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17 January 2019
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FM's critical involvement in BIM

18 January 2016 | Martin Read

Facilities management’s role in the maintenance of building information models (BIM) was always going to be a major talking point in 2016.

This magazine first began banging the BIM drum back in 2012 when the idea of a hard deadline by which BIMs would become obligatory in public sector projects was first mooted. But here we are in 2016 and, as advertised, the government’s deadline by which BIM Level 2 becomes mandatory for all new central government contracts is set for 4th April. Is everybody in FM ready? It doesn’t feel like it.

First off, what do we mean by Level 2 BIM? This is where all organisations involved in the construction chain – among them architects, project managers, constructors and, yes, FM service providers – each host their own data on a given building in a 3D CAD BIM. This information can be shared with other contractors running their own versions of that building’s BIM by means of a standardised import-export protocol. This is where we should be today.

Of course, the numerous groups promoting BIM look forward wistfully to Level 3 BIM, which involves a single BIM for each building into which all contractors feed their information – essentially a ‘single version of the truth’ that throbs with action during construction and continues post-construction when run by FM for operational and maintenance purposes. Understandably this is seen as the ‘holy grail’ for BIM, necessitating some pretty difficult conversations among those construction chain partners for which it impinges on time-honoured but now-threatened business models. Level 3 may be some way off yet, but what’s interesting is that in the four years since BIM’s 2016 future was first proposed, consumers and smaller business groups have begun individually accessing and editing the likes of Google Drive documents to collaborate remotely on single documents. Consumer awareness and use of these collaboration tools has advanced to the extent that most now understand and appreciate what BIM offers.

Level 3, however, is yet to come. For now, Level 2 BIM offers great potential to FM, not least by acting as an organic asset register constantly showing a building’s exact state at any given time. Speed of response in emergencies and a streamlined approach to maintenance scheduling are two obvious benefits of this approach. 

Given that the whole point of BIM is to cut inefficiencies in the information supply chain (thus emphasising FM’s role before, during and after construction), it’s perhaps odd that we’re not hearing more from individual FM providers on the topic. Also, where is the joint industry-wide message from an FM sector united to seize this golden opportunity? To embed FM as the lead enabler of optimal building design and operational support? Is FM really making the case to show how it is the single most important component in managing a sustainable, cost-efficient and fit-for-purpose building lifecycle?

From its further integration into CAFM software through to the role of Government Soft Landings in showcasing FM’s critical involvement, here’s hoping 2016 sees BIM pushing FM firmly into the spotlight.

Martin Read is managing editor of FM World