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BIM has taken the architectural world by storm and provides building designers with ways of looking at and analyzing their models in ways that previously weren’t possible. But what does this mean for a facilities manager?

The first thing to understand about BIM, is that it is not a technology. BIM is really about process – the way in which the model is created, shared and used throughout the entire building project. Its meaning can be different based upon experience, process and where the team lies in the workflow.

Facility managers can have an electronic model of the design and the data from this model can be imported into facility management systems to better manage the building. To make use of all of these benefits however, you need to put a large volume of information into one model. Depending on how well this data is managed, there is the risk of something commonly referred to as “model bloat”. This is where the model contains so much data it becomes large and unwieldy. This can cause many problems including slow software performance, or requiring more powerful computers to open and manipulate the model. Thus, careful management of the data in the model can go a long way to help prevent model bloat.

How BIM and FM Work Today

Keeping in mind that BIM is a process, not a technology, the link between the model and the facilities management system is different depending upon the software used. The building design team uses a variety of software products to conceptualize and analyze a model.

Effective facilities management is all about knowing where your assets (and people and space) lie and how to fix things and being able to respond quickly to unknown issues and anticipate upkeep. There is a growing amount of data available to provide within a model. This means knowing what model your toilets, HVAC units, new equipment, windows and more are – right from the start. You could even get a link directly to the manufacturer manual to keep within your facilities management system. Beyond just the data, there is a movement to create more sustainable environments and the ability to report back on the reality of the BIM estimates. With a rich data model provided, a facilities manager should be able to track reality versus estimates and report to the owner on the true cost over the life of the building.

As a final deliverable (along with the physical building), be sure you know what software your project team is using and to specify what classifications and standards you expect to see within the model. If your organization does not have its own standards, there is an industry standard for building operations called COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) and your development team can use its model to create a COBie output for you at the end of the project. Each part of the team provides different aspects of COBie output. Architects give spaces and equipment locations and construction teams give manufacturer and installed product information. This helps import the relevant data into your facilities management system, instead of trying to go through a model provided and create the link yourself.

There are some limitations on what a building model can provide to a facilities manager today. Not all manufacturers are providing their products for inclusion in a building model. That means when a construction team uses a product without a manufacturer model provided, the facilities manager may have to track down the relevant data to include in the facilities management system. And remember that model bloat mentioned earlier? Does each team member know what will be expected of him so he can model appropriately and not include irrelevant data.

Finally, there is not a well-documented process of using BIM for renovation and reconstruction projects. When there is not a specific system in place, it makes it difficult for the entire team to know how the data will translate from the facility management system to the model and back again, especially when both systems are live and/or there are multiple renovations going on simultaneously.

The BIM methodologies today are focused around design and construction—not necessarily the management or operation of a building. Working through that issue will be a challenge until industry guidelines and standards are set – or you create some recommendations for your team.


The latest progression within BIM is the unique contractual agreement known as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). It is a delivery methodology that fully integrates project teams in order to take advantage of the knowledge of all team members to maximize the project outcome. Integrated Project Delivery is the highest form of collaboration because all three parties (Owner, Architect and Constructor) are aligned by a single contract. Within IPD, project delivery includes a lot of valuable information, not just the model but also the requested revisions, email conversations, project approvals and more.

New ways of working together virtually allow teams from across the globe to keep on track. Cloud computing, data management as well as virtual building models keep all team members up-to-date on the latest developments within their project. Of all these technologies, Cloud computing has the largest potential impact on BIM and IPD because it enables the delivery of computing services over the internet in real-time, allowing end-users access to data and applications from any device with an internet connection.

By hosting a model within the Cloud, teams can view pieces of the model relevant to them, without fear of being behind an iteration (or two or three). It also allows for project participants to add more data to the model, since the model is not delivered in one system or another. Finally, it allows owners and facilities managers’ insight into the project at any time, knowing that the data they are viewing is up-to-date. However, because the final deliverable may not be Cloud based today, model bloat is still a concern.

All of these new technologies hold potential, but it will depend on how the software manufacturers develop and partner together. Given that even today there are not only multiple Cloud computing options, but there are also different types of Cloud offerings – public, semiprivate and private – will one Cloud rule over all or will there be multiple Cloud sites that your team will have to work within? Also, using Cloud computing is new to BIM. Adding this technology to the process means rethinking how the team works together. This is still an evolving practice and what works today may not be what is best in the future.

Progressing to BLM

The next logical step in BIM is BLM or Building Lifecycle Management. When BIM and FM completely tie together we’ll have BLM. The technology is moving towards a living, breathing building model that will sustain itself as the as-built environment. It will get integrated into the facilities management system and data will flow back and forth between the two, allowing individuals to get the information they need in the system they need to view it.

Cloud computing will also play a large role in BLM. The facilities managers will be able to look directly at a mode-sharing that model data with management in a meaningful way. And the project teams on redevelopment will have the most accurate picture of the building because the model has been kept up to date as changes were made.

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