Compiled by FacilitiesNet Staff
BIM is more than just an acronym. For facility managers, Building Information Modeling software can be a powerful new tool to enhance a building’s performance and manage operations more efficiently throughout a building’s life.
What is BIM software? While definitions vary because the concept is still evolving, think of BIM software as a giant database. BIM software is intended to be a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility that forms a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle, existing from earliest conception to demolition.
That doesn't mean that BIM software is the same as CAD programs. True BIM software encompasses more than a 3D computer-rendered model of the building. In addition to architectural information, the complete BIM contains all of the building’s information, from wall systems, structural systems, HVAC equipment, plumbing fixtures, door and window schedules, and finishes, right down to the manufacturer, supplier, and square footage of every material specified on the project.
The Benefits of BIM Software
Cost savings are one of the biggest benefits to using BIM software. The majority of the life-cycle cost of a building does not come from the design and construction phase, but from operating the building over 20 to 50 years. Federal studies have shown that operations and maintenance account for between 60 and 85 percent of total costs of ownership.
For example, in 2004, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), commissioned a study to identify and estimate the efficiency losses in the U.S. capital facilities industry from inadequate interoperability among CAD, engineering, and software systems. The study quantified approximately $15.8 billion in annual costs of inadequate interoperability in the U.S. capital facilities industry in 2002. Of these costs, two-thirds are borne by owners and operators, who incur them predominantly during ongoing facility operation and maintenance. Examples of inefficiencies resulting from inadequate interoperability include manual re-entry of data, duplication of business functions, and the continued reliance on paper-based information management systems.
Here's where BIM software can fix the problem. BIM software can be used as a database throughout the life of the building. It can generate as-built floor plans and elevations for tenant test fits and build-outs. It can recall the paint color of the accent wall in the executive conference room on the 11th floor, for example. Further, it can calculate the square footage of that same accent wall when a new executive comes on board and wants to change its color, so maintenance crews know how much paint is required.
By contrast, when a tenant wants to build out a space, the facility executive typically works from, or perhaps has to track down from the architect, a set of as-built drawings that may or may not be accurate, depending on the building’s age and how many tenants have occupied the space. Even worse, in the absence of as-builts, facility executives end up re-drawing the space, wasting time and energy creating what would already have existed had there been a BIM model of the building. As BIM software has advanced, some applications have developed the ability to link relevant portions of the BIM to outside information sources, such as manufacturer specifications.
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