The Met Office

A triumvirate of The Met Office (client), Stride Treglown (architect/BIM consultant) and FSI (CAFM provider) have broken new ground in the delivery of a BIM Level 2 compliant construction project into a CAFM system at the Met Office’s new Data Centre.

They have exploited not only the time and cost savings of mobilising CAFM from BIM data, but are seeing tangible benefits from using rich BIM data in practical FM operations.

However an even bigger prize for the client is the impact this development can now have on the entire Met Office estate.

FSI’s Paul Durant elaborates...

The UK Met Office is one of the world’s leading weather forecasting and climate research organisations. Its recently opened new £20m Met Office Complex at the Exeter Science Park in Exeter houses part of its £97m supercomputer and an office and collaboration space for industry and academia. This award-winning complex (Construction News Project of the Year 2017) was designed, built and delivered fully compliant to BIM Level 2.

As with many BIM construction projects the challenge was how to capitalise on the rich data and structure provided by the BIM models after project completion and handover to the FM operations team.

“The story behind this BIM/CAFM journey is founded on pre-planning and open-minded collaboration,” explains Ralph James of the Met Office. “Our FM team was engaged by the architect and BIM lead, Stride Treglown, in 2015. The construction project was completed in late 2016.

“Initially we struggled to understand the true value of a Building Information Model. A primary motivation was the April 2016 deadline to adopt BIM in UK Government construction projects. However, we worked closely with Stride Treglown and main contractor Willmott Dixon to develop our understanding and act on the benefits.

“Working directly with Stride Treglown allowed us to put the considerations of FM and CAFM at the forefront of the BIM process, ensuring our vision for the future use of the information outputs from the model would be of long-term value, with a more agile management of our assets.”

FSI’s CAFM software has been used at existing Met Office sites since 2007 and FSI were engaged towards the end of the construction phase in 2016. The initial project brief for FSI was straightforward: to mobilise the Data Centre buildings in FSI’s Concept Evolution CAFM system using the rich data available from the BIM models provided by Stride Treglown.

The BIM data was handed over in the industry standard COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) spreadsheet format. FSI needed to retain the robust categorisation of structures, systems and products and also ensure that the rich meta-data gathered for each asset was available for analysis and operational use by the FM team using the CAFM system.

Most CAFM systems have long had data import options used during implementation of new systems or facilities. Typically these import routines take data collated in a fixed template and any variations to the way that the data has been collected or handed over by contractors often mean that customised import routines are required. Anticipating growth in the importance of BIM in FM and the adoption of COBie as a universal and consistent way of extracting data from BIM models, FSI had been working for some time prior to involvement in the Met Office project to develop a suite of standard BIM tools integrated into the Concept Evolution CAFM software. At the centre of this toolkit was a standard COBie import routine that could be carried out by end-users, without technical expertise or consultancy assistance, and which would include configuration options to suit the preferences of individual clients.

Some key lessons learned during the project helped shape the direction and functionality of the FSI BIM Tools. “When we ran the initial import the FM team were a little overwhelmed by the volume of assets and found it difficult to envisage how we could start to create an effective Planned Maintenance strategy” says Ralph James.

FSI’s solution was to enhance the configuration options in the COBie import process allowing users to organise, group and filter the detail of COBie so that it resolves to something manageable in the FM maintenance strategy.

The COBie import tool had to be agile, quick and easy to use with options to quickly revert or re-do to find the correct configuration. As useful as COBie spreadsheets are for letting you see BIM data there is no substitute for an FM team being able to see the facility and asset data in their CAFM system.

They want to get a sense of how easy it is to work with the assets in practice and whether the structure and organisation of the assets is appropriate for day to day use.

FSI’s BIM strategy goes further than just the obvious benefits of mobilisation. The integrated BIM tools are also designed to take advantage of other benefits of BIM handover and apply them to operation, in particular some practical uses of the 3D models.

FSI has used the OpenBIM xBIM toolkit to create an embedded 3D Model web viewer. This model viewer is fully integrated with the CAFM Asset Register which allows the Met Office to access all of the CAFM asset information by clicking on an object in the model, including service history, PPM requirements, documents, attributes and also allows them to create a new breakdown task for the selected asset and visualise asset connections and relationships.

The Met Office project came along at just the right time to become a real-world driver towards the realisation of this ambition for CAFM.

“It has become a truly collaborative, long-term process between the three parties, and we are all equally critical
parts of the whole endeavour,” says Tom Gould from Stride Treglown. “It’s clear from presentations we make and contacts and discussions we have across the industry that very few parties have yet tried to take the BIM/CAFM relationship forward with the degree of sophistication we have already achieved. The focus we now have after a two-year learning curve brings a high level of anticipation about how much further we can take things. The way we now understand how to control the reduction in data overload in the transition from BIM to CAFM, for example, is bolstered by the promise of the likes of smart/internet data availability and predictive, proactive maintenance processes.”

The project has been so effective that the Met Office is now working to retrospectively digitise its entire built estate. The Met Office is evolving a three-to-five-year road map that it is anticipated will become a trend for organisations increasingly using BIM not only for new projects but also to manage mature estates. The Data Centre constitutes only around 15 percent of the Met Office estate and with Stride Treglown they are now working together to produce BIM Level 2 quality data and 3D models for existing facilities such as the Exeter HQ and remote weather stations throughout the UK.

The Met Office’s Ralph James concludes: “The value of operating with such an accurate asset database reduces inherent risk for both owner and potential contractors. Ambiguities and unknowns are reduced, so both parties
are more aware of what they are getting into! We’ve been delighted with the reduction in queries to tenders relating to FM operations at the new Data Centre. And given the amount of ongoing infrastructure replacement that takes place across our entire estate there is now every incentive to utilise these processes as widely as possible. I am already anticipating the added value that smart data and the internet-of-things will bring to the party.”