Until the last ten years or so, facilities managers were the last link in a paper-dominated handover process from designers and constructors to clients and owner-operators. BIM is breaking this pattern and, more importantly, putting the asset information needs of clients at the very core of project information management.

Asset management – from paper-based to data-based

Reliance on paper within construction delivery and facilities management teams has diminished over the past 20 years or so.

Until around 2000, for the client or owner-operator, the completion of a built asset was typically accompanied by the eventual handover of a large paper-based archive of information, perhaps alongside some disks holding electronic files. This handover often took place several months after completion, by which time some information would already be out of date, and often too late for the owner to do anything useful with it. There was little seamless population of computer-aided FM (CAFM) systems by the electronic outputs of the asset delivery process.

Since 2000, however, the UK construction industry has developed more collaborative approaches to construction product delivery aimed at delivering greater value to the client, and promoted more creation and re-use of electronic information. GroupBC was one of the pioneers in delivering what we today call Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools to construction and property clients, helping to extend document and drawing collaboration to support numerous workflows – from contract administration to quality assurance.

And with the advent of BIM, online collaboration systems were quickly identified as suitable foundations for the new generation of BIM common data environments (CDEs – the Spring 2011 Government Construction Client Group report which recommended SaaS-based CDEs was compiled by a group including GroupBC CEO Sanjeev Shah), and also to form the basis for future asset management regimes.

BIM for life-cycle

BIM extends the value of information beyond design and construction and into the asset’s operational lifecycle. It can deliver information – and resulting insights – that the owner/operator can use for facilities management, operations, maintenance, refurbishment and extension, right through to eventual demolition, for example.

Clients will no longer just buy a physical asset – they will also be buying valuable data. As an intrinsic part of the built asset, data will be something that is also liable to modification and expansion as the physical asset is updated, repaired or redeveloped, and will add value to the asset.

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If we liken this to the owner’s manual provided with a new car, for example, a responsible owner will maintain their car’s service history, and if the modified car is sold, this service history adds value to the transaction, complementing and updating the owner’s manual. Accurate, up-to-date as-built asset information will similarly add value when it is used in due diligence processes in property transactions, for example.

Moreover, data about the physical asset will be augmented by additional information gathered during its performance. Such approaches are common in other fields. For example, Formula One racing cars now generate huge amounts of data from every race to help teams fine-tune performance. And Rolls-Royce jet engines don’t just generate enormous power, sensors within the engines generate huge amounts of data that Rolls-Royce uses to improve engine reliability and fuel economy for its TotalCare customers.

Similarly, in the built environment, data can be routinely collected from, say, an office building showing its energy use, temperature, humidity, lighting, equipment use, etc, over time. Such real-time data will provide constantly updated information for post-occupancy evaluation; BIM can thus be used by the owner-operator to evaluate actual energy efficiency, monitor the building’s life cycle costs, and optimise its cost efficiency.

So BIM will also be invaluable to ‘repeat clients’ in informing and improving future design, construction and operation of similar facilities. Similarly, it will provide designers with actual data about the performance of the built assets they devised, rather than them relying on assumptions and forecasts.

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