What happens to Building Information Models once design and construction are complete? Owners are using the BIMs to manage facilities whether it is for Facilities Management (FM) and for Space Management (SM). The ideal is to use the models in facility operations as is. However this is rarely the case. The more complex the building the less likely the BIMs are used directly in operations. The models delivered by Designers and Contractors require work in order for the Owner to use them. In addition, subcontractors often do not use the same software as the Designer. There is a disconnect between the data of the design model and the accuracy of the subcontractors’ models.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is typically used by Architects and Engineers (Designers). Designers create BIMs which represent the design intent of the Owner. The Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP) and other building system BIMs allow the Designers to perform engineering calculations such as air flow, fluid flow, and power consumption. Structural engineers perform engineering calculations and analysis using the structural models. The architect performs lighting, energy, and space analysis. Interior designers create furnishings and finishes models. The Architect may use the models in virtual and augmented reality VR/AR to immerse the Owner in the design. Realistic finishes and materials in the model for floors, walls, and furnishings show the Owner their spaces avoiding expensive physical mock-ups. Quantities can quickly be calculated for materials such as steel, concrete, carpet, tile, sheet rock, for estimates. However, these models represent the design intent. The Contractors’ models represent what will be constructed.
BIM used by the construction team is referred as Virtual Design and Construction (VDC). The Contractor uses the architectural BIM as a background with the subcontractor’s structural model merged in. From there, the subcontractors create their coordination models. The software used by the subcontractors often differs from the BIM software used by the Designers and hence the subcontractors start their models from scratch. The Designers’ BIM software typically does not have the fabrication features needed by subcontractors. The subcontractor software produces coordination models and shop, manufacturing and installation drawings for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, building automation and other systems. These models differ from the Designers’ models in they contain objects modeled based on approved submittals and code required items such as junction boxes for electrical runs. The subcontractor adds supports and personnel access zones for maintenance. The additional details result in inter-system collisions forcing the systems to be adjusted and thus differing from the physical design intent models. In addition, the subcontractor models can provide information for laying out the systems and walls via total stations. Finally, the Contractor can also use VR/AR to immerse their team into the project. This is helpful for complex areas and envisioning the end result of an installation or how to tie into existing systems.
Owners desire the data of the Designers’ BIMs and the accuracy of the Contractor’s VDC models. There are several ways this can be achieved but several factors impact the process such as contracting methods. The ideal approach is Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) where the Owner, Designer, and Contractor are all considered one team and collectively using common models. Regardless of the contracting method, an Owner will have a FM model and a SM model. The use of these models must be clearly conveyed to the Designers and Contractors. Level of Development (LOD) specifies reliability of model components during design and construction. Owners must review all disciplines of the model and specify the LOD for each discipline and often down to the individual object level and decide which LOD applies. Additionally, decisions are needed such as should individual maintenance items be modeled or should they be part of an assembly. Items such as filters can be part of an assembly but called out in the assembly’s data such as size. Exploded drawings are often included in manuals that will show the location of the filter. The Owner must think through the economies of drawings and information versus including items in a model.
Owners must define the data required as well. The Owner can itemize all maintainable equipment in building systems and specify the data required for each component. Or, the Owner can use specifications such as the Construction-Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) specification which specifies the delivery of information for facility managers. Some BIM software includes COBie export features. Regardless of how the data is listed, the end users of the data such as technicians must be consulted for input on data needs. Questions the technicians can answer include, “Should data be listed in fields where it is readily accessible or should it be left in an Operations & Maintenance (O&M) manual PDF?” and “How much information is too much or not enough?” Next, the Owner must have methods for maintaining the models as some facilities are frequently renovated. The renovation Designer will produce revised models but the Owner must merge these with their models often requiring cleanup where the two are merged. Finally, if a computerized maintenance and management system (CMMS) or integrated workspace management system (IWMS) is tied to the model then links to data may break and new links may need to be added.
Since the majority of MEP subcontractors use a 3D CAD based software the FM model development may start with the Designer’s models aligned and modified to match the subcontractor 3D CAD based coordination models. The subcontractors’ models can be exported to the Industry Foundation Class (IFC) format but the objects in the subcontractor models lack capabilities to store data required by the FM model. The IFC format is the predominant non-proprietary BIM format. However, BIM is still limited by an agreed upon standard open file format. Thus, aligning the data rich Designer’s model with the subcontractors’ coordination models makes the most sense.
Facilities are often coordinated based on the construction schedule. The building may be coordinated by floors or areas of floors. Therefore, the FM model has to be completed in a similar fashion. Depending upon the construction process bar/QR codes, especially for above ceiling equipment, have to be placed on equipment prior to ceiling grid installation. This means the FM model must be started immediately upon completion of the Contractor’s coordination process and completed prior to the ceiling grid installation.
Once the FM model is complete it is then uploaded into the CMMS. The CMMS is web or cloud based and will have mobile device capability. Bar/QR codes are added to maintenance components, scanned, and assigned to the corresponding components in the model. Basic data can be derived from the model as fields in the CMMS. Additional fields and data can be added to the CMMS as well. O&M manuals, submittals, photos, drawings, and training videos can be uploaded to the CMMS. A ticketing system is included for corrective maintenance such as equipment repairs. The CMMS also provides scheduled preventive maintenance reminders such as filter changes. Reflecting COVID-19 concerns some ticketing systems now include segments specifically for cleaning areas and maintaining hand sanitizing stations. Indoor mapping is also available to locate assets and give one directions and the quickest route to the assets. Beacons can be added to assets to help locate them if they are misplaced such as ladders and tool boxes or in healthcare wheel chairs and cribs.
Owners also use a Space Management (SM) model. The SM uses the Designers’ architectural BIM as a background. Superfluous details (dimensions, callouts, notes, etc.) are removed to make the model cleaner and lighter. Like the FM model, basic data is derived from the SM such as room names and numbers, square footages, and door numbers. The model is linked and the graphics exported to an Integrated Workspace Management System (IWMS). Additional data may be added in the IWMS such as room categories and types, division and department codes, and personnel assignments. Company standards can be imposed on the system. For example, if only directors and above are allowed offices the IWMS can flag non-director and above employees who are assigned offices. Doors, door types, and locksets can all be tracked. Network infrastructure from a jack back to a server can be traced. Or, select a server and see all jacks assigned to it. Some IWMS also have FM, real estate, security, and move management modules truly making the system integrated across multiple areas. Specialized calculations and reporting can be developed. Annual reports to the government on department space uses and area changes are based on custom backend calculations. Modules managing inventory allow end of service and depreciation reports. Other features include finding employees’ spaces, finding individual rooms, finding all spaces that belong to a department, listing all departments for a given floor, etc.
Like the CMMS, mobile devices can access the IWMS. This is very handy for space surveys where carrying paper drawings can be messy and unwieldy. Department and personnel assignments, space numbers, and space locations are verified on the mobile devices. Bar/QR codes are placed on door frames and when scanned the space is quickly accessed. Bar/QR codes are also placed on major furnishings, for example, in healthcare a patient recliner or other furnishings may be moved to storage waiting for service. These furnishings may be forgotten but one can scan the bar/QR code, find out where the furnishing belongs, and/or the status of a maintenance ticket. With the advent of teleworking, occasionally the teleworker must come to the office and work. IWMS’s have the ability to find open workspaces. A worker can open the app on their phone and reserve a workspace or the app can show in real time open workstations via occupancy sensors.
The Owner must have a plan in place to maintain the models. Large organizations need BIM managers to maintain the models and the associated applications. This is an additional overhead expense and not all Owners can afford to have another full time employee (FTE) on staff. However, trying to manage third parties to do the work can be a full time job in itself. The Owner’s BIM managers must be as much a database manager as an architect or engineer. The BIM manager and facilities team need to work together to develop BIM standards and requirements. Additionally, input from the Designers and Contractors should be sought for feasibility.
The future for Owners are Digital Twins – the next step in the progression of BIM for Owners. The digital twin uses IoT, sensors, machine learning, AI and other analytics to keep data current. As can be imagined, there are a multitude of uses for the digital twin including real time reporting, remote control of assets, and historical performance comparisons. The digital twin can tie to an IWMS and CMMS where the data is bi-directional. Seeing the digital twin as the future, the leading design software manufacturer has announced of a digital twin application. As technology advances the digital twin may replace the IWMS and CMMS as one source of all data.