Many organizations still rely on different data sets for the separate phases of the life cycle. But by leveraging BIM, facility managers can track current usage and costs for better decision-making.

They know where to invest and where to cut back. BIM for facilities management also helps with reducing risk while increasing agility. It helps you move more carefully but also faster, and always in the right direction. Implementing BIM for FM is a long-term, iterative process, but it starts with just three critical questions.

Before looking at the implementation, it’s important to have a set of shared definitions for both facility management and BIM.

What is facility management (FM)?

The International Facility Management Association (IFMA), with claims to being the world’s biggest and most widely recognized association for facility management professionals, has a good working definition of FM: “Facility management is a profession dedicated to supporting people. It ensures the functionality, comfort, safety, sustainability and efficiency of the built environment ⁠— the buildings we live and work in and their surrounding infrastructure.”

So, facility management functions are all about keeping people safe and productive.

What is business information modeling (BIM)?

BIM is how you make data make sense.

BIM is a wide range of processes and tools that collectively help you create and manage information for a built asset. A large part of what makes BIM special is how it allows you to integrate structured data from across many different disciplines into a digital model of an asset, from the planning and design stages to construction and even operations.

Instead of having data spread out across different tools, each maintained and leveraged by a different team, BIM allows for seamless collaboration through a single, shared set of models.

What are BIM dimensions?

There’s more than one way to do BIM, and the differences come down to which types of data you include. There are seven established “dimensions,” with each successive dimension adding one more type of data.

2D BIM

Down here, you’re working with just an X-axis and Y-axis on basic construction models, often ones you create using computer-aided design (CAD) software.

3D BIM

The third dimension is the Z-axis, and the industry often calls 3D BIM a coordinated model. Instead of a 2D image, you have a 3D graphical model of the asset. One of the big advantages is how the model allows you to understand the project’s overall impact on the surrounding environment.

4D BIM

The fourth dimension is time, and these models include critical data about scheduling, making it easier to properly plan and track a project.

5D BIM

At this level, design and time from 4D BIM combines with cost estimates. And unlike more traditional methods for tracking costs across a project, with 5D BIM, you can update the data at any time, taking into proper account any late changes in design or materials.

6D BIM

By adding in data about environmental, economic, and social sustainability, you create 6D BM. Sustainability, in this context, is development that meets current needs without negatively affecting the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

It’s important to understand the concept of BIM dimensions because BIM for FM is basically 7D BIM. So, once you know that there are dimensions, they differ by the types of data they contain, and that each subsequent dimension contains all the data types of all the dimensions below it, you can more easily understand BIM for FM.

What is BIM for FM?

BIM for FM aims to put the power of BIM in the hands of facility mangers, helping them make better decisions about running and maintaining a facility during the operations and maintenance stages of the life cycle, including:

  • Space use and floor planning
  • Asset maintenance and repairs
  • Energy and other cost efficiencies

An important part of the BIM-for-FM process is taking the data generated during the first stages, planning, designing, and construction, and feeding it into a computer-aided facility management (CAFM) solution, so facility and maintenance managers can access and update it. But you’re not moving over all the data; so, there are additional steps related to finding the data you need and filtering out what does not make sense to include and then maintain.

In the end, the goal is to have by-directional data flow, with the facility manager leveraging BIM to drive down total cost of ownership (TCO) and planners and designers dipping into facility and maintenance data to find insights they can apply to future projects.

What are the benefits of BIM for FM?

BIM delivers the actionable insights facility managers need to get the most out of their facilities while keeping costs down.

Improved planning

FMs can use cost data to better understand the TOC, which then makes it easier to make decisions to repair, replace, or upgrade. For example, if you know how much it cost you to run the HVAC last year, including maintenance and repairs, you can make an informed decision about if it’s the right time to invest in new AC units.

BIM also has information about usage, so you can better plan everything from the best time to turn off the lights in the evening to when to invest in expanding or remodeling the break room. And this improved planning saves a lot of money in many ways, from reduced energy costs to improved employee experience that cuts down on turnover rates.

Better informed maintenance technicians

As soon as a technician receives a work order for an asset or piece of equipment, they can access the BIM data to see exactly where they need to go, as well as the best route there. They also have access to complete repair and maintenance histories. Because BIM contains a complete 3D model of the facility, they can also see all the nearby and related assets and equipment that they might have to accommodate.

Managers and maintenance technicians have access to detailed data about the facility and the assets and equipment inside it, helping them diagnose and solve problems more efficiently. And by implementing a preventive or predictive maintenance program, they can even avoid many problems before they develop. So, in the case of your HVAC, maintenance crews can better look after the individual AC units with instant access to maintenance documents and parts information.

Instant clash detection

When you do decide to make changes, BIM can show you exactly how they affect other existing systems. For example, if you needed to add additional plumbing as part of that breakroom remodel, you could see right away that the new plumbing stack would pass right through a vent or create a separate building code issue. A quick solution before the contractors open the wall to install the new pipes saves time and money.

How can you implement BIM for FM?

Implementing BIM for FM centers on finding the right answers to three critical questions:

  • Who is going to use the data?
  • What data are you going to collect and how are you going to collect it?
  • How can you validate and maintain the data?

You need to know whose problems you’re trying to solve, how best to get them the data they need, and how to best ensure the data is both trustworthy and trusted.

The first question is important because knowing who uses the data helps you determine what data they need. So, for each role, you need to consider the associated responsibilities and challenges, and then consider the data they need to succeed. In some cases, it makes sense to write out complete personas for each role.

For the second question, you’re trying to filter out anything that a facility manager doesn’t need to know. It would be the same if you were writing the owner’s manual for a car. There’s a lot of data that was created, stored, and shared between teams during the design and production of the car, but much of it is not of any use to the future driver.

Your answer to the third question is critical. If you can’t keep the data secure, accessible, and up to date, departments across the organization lose confidence in it. And even a few bad data points cast a shadow over all the good data.