BIM, Flow of Information, and the Maintenance Manager's Role
Part one of a three-part article on BIM
Have you ever had one of those days? You reach the end of it and realize that even though you were busy all day, you feel like you do not have much to show for it. For many of us in institutional and commercial facilities, that is our everyday experience.
Our world is filled with all sorts of information coming from an increasing number of sources, and all of them are begging for our attention, predominantly through our smartphones and computers. Clearly, maintenance and engineering managers need better ways to deal with the influx of information.
We need to focus. They need to understand the information that is essential for the operation and maintenance of facilities today and into the future. They also need access to that information in a way that will help them make smart decisions throughout the facility’s life cycle.
Spotlight on BIM
Building information modeling (BIM) has long been thought to be a key part of facilities, albeit the vision has mostly been in the hands of design and construction. When BIM first became popular in architectural and engineering circles more than a decade ago, we thought of 3D models in design programs and the way our ability to visualize building systems would promote inter-discipline coordination and reduce conflicts during construction, with the result being more resource-efficient projects. BIM is certainly more than a 3D pictorial. The U.S. National Building Information Model Standard project committee put it this way:
“Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.”
In the world of operations and maintenance, the vision for the use of information models turned out to be much different. It is no surprise that the information a manager needs to ensure the efficient, cost-effective operation and maintenance of facility systems through their life cycles is not the same as the information designers and contractors need. After all, they have very different ends in mind. The problem is that maintenance and engineering managers are not always successful at articulating the information they want and need.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) attempted to address this issue in the BIM Guide for Facility Management whose “overall purpose of utilizing BIM for facility management is to enable GSA to leverage facility data through the facility life cycle to provide safe, healthy, effective and efficient work environments.” The document further describes the expected outcomes of the process, including reduced costs and shorter timeframes for renovations, improved customer satisfaction, and increased energy efficiency.
GSA captured the component that many organizations miss in the process of gathering information: They defined their desired outcome. All of the information they could possibly gather now hangs within the context of this definition as their desired outcomes. While this step will not ensure an overload of data influx, it is one major step in the right direction. It provides a needed degree of focus.