Integrating BIM

Integration with BIM is firmly on the agenda for virtually every FM team dealing with major refurbishments or construction projects.  Jacqueline Walpole, Company Product Manager at FSI, Concept Evolution web-CAFM developers, discusses with PFM magazine.

At the Government Soft Landings conference in April, there was a noticeable explosion of interest among public bodies regarding BIM. Of course, the demand for tighter integration with FM is partly being driven by governance: BIM will be mandatory for all publically funded construction projects by 2016; and partly fuelled by the launch of British Standards Institute's PAS1192-3 which outlines the processes of information management for the operational phase of assets using BIM.

Jacqueline Walpole, company product manager for FSI, says it's equally clear this interest is also being driven by an understanding of more wide-ranging business benefits. The collaborative aspects of BIM for FM allow eventual building operators to engage with and influence the design process from the earliest stages of the project - long before ground has been broken or a single slab laid. And now, this realisation is triggering a surge of interest
in the private sector, a pattern that is being repeated in the Middle East and Australasia.

"There are strong parallels with the impact CAD had on the construction industry in the 1990s," says Walpole. "BIM allows you to plan construction virtually, forecasting material and labour requirements more accurately - and assessing the impact of altering elements of the project, from repositioning walls to planning the best route for ducting or plumbing. It also allows you to carry out 3D simulations to determine how the space will work, when you apply to the original plans."

It's an excellent clash detection tool, says Walpole. It allows installers to make mistakes on the computer screen rather than ending up with poor configuration of pipes or cabling. Ensuring the accessibility of mechanical plant for maintenance - often positioned in awkward locations - pre-construction can be a BIM-enabled revelation.

"But it doesn't apply only to mechanical & electrical plant," says Walpole. "If FM service providers can see the designs for washrooms they can influence choices according to the processes that cleaners will need to follow. Skanska's demonstration of a walk-through project at the GSL conference, using a virtual reality headset, left no-one in any doubt about the benefits of turning BIM into an immersive experience.

The industry is rapidly building a compelling range of examples that showcase the benefits of applying BIM to existing buildings as well as fresh projects, including greater efficiency and a rapid ROI. "Some building operators are achieving significant time-savings on both reactive and PPM tasks by implementing BIM in established CAFM environments - simply because people have access to better and more accurate information in real time."

"When you consider the construction phase is less than 10% of a building's life, it makes sense more construction firms and operators are seeing the predictive value in BIM for enabling savings and efficiencies throughout, rather than focusing on the frontend of the project, in a new light."

The advent of new standards such as BS 8544 and ISO 55000 relating to asset management and lifecycle costing in the maintenance and the operational phase of the building is driving demand for more integrated CAFM-held data as part of an Asset Information Model (AIM). 

"CAFM vendors are responding to this focus on total cost of ownership (TCO) over capex by allowing earlier mobilisation of CAFM data from a BIM," says Walpole. "It's a natural extension for leading vendors' proven real-time workflow-based ability to integrate CAFM with finance, BMS and other core business systems."

While CAFM developers are ensuring that COBie (Construction Operations Buildings Information Exchange) data published from a BIM in an Excel spreadsheet or xml data can be consumed easily, they're also focusing on direct two-way synchronisation and also educating the supply chain on how to set up and tag data in a BIM for a smoother transition into their systems.

"Once in the CAFM system, it can ensure post-occupancy evaluation (POE) analysis is calculated from empirical data and can become a key ally in the ongoing quest for managing energy consumption and sustainability."