Delivering BIM for FM isn’t without cost

Don Rudder, our CTO and I presented at RTC recently on our recent work implementing BIM for FM solutions. The presentation focused on what we’ve learned over the past year or so implementing custom workflows and tools within two hospital systems, the Porter Replacement Hospital in Porter, Indiana, and Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. Both of these projects were done with the Contractor as a client, not the owner. In both cases, the contractor was acting as a proxy to the owner in helping them get the most out of what BIM they had developed to date, for downstream use during operations. I also want to point out that both projects are the brain child(ren?) of Aaron Wright, Hoar Construction’s BIM Director. It’s been his dedication to figure out the real application of a construction model during FM that brought us on board on both of those jobs.

Although very different, both projects faced similar issues: purpose built models not quite meeting necessary requirements for FM use; model craft required for coordination is different than that required for FM; information requirements for one is not the same as the other, etc. The list goes on… In any case, we knew there was value in there, we just needed to figure out how to squeeze it out, or better yet, how to repackage it to make it useful downstream.

Probably the more interesting development in all of this was that many of the more common issues weren’t issues at all, but instead general misconceptions about BIM and its utility over the lifecycle of a building project. One of these misconceptions was:

The only cost associated with BIM is its creation

This statement supposes that once you have a model, you’re done. This is a huge industry problem right now and is causing a lot of unnecessary friction. First, it falls into the usual trap of thinking BIM is a product and not a process. Off the bat, you’re thinking that the cost of BIM is finite and that once you’ve paid for a model, you can move on to the next item on your list. This is very much incorrect, and misses the point on a lot of the potential value to be derived. Yes, there is a cost associated with modeling, but the model is only a part of the process, not the end in itself.

The big misconception, then, is in thinking that there is no cost to maintain a model.  Again, if BIM is a process, then the process itself has a cost. If the product of a Construction BIM process is to be used during an FM BIM process, then one needs to budget for two things: first the translation of the construction BIM to something useful in FM, and second, the process of maintaining that BIM over the lifecycle of the facility.

BIM during FM should be dynamic and constantly learning about day to day facility operations.  If it is not, then you will quickly find its value degraded to no more than a ‘snapshot of the facility at the end of construction’. Over time, there will be enough difference between the physical facility and the virtual one that BIM will be set aside and lose its privileged position within day to day operations.  That moment marks the death of a model in most cases.

If you want to learn more about cost, effort and value of BIM, I recommend you read Mario Guttman‘s The Information Content of BIM