4 Common Challenges to Implementing Lifecycle BIM
The debate on the importance of BIM is over. In fact, an Autodesk + FMI report showed that, “71% of owners indicate that capturing and retaining more data during design and construction will reduce lifecycle operations costs.” Nevertheless, many owners still struggle to define and implement a robust BIM process that includes all project stakeholders. Collaboration amongst stakeholders – from early design to Facility Maintenance and Operations (FMO) – is key to realizing the promised efficiency gains.
Why implementing big BIM is a challenge
From leaders to laggards, many organizations find it challenging to move from the traditional, 2D approach to a data-driven approach.
What is standing in the way?
It’s a fair question to ask. With millions of dollars to be saved, why is lifecycle BIM not a common practice?
There are various challenges that must be met for large-scale BIM, with its seamless flow of information across project phases and stakeholders, to succeed. At its core is an understanding that BIM is a set of processes and policies supported by technology.
CHALLENGE: A common understanding of BIM
Organizations think they are speaking the same language when they ask for BIM but, often, they are not. Depending on the BIM maturity of an organization, the answer to the question – What is BIM? – varies greatly.
To ensure that owners receive the information they require, in a format that works with their internal systems and processes, they need to lead the charge.
It is critical that they clearly articulate their information requirements as part of the procurement process. A comprehensive and detailed set of BIM requirements will drive the creation of consistent digital data that can be used downstream for FMO.
Note, that while ISO 19650 refers to the Asset Information Model (AIM), it does not define what is to be captured within that dataset, that must be specified by the Owner. Specifications include what assets and data points are important for your organization, and how will you convey that information to your design and construction teams. Simply stating that ISO standards must be adhered to on a project does not provide sufficient specificity.
Owners should also anticipate that they may need to take on a pioneering role and share their expertise with smaller or less BIM-mature organizations on the project.
CHALLENGE: BIM changes the project deliverables and process
There’s no question about it, lifecycle BIM shifts the creation of BIM data to earlier in the project. The data that FMO teams will use to manage the facility is initially created by the design and engineering teams and built on iteratively by the construction teams throughout the project. This is a shift away from the model where the data – most often in large paper binders – is delivered long after project handover.
This offers huge benefits to the FMO team. They are able to understand the assets to be maintained, develop preventative maintenance plans in advance of handover, reduce costs associated with repairs, and easily access complete, accurate asset data.
However, to achieve this, the FMO requirements need to be translated into a format – a data and geometry specification – that speaks specifically to the data deliverable from the design consultants and construction teams. This specification along with the BIM Requirements must be included in the project RFP.
Depending on the information complexity and detail desired, there may be an increase in cost. This is easily offset against the value of access to a comprehensive project asset registry at handover.
What about projects without clear BIM requirements that are already in process?
Within any BIM workflow, much of the required model geometry and data is already being generated to support the design process. While there is additional work effort and expertise required by the design side to add missing assets or data fields to support FMO requirements, it is often less than expected given the tremendous value that the rich robust information adds.
Part of the reason why this is so, is that the bulk of the additional asset information is supplied during construction by the trades as asset selection is finalized with shop drawing approval. The information is collected digitally, from those most familiar with it, at a time when it has just been reviewed and signed off. This dramatically improves efficiency. Final data pieces are provided as they become available.
CHALLENGE: Lack of a common technology platform
The technology used by design, construction, engineering, and the FMO teams adds additional complexity to the idea of lifecycle BIM. While the design and construction side tends to operate in document-orientated systems, FM systems are highly structured and largely dependent on data populated in database fields.
Different in nature, the data requires thoughtfulness to ensure that all team members are operating with the same information and that it can be easily transferred to meet lifecycle BIM needs.
Maintaining consistency and ensuring the integrity of data relationships is paramount.
One way to address this common issue is to identify a system as a single source of truth. Often a third-party application, this system sits between the BIM tools used by the design side – like Revit – and the tools used by the FMO team – like Maximo.
The application consolidates the many Revit models on a project in a common data environment accessible by the trades. The trades are then able to upload additional asset data through the project and link all the required asset information. This mitigates risk, increases confidence in the model, and is dramatically more efficient.
It also allows rigorous audits of the data. By working in a database environment, project team members are able to slice and dice the data in a manner that makes sense to their needs. By viewing and comparing data that is typically dispersed across multiple drawing views, teams are able to improve data quality by identifying duplicates, incorrect data, and missing information before transfer to FMO.
Investing in software and hardware tools as well as IT infrastructure is important. Establishing a technological foundation and complementing it with third party tools that can pull the multiple Revit models generated on a project together can create the bridge between design and construction and FMO.
CHALLENGE: BIM expertise
Implementing BIM within an organization – and industry-wide – requires a considerable build-up of expertise. Recruiting the right people ranks among the most important investments owners can make in their BIM initiative.
They should look to attract talent with deep knowledge and experience of BIM processes and protocols who will ensure that the right questions are asked – and that the right processes are implemented and followed. The BIM needs of an owner require a different skillset from those of the design or construction side BIM Managers. The focus of the processes and protocols must be aligned with Facilities Management. The filter of – from the owner’s perspective – must be applied so that efforts are not misdirected.
While simple checks on the project can be completed with a limited amount of training, staff with some knowledge of BIM software tools – like Revit – may be needed to round out the team and complete more complex design reviews in-house.
Having trouble finding and retaining strong BIM experts? Consider hiring a BIM consultant. A consultant who has been through the process and knows how to connect the various stakeholders can be invaluable in guiding you through your first projects.
Owners have a tremendous opportunity to use BIM to both improve the delivery of their projects and the delivery of facility information. However, in order to realize this benefit, all stakeholders must contribute and extract information from a central dataset. Only when there is a seamless flow of information across project phases and stakeholders can we see the true benefit of large-scale BIM.