Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review of the GSA and Penn State guides on BIM for FM/Owners

Blog entry by: Dominik Holzer

In early BIM days architects, engineers and manufacturers (hence those authoring BIMs) were the main parties of interest when it came to BIM literature, followed by contractors who would learn about BIM's advantages for coordination and site related work. This is changing and two recent U.S. publications illustrate that the focus surrounding BIM is currently moving towards exploring advantages for Owner / Operators in general, and Facility Management FM in particular: The General Services Administration (GSA) 'BIM Guide for Facility Management' and the Penn State 'BIM Planning Guide for FacilityOwners'

As much as these are two different efforts, they share the same goal, namely educating clients on how to leverage the advantages of BIM during Operation and Maintenance O&M of their facilities. Whereas the GSA guide is more specific about the kind of information required by this U.S authority in order to fulfill their requirements for BIM, the Penn State guide comprises a more general summary of how clients can align their business processes with the processes inherent to BIM style delivery of projects.

The GSA guide:

Despite the fact that the GSA guide is not intended to address stakeholders outside their organisation, it is nevertheless useful to make all design and construction teams understand BIM requirements of clients in general.  Written in four parts (BIM for FM / Implementation Guide / Modeling Requirements / Technology) the guide lists  FM related tasks and functions that can be supported by linking BIM models to Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS):
  • Reduces cost of re-documenting as built
  • Reduces cost for audits and re-walk
  • Maintain accurate building inventory –  via a bidirectional link between BIMs and CMMS
  • Track facility components accurately (visualisation, access to location, relationships of building systems and equipment and access to existing condition attribute data)
  • Identify inefficiencies in building operation
  • Respond quickly to client requests; reduces risk and uncertainty of performing work orders
  • According to GSA: reduces O & M contract cost from 3-6%
  • ROI of 3% in energy savings by identifying all Facility components that affect energy usage
  • Optimises building performance by comparing actual with predicted energy data.
  • Better equipment selection on future projects based on feedback from building operations

The guide nevertheless highlights that this is early days on the link from BIM to FM. The industry still faces a range of open questions that need to be resolved over the coming years: Despite this specific summary of FM deliverables, the GSA guide remains a tad vague when outlining the approach for transitioning (or even synchronising) BIM with FM data. A 'Design Intent' BIM may well be useful for FM, but there is no mention on in the guide how to filter and format the data (once tagged) so it becomes a useful addition to project related information in the CMMS. The GSA guide names MEP/FP BIM as further sources of information for FM, but again lacking detail of what MEP data is actually relevant for FM.

Considerations about subcontractor data is mostly omitted from GSA's proposed implementation strategy and their guide states: the BIM Execution Plan (BEP) shall outline the transition process including changes in roles and responsibilities to ensure Design BIMs are appropriately used and leveraged during construction. This doesn’t say anything about the operational side of things and where/when the communication takes place about that is ultimately useful for FM. It is assumed that all participants will tag their models with the appropriate (COBie) information that will automatically form the true as maintained condition (Record BIM) once the project is handed over. 

Overall, the verdict is a 'thumbs up' for the GSA effort, it is so far the most comprehensive literature on linking BIM to FM. With the update cycle of GSA documents, we are likely to see some of the remaining questions addressed over the coming months and years.

The Penn State guide

As with their 2009 guide on Project Execution Planning, Penn State’s approach in developing the guide for facility owners is very comprehensive and it is based on years of research by a large group of stakeholders from both practice and academia. It is acknowledged throughout the guide that, due to a lack of precedence, many of the recommendations still need to be verified and adjusted against live projects in order to advance it over time.Next to the introduction and conclusion, the document introduces three main procedures:
  1. BIM Organizational Strategic Planning
  2. Owner BIM Organizational Execution Planning, and
  3. Owner BM Project Procurement Planning
Whereas the first two procedures deal with a firm’s BIM readiness’ and implementation programme, the third focuses on an owner’s specific project needs for BIM. In parallel to these three distinctions, the document presents a list of six BIM Planning Elements:
Overall, the BIN Planning Guide for Facility Owners is an excellent guide to provide the construction industry with a framework for BIM implementation and rollout on projects. One of the strengths of the document can be seen as its weakness at the same time: Over most of the guide comments about the strategic planning and implementation of BIM are of a generic nature that easily applies to any firm implementing BIM, including architects, engineers, contractors and others. 

The title: Planning Guide for Facility Owners is somewhat misleading. There is very little ‘owner specificity’ and there seems to be a lack of support for readers who wish to understand the maximum value owners can ultimately get out of BIM (and what they require from their consultants and the contractor in order to do so). Owners can certainly benefit from the suggestions made in the guide. At the same time there is very little advice how to change the communication strategy internally and with their consultants/contractors to link BIM to FM, as well as informing them how to re-skill their facility managers in order to streamline the information flow from design, construction and operation. Some of the suggestions made in the guide are based on the assumption that facility owners  perform BIM themselves. In my point of view this is usually not the case. The authors of the guide seem to overlook that not geometry, but up to date and correct building data, representing the ‘as maintained’ condition is of most benefit for facility owner/operators.  Their software is mostly data-centric and not focussing on geometric models. Further, the guide fails to go into detail about mechanisms for owners to synchronise changes to their assets with updates in their BIMs and related data-bases during operation.

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