By Malcolm Thomas, Chartered Building Surveyor
It is internationally recognised that Building Information Modelling (BIM) technologies, processes and collaborative behaviours will unlock new and more efficient ways of working at all stages of the project life-cycle.
Virtual modelling offers opportunities for improved understanding of the entire life cycle of a building and increases the predictability of asset performance. BIM will be of immense value in the care and maintenance of buildings.
BIM enables the design and build team to construct a virtual building where the designs are in 3D and integrated with the mechanical and electrical design, civil and structural engineering and cost control so that every member of the team are working in one model. The BIM model of course is only as good as the design, specification and cost information put into it. The features and advantages which building information modelling provides include:
- 3D visualization for clash detection and feasibility studies.
- Model based quantity take off and estimating.
- Visualized scheduling (4D) management.
- Environmental analysis.
- Creation of shop drawings and schedule management for installation.
- Visualized constructability review
- Visual and geospatial coordination for construction of atypical shapes.
- Creation of a real as-built model for facility management.
Utilising the information gathered through BIM for facilities and asset management has yet to be fully explored. One immediate benefit realised by some users is the ease with which asset registers can be created for management purposes. BIM models viewed on tablets and hand held devices offer further advantages for working remotely, where items of equipment or building elements can be linked to drawings, manuals and specifications.
This technology and the new collaborative ways of working which it engenders provide the opportunity for the building surveyor and facilities management team to positively participate in the design process, identifying design features that will make maintenance difficult before construction begins. The model can be designed to capture data about the performance of the building and its services and this can be fed back into future projects.
As a BIM model comprises representations of the actual component parts used in the assembly of a building, the building surveyor will be able to simulate its deconstruction, where for example a defect is under investigation or replacement elements are being planned. Envisage the situation where in a high rise commercial complex, rainwater ingress is being traced through external wall cladding panels with hidden fixings. Personnel can consult the 3D model to reverse the assembly process and understand how the rainwater could progress, assess the likely extent of consequential damage to hidden components and plan how repairs and replacements might be executed.
BIM which links with an asset management software can retrieve information quickly on equipment data, service manuals, equipment performance, warranties, manufacturer contacts, and video, demonstrating installation and maintenance procedures of plant and equipment. Technicians will be able to review procedures before carrying out maintenance.
The BIM model contains information on geometry, spatial relation- ships, quantities and the physical properties of building components, but could also link interactively to current manufacturers’ guidance on repair and replacement methods. Linking BIM with geographical information systems, building management systems and other technologies offers exciting prospects for building surveyors, albeit of large commercial and corporate property portfolios in the short term whilst application costs remain high. The majority of building managers with smaller and less valuable portfolios may have to wait 3 to 5 years before BIM is scaled down and becomes established for all medium sized projects.
The information that is developed and collected during the design and the construction of a building is uniquely important to the team that is responsible for maintenance and operation. This data, however, is frequently inadequately stored and this creates an ineffective, costly, and disorganized information system. BIM facilitates the exchange of information with building managers throughout the life of a building to overcome this problem. ‘Software As A Service’ (SAAS) cloud-based solutions are now available which seek to extend the value of BIM throughout the lifecycle of the building, by integrating information and making it instantly available in the form of data-rich online models.
Further beneficial applications of BIM for facility management include:
- Improved space management.
- More efficient maintenance programming with access to asset registers and online servicing data.
- Effective retrofits and renovations and enhancing life cycle management.
The room and area information in BIM models furthermore provides the foundation for good space management. A “living” BIM model provides an easier means of representing three-dimensional space within a building to assist in planning alterations. By incorporating data on life expectancy and replacement costs in BIM models, owners and managers can better appreciate and understand the benefits of investing in materials and systems that may cost more initially but have a better payback over the life of the building. The primary objective of property maintenance is to maximise the physical life of existing buildings. This is achieved through a maintenance practice designed to anticipate all of the maintenance requirements through the whole of the extended physical life of a building. Accessible, current and comprehensive information is essential for operational and strategic management of a property estate. The need to predict events in the future life of a property – rather than simply wait for them to happen – was a key driver in the development of property asset information systems, which are capable of providing detailed analysis of the property portfolio. The widespread adoption of BIM now provides the opportunity for building owners to take property care to a much higher level.
In the UK Manchester City Council town hall extension and Central Library have been extensively remodelled and refurbished in a £100m project completed in 2013. The core team of approximately 100, including the client and key suppliers, worked in an open plan project office opposite the site. The process was apparently fraught at times with conflicting demands from the various members of the design team. Efficiencies through the design process were secured using BIM. The biggest single gain claimed was the coordination of components using clash detection software, combined with a virtual build function, which meant mistakes were identified before work commenced on site. The use of BIM increased the attention given to the selection of components at the earliest stage in the design process. The project manager observed that BIM provided the perfect opportunity for components to be assessed on all the usual criteria, but particularly on their durability in use.