29th July 2014

It’s All About BIM

BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a strategic management process – not a 3D CAD tool. It is a holistic approach to the design, construction and management of facilities within the built environment. BIM is held by many as the “Holy Grail” incorporating a fully coordinated 3D model, together with the associated information necessary to mitigate and resolve problems that occur through the building lifecycle, from conception to facilities management and beyond.

Primarily due to a long history of low procurement performance and obtaining poor value for money, the UK Government took the global lead in BIM with the publication of its Construction Strategy in May 2011. This report announced the Government’s intention to require the use of collaborative 3D BIM (Level 2 Maturity) on all of its projects by 2016 with the key objectives of reducing capital cost from the construction and operation of the built environment by 20%. Currently published as BS 1192, this initiative has set a best practice benchmark for construction and operational excellence across both private and public sectors and consequently, has spawned two additional specifications, PAS 1192-2 and PAS 1192-3 specifically addressing both the capital and operational delivery phases of a project respectively.

As a general rule, the 30-year cost to operate a building is about five times that of its construction. The value of work performed within that building over this time is approximately 200 times those construction costs. The majority of effort expended so far has been focused on employing strategies to reduce construction and energy costs. That is now changing… technologies have evolved that offer the intelligence to measure and optimize the largest part of a building’s value.

The release of PAS1192-3 on 1st April 2014 extended BIM’s remit into the operational phase of the building lifecycle as well as defining the handover of the building from construction to operations in the form of Soft Landings.

One of the issues with PAS1192-3 is that the model it portrays appears relatively static. To maximize the potential of BIM’s operational value by addressing enhanced productivity, it really needs to be dynamically populated with real-time data creating an integrated, holistic, ‘living, breathing’ model.

A ‘smart’ BIM is significantly easier to achieve if the correct intelligent building technology has been installed during the construction phase. This requires those designing and creating buildings: architects, building engineers, surveyors, cost consultants and main contractors – to understand the client’s desired workspace outcomes (reduced TCO and enhanced productivity, etc.). This understanding is critical if we are to create truly intelligent buildings capable of providing the BIM based business intelligence that can be used to implement the Alternative Workplace Strategies that are able constantly align the workplace to the organization’s changing business needs.

For a building to be optimized for efficiency and productivity, it needs to be effectively managed. For a FM/CRE manager to plan they need detailed, accurate business intelligence on actual occupancy levels, energy consumption and asset performance. Creating a truly intelligent building is not simply a matter of providing universal connectivity or even the convergence of technology onto a consolidated building services LAN, it’s about making sure that what’s installed during construction is able to generate real-time data that can be used to feed a perpetual ‘living and breathing’ operational BIM. The construction industry has been particularly slow to harness the digital revolution that’s changed our world – BIM has provided the tool to implement that change.

If an FM/CRE manager knows how the building is actually being used and the behaviour of its occupants, rather than how it was planned to be used, then they can introduce strategies to change behaviour or adapt the environment to better suit the type of work being done, thereby contributing to improved productivity. This process results in the provision of an environment that is constantly evolving to provide a workspace that is optimized for the business’s needs.

The desired outcomes (increased revenue/profit per sqft and reduced cost per sqft) and consequently, the associated data sources, need to be agreed at the outset of any construction project. This requires greater collaboration between the architects, consultants, builders and occupiers. Smart or intelligent BIM is about dovetailing the building’s construction with its operation. It is also about reducing CAPEX and OPEX costs but mostly importantly it’s about the people working in the building, how they behave and how the building can be adapted to boost productivity.

The aim of this blog is to highlight the need for the construction industry, along with the FM/CRE and ICT professions, to understand the opportunity enabled by ELV intelligent buildings to create multi-dimensional, self-populating living breathing BIM models, and also the need to collaborate closely in order to achieve truly smart, business changing, outcomes.