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BIM’s value throughout the building life cycle

How to realize the benefits of building information modeling during a facility's four stages
Thursday, August 13, 2015
By Peter Costanzo and Joe Eichenseer

In the past, after a building was constructed, facilities managers would get the keys and open the doors. Then, they would enter maintenance schedules, product part numbers and warranty information into their facilities management system. Organizations spent valuable time doing data entry to track their maintenance assets instead of maintaining those assets. Today, if the design team is using Building Information Modeling (BIM), facility managers can and should get involved at the design stage to fully capture the benefits made available in BIM.

Stage one: Design and construction

During design, facility managers can view room and equipment data sheets as architects and designers create the building model, allowing managers to provide immediate feedback. Space management is just one area of benefit before a building opens and, by understanding the space from the model, a facility manager can perform tasks such as: sell space, plan where to locate people and departments, and map out the move-in process before it begins.

Effectively leveraging BIM can result in significantly reduced construction costs. Inside the model, the various disciplines can detect clashes which are costly to fix on the job site. Construction managers can also phase construction of the project because they can understand which materials should be on site and when. BIM also allows designers and facility managers to easily explore design options and compare different environmental or sustainability options that can impact the long-term costs of managing the building.  All of this sets the stage for the model to become a good source for facilities management’s use post-construction.

Stage two: Maintenance

The biggest value that owners and facilities managers can get from BIM is having a list of assets and the assets’ maintenance requirements. When set up correctly, facility managers can import data from the building model to obtain the make, model and maintenance schedule for equipment and other assets.

Keeping up with required maintenance means dodging voided warranties and maximizing equipment life. Instead of inputting all that information manually, building professionals can access it from the BIM. By integrating the systems, facilities managers can look up the warranty expiration date for the elevator that just stopped working with the click of a button. No leafing through file folders, or calling installers to find out whether the warranty is still valid.

Stage three: Renovation

During renovations, accurate as-built models are critical to saving money upfront. Throughout the building lifecycle, it makes fiscal sense to keep the model up to date with floor plan changes, equipment updates or new finishings. Offering a model as-built instead of 2D computer-aided design (CAD) — or even worse, hard copy documents — saves both time and money. Because the majority of design firms already use BIM platforms, they do not need to re-create the existing space.

Having a model allows building professionals to study the impact of new infrastructure on the overall building. For example, when planning to replace windows, dropping new products into the BIM can help test and predict the impact of different products on building aesthetics and energy efficiency.

Even more important is the ability to report back on the reality of those estimates. Did the organization actually save 30 per cent of power costs by including an ultra-violet (UV) filter on windows? What about the added cost of the building envelope — was it worth the extra money spent? With a data-rich BIM model, a facilities manager will be able to track reality versus estimates and report to the owner regarding true costs over the life of the building.

For these reasons, when a building lacks a BIM, it is worth considering creating one. There are many tools available to capture existing conditions — from traditional surveying methods to high-definition laser scanners and photogrammetry equipment. Using reality capture for an interior or exterior project allows organizations to collect a lot of data. They can then use that digital information to create a model and, from that model, propose changes.

Stage four: End of life

Deciding whether to renovate or demolish and rebuild comes down to comparing the costs to refurbish versus tearing down and starting from scratch. Operating costs figure into the equation as well, because old, outmoded equipment may cost more to operate than buying new. BIM enables more accurate cost estimates for both capital expenditure and operational expenditure than CAD, so it allows building professionals to make more precise renovation-versus-new-construction cost predictions.

These are just a few examples of how, during every phase of a building’s lifecycle, facility managers can benefit from BIM. By integrating information from the building model into a facilities management system, owners and managers save time, money and extend the life of a building.

Peter Costanzo has worked in IMAGINiT’s facilities management group for more than 10 years, starting as a sales rep and progressing to director. 

For more than 16 years with IMAGINiT, Joe Eichenseer has been helping AEC firms improve on their current workflow processes, including how best to navigate the road to Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Building Lifecycle Management (BLM). 

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