Building passports are being touted as a new solution to an old building management problem, but Mike Packham says FMs already have the resources at hand.
‘There’s a new kid in town’– to quote one of my favourite songs by The Eagles – but are building passports really new?
The One Planet Network defines a building passport as “a data platform that will host all building related data from the design through to the demolition stage”.
The Living with Beauty report from the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission defines it as a “repository of information” covering “the whole property life cycle of a building, from early planning stages to maintenance decades into the future”.
Both sources come at the issue from outside of what we traditionally think of as property/facilities management to encompass a wider sustainability-focused approach based on social value. There is an inherent assumption that the idea can/will be facilitated by advances in information technology.
So what should a building passport encompass?
Living with Beauty says: “The data-set should start life as a single line representing the boundary of a planning application, growing over time to accommodate all the assumptions generated during the planning stage, used as a Building Information Model (BIM) during construction and finally becoming a digital twin of the building including its performance and impact over its whole life cycle.”
This data is available to us – so why don’t building passports already exist? The answer to this conundrum is self-evident and lies with the disaggregated nature of the built environment supply chain.
The problem with data management
Supply chain participants routinely generate, collect and discard information that would have great value if retained and organised to form the basis of intelligent decision-making in terms of investments, insurance, planning, design, operations, maintenance, policy and strategy, compliance, performance, and so on.
Much of the data is discarded and that which is kept lacks a common systematic approach to its organisation and storage.
Mapping information that flows between members of the supply chain (builders, designers, local authorities and FMs) typically shows that none of the information goes from the outset of the project (the planning stage) through to eventual operation and occupation. For example, some of this information stays with particular designers or suppliers, often necessitating the same data to be regenerated two or three times.
This supply chain fragmentation (and the silo thinking that often goes with it) has a knock-on effect for data storage and organisation. The data remains static as it is not updated or amended as circumstances change. Self-evidently, therefore, any building passport is going to need to be regularly updated to support dynamic decision-making processes.
So much for the barriers. Let’s be positive and consider what is available to make building passports a reality. We need a framework to organise the data we are collecting. Why not start with the RIBA Plan of Work? Its eight stages cover everything from briefing to occupation and encompass all the information referred to in Living with Beauty.
We also have IWFM’s Operational Readiness Guide, which overlays organisational in-use considerations on the built environment supply chain as represented by the Plan of Work, and the IWFM’s latest publication BIM Data for FM Systems.
Are building passports a good idea? Yes! Do we have the necessary ‘materiel’ to make them a reality? Yes. The combination of IoT and the various related publications make this a distinct possibility.}
Who pays? There will be upfront costs to develop the system and the costs of keeping building passports up to date. Central government could fund upfront work as it did with the BIM/Government Soft Landings initiative, but thereafter it will be down to the building owners/occupiers.
Who ‘owns’ the passport? Ownership of the passport has to remain with the building to which it relates rather than the owner or occupier.
Mike Packham is managing director at BWA (Europe) Ltd