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News & opinion

12 MAR 2019

Making the most of BIM

The benefits of using BIM (building information modelling) within the design and construction phase of a built asset are now widely accepted. Less well known, however, is the long-term value that BIM can bring to the operation of an asset after handover, which is often overlooked when the upfront cost of investing in the technology is so high.

But, although lesser known, there are a number of ways that BIM can provide asset managers with efficiencies throughout the operation phase, while at the same time empowering facilities managers and property surveyors in their roles.

Central to this is the creation and sharing of quality information through BIM for the building operator, as Edonis Jesus, consulting BIM leader at developer Leadlease, explains: “The use of BIM can greatly help asset managers save time and money by enabling quicker access to asset information, [resulting in a] higher proportion of preventative maintenance and less inventory.” She adds that BIM enables faster access to the asset information model, which compiles the data and information necessary to support asset management.

When BIM is integrated with asset management systems such as computer-assisted facilities management platforms, building management systems and performance-related telemetry, we can create a dynamic digital twin where there is substantial value.

David Philp FRICS
Director of BIM for EMEA and India, Aecom

Jesus’ point is echoed by David Philp FRICS, Aecom’s London-based director of BIM for EMEA and India. “The provision of accurate and complete computer-readable information at handover, including object-orientated models, can undoubtedly be exploited by those that undertake asset management activities.”

Philp, who is also an RICS Certified BIM Manager, adds that BIM is most effective in handing power to facilities managers and surveyors when it is coupled with additional software and technology. “When BIM is integrated with other asset management systems such as computer-assisted facilities management platforms, building management systems and additional performance-related telemetry interfaces,
we can create a dynamic digital twin where there is substantial value.

“This dynamic digital twin unlocks benefits that are both quantitative, such as cost and carbon, but also qualitative in terms of better operational decision-making. Having a digital twin of an individual asset or portfolio really improves an organisation’s credentials, as reliable information leads to better service provision.”

BIM can also enhance the “storytelling experience” for clients when attracting new tenants, Philp believes, by enabling them to walk customers through the building early on in the design phase.

BIM in action

Great Portland Estates used BIM to create a 3D flythrough of its 160 Old Street development in London, which was used to market the space to prospective occupiers.

This can be seen at one of Great Portland Estates’ offices in central London, says the developer’s director of workplace and innovation, James Pellatt MRICS. “We were able to use the BIM model to assist us in the marketing of our scheme at 160 Old Street. As it was a complex refurbishment, it was difficult for potential occupiers to visualise the building during construction.

“By using the BIM model to form the basis of our 3D flythrough, we were able to give our occupiers a better understanding of what they were going to receive at completion. This assisted us in securing Turner Broadcasting – a significant tenant – before completion.”

Similarly, at the £2.3bn Elephant Park regeneration scheme in south London, Lendlease invested in a 360º virtual-reality room which, when coupled with BIM, was able to provide prospective residents with an insight into the development.

Jesus says visualization was key in helping future tenants get a clearer understanding of the overall design. “The ‘VRoom’ allows people to walk, drive or even fly around detailed 3D models for the massive central London regeneration project.

“As well as helping to give residents and other stakeholders a chance to see the plans and give their opinions on them, it allows the teams of engineers, designers and safety experts to work together and examine every aspect of the project in detail.”

Glass staircase
BIM can enhance value for asset managers by creating efficiencies

When it comes to assessing BIM’s ability to enhance an investment, however, opinion is divided. Jesus believes that BIM can enhance value for asset managers by creating efficiencies such as: scheduling asset maintenance and replacement works; forecasting capital and operational expenditure; monitoring energy use and building performance; delivering enhanced service to building tenants by responding quickly to issues; and maintaining and updating records.

Operational uncertainty

Although he is a firm believer in using BIM – and in the benefits it can bring before and during delivery – Pellatt is less convinced about its impact during the operation phase. “Great Portland has used BIM on every major development since 2011. We firmly believe that it adds significant value to the development process, in that it allows us to consistently deliver high-quality buildings on time and to budget.

“We’ve found that our investment in BIM has saved money in that it has been offset by appropriate reduction in contingencies and allocation of risk. However, we haven’t seen any significant improvement in performance of the asset either in reduced FM costs or increased value.”

There is a consensus, however, that BIM is most successful in the operation phase when aligned with other software and systems. As Philp says: “There needs to be better alignment between those creating the models during the design and construction stages and those receiving and using them during the operational phase.”

It’s important to stop thinking of BIM in isolation, adds Philp. Instead, we need to take more of a “master data management approach”when considering the integration of BIM with other asset management systems for near real-time performance measurement and analysis.

For Jesus, the main hurdles that remain are both technological and procedural. “In terms of technology, asset management systems need to be improved to integrate BIM models and to fully use its data and geometry, so that asset owners or operators can fully achieve whole lifecycle performance efficiencies from their assets.”

On process, she adds: “It would be greatly beneficial if asset operators were more involved with the design and construction process, as it would ensure the information and data they need is recorded in BIM models for later use.”

Clearly there is away to go before the entire benefits of BIM to a building’s operation are realised but, once they are, there’s a good chance they could enable a new generation of facilities managers and commercial property surveyors to unleash the full potential of the assets under their care.

This article originally appeared in The Cash Issue of Modus (March 2019), titled Digital Twin.