business processing

Mobilizing building information modeling

Put facility data at the touch of a manager's fingertips with properly implemented BIM
Friday, September 12, 2014
By Josh Lowe

Since 1964, the productivity of the construction industry has decreased while the productivity of other industries has increased. Contrast this loss in productivity to the increased complexity of facilities and growing trend of fast-tracked construction projects.

These three factors (lost productivity, complexity and speed-to-market) have created an environment where maintaining the integrity of data from design to operations is increasingly difficult. The result can be that building owners who manage and operate these complex facilities may not have the information they need.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has quickly proven to be an excellent conduit for the development and management of facility data from design through to operations. Properly implemented BIM can put this critical facility information at the touch of the fingertips via smartphone or tablet.

The specific data that brings an organization value will often vary from one organization to the next. Regardless, the basic premise is the same: accurate and easily accessible data is valuable.

When construction is completed, the data is typically handed over to the facility owner in the form of paper. In some cases, electronic files are delivered, but a disk full of PDF files is no more efficient for an owner than searching through a three-ring binder. Both of these methods meet the traditional project data submission requirements. The result, however, is inefficiency for the facility operator.

To access data, the facility operator must manually search for the documents, and sometimes inspect the facility, to gather information. After that, the operator needs to manually enter the data into a software platform for internal facility management and asset tracking.

It is not uncommon for contractors to take six months to deliver this information to the owner, and it may take even longer to be uploaded to the facility management software. In the meantime, the facility owner needs to operate and maintain the building without critical data.

The value of a BIM does not lay exclusively in its ability to hold vast amounts data, but also in its ability to provide easy access to data and clearly communicate it graphically. These characteristics of BIM make it a great analysis and data access tool during operations. These same characteristics allow for contractors to better manage the documentation of asset data during construction.

To achieve the desired outcomes for facility owners, the current process must change. Interoperability and integration of data/information must be paramount for all project participants. In order to do this, the BIM must become the single source of truth for the life of the project for all team members.

Most of the data needed for operations and maintenance is related to physical assets. Since these assets will be installed during construction, and data is required to be associated with these assets, they must be included in the model. If the installed location varies from the design model, it must be updated in the BIM. This must hold true for all constructed assets.

For the data to maintain its value, all design and construction team members must adhere to established standards. When such a process is implemented and followed, the end result of construction is facility documentation graphically connected with an open database that can be further integrated with facility operations tools.

This change in delivery and documentation process must be owner driven. It is the responsibility of every organization to take a critical look at its current process to identify potential productivity and efficiency enhancements by undertaking such an initiative.

The design and construction professionals are more than willing to follow a process if the deliverables and expectations are clearly defined early in the project. The idea that an owner can simply ask for BIM at turnover is not adequate for this evolving industry. Not all BIM is created equal.

Changing process is never easy and must be done incrementally. A facility owner must manage expectations, identify value, and prioritize the implementation process. As outlined, there are reasons to start implementation now.

The proper implementation of these technologies is reason to be optimistic about the potential for improved productivity. BIM will not do all things, and one cannot expect it to, but it will make a big difference. Start with something small and manageable, from which implementation can be expanded to put facility data at the building operator’s fingertips.

Josh Lowe is a senior innovation advisor at TURIS Systems LLC, where he is involved in the research and development of data management applications for facility management. He is also a contributing author to two books on BIM and an experienced speaker having given talks across North America. For more information, contact Josh at