment of the 7500 structural components over three to four weeks with clipboards and digital cameras in hand. Back in the office, notes would be transcribed and information compiled and various other reports would be generated, which would take upwards of three months.
Now, a cloud-based 3D BIM solution sees bridge inspectors armed with iPad minis and the mobile inspection app, which ensures the data entered is automatically synced with the 3D model.
Live since March 2015, the implementation of BIM is now providing the SHFA with mobility in the field, 3D visualisation, a single point of truth for data storage, digital work order processing and intuitive reporting. The efficiencies around data capture, storage and retrieval were evident immediately with the ability to visualise, analyse and report on the results instantaneously and roll key data into the maintenance and capital programs providing a significant advantage.
3D modelling for BIM in FM
For the existing built environment where no 3D model exists, one needs to be created. However, the business case needs to stack up; i.e. the economics in doing this need to work (benefits versus cost).
So while 3D visualisation is a key component of a BIM solution, it is unnecessary to have a fully detailed, as-built (LOD500) model for FM purposes. The time and expense to commission such a model simply cannot be justified.
Generating a more basic 3D model, containing rooms, spaces and major pieces of plant only, is cost-effective and, depending on the BIM solution, can be utilised just as readily as a more detailed model. That being said, the model can be supplemented over time with greater detail as required.
Any element of technological and procedural change for asset owners and operators is going to require an investment of time and money. The pursuit of a more sustainable asset that supports a better return for shareholders/owners, however, can only be won with the adoption of BIM.
Its ability to significantly change and improve performance and documentation by reducing inefficiencies, enhancing productivity and increasing collaboration and communication is well-documented and cannot be ignored. Its implementation needs to be carefully considered, however, and partnering with experienced organisations is crucial for both the adoption of BIM and the acceptance of supporting 3D technologies.
Jason Lilienstein is the CEO of Zuuse, having previously worked in a variety of software and emerging technology businesses, including ABB Ventyx, eServGlobal Limited and Onthehouse. His background in enterprise asset management and data has enabled him to help drive Zuuse from being a traditional BIM application to a full asset life cycle solution utilising 3D visualisation, mobility and information management.