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The integration of building information modelling (BIM) and CAFM is where true benefits can be realised for Facilities and Estates Managers. Once a robust CAFM software is in place and integrated with a BIM model, rich data points and invaluable asset information can be accessed and leveraged.

This combination enables intelligent information management. Indeed, BIM should be viewed as a process that supports optimised management of data throughout a building’s lifecycle rather than a technology in and of itself. The purpose of BIM is to provide the informational underpinning that enables building managers to deliver on operational objectives in key areas such as user experience, building safety, cost efficiency and sustainability.

If executed properly, an array of applications and benefits can be realised.

An Asset is Damaged and Needs Repairing or Replacing

Building managers know all too well that things can go wrong. In the event that assets are damaged or malfunctioning, BIM is key to ensuring disruption is kept to a minimum. Firstly, it provides an accurate visual of exactly where in the building the damaged asset is, with users able to click on the asset in the 3D BIM model and access relevant information such as detailed measurements, manufacturer, model and component parts.

Additionally, operatives can view important documentation like manufacturer’s instructions to assess how to fix the asset, as well as evaluate warranty information to see if it is their responsibility to carry out the repair or replacement – knowledge which could yield FM teams vital cost savings.

Checking Asset Location/Position and Undertaking Renovation Work

If your team does need to carry out remedial work, by knowing where the asset is, what it is made from and how it can be fixed, several efficiencies can be realised.

For example, there will be no need for a site visit to determine the exact size and location of the asset. Meanwhile, operatives will be able to better prepare for when they do need to visit to perform repair or replacement work. With access to documentation, they can order the correct amount of ‘like for like’ parts, while prior, accurate visibility of the affected area enables them to consider additional equipment that might be needed (such as a ladder if the asset is up high).

This will also ensure disruption is minimised while work is being undertaken. If surrounding areas are busy, operatives can plan to carry out maintenance at quiet times to avoid disruption to the organisation. This might be applicable to a busy transport facility, school classroom or corridor, where traffic is high during specific hours.

Accessing Asset Information and Documentation

A CAFM solution which leverages BIM data will act as a nerve centre for FM teams which is easy to navigate and provides a complete repository of building data.  Key information obtained at the BIM/building handover stage, including warranties, dimensions and materials, as well as health and safety and compliance related documents can then be utilised by FM teams in advance of and during the performance of maintenance tasks.

It is also important to note that the integration of BIM and CAFM is most effective when it is a two-way process – as updates and developments occur on one side, the other is automatically updated in tandem, meaning the data that is extracted on the building, and thus the FM services provided, are up to date.  This can prove extremely useful if there is a requirement for those responsible for managing a facility are obliged to return an up-to-date BIM model upon end of the contracted term.

Accessing Non-Visible Assets and Systems

Some parts of buildings that require maintenance or remedial work, including HVAC, plumbing and heating/air conditioning systems, may not be visible to operatives in the field.

Here, the ability of BIM to provide 3D viewing of non-visible assets is extremely valuable. Such tools can be used by contractors or in-house personnel to view information such as ceiling plans, HVAC systems, and plumbing and electrical models, enabling them to plan their jobs in advance.

This will help to prevent unwanted surprises when they arrive on site, ensure contractors can accurately quote for work, and reduces the number of occasions operatives need to physically visit the site, all helping to save time and cost and minimise disruption to building users.

Maintaining a ‘Golden Thread’ of Information

A good BIM operation will provide a ‘golden thread’ of digital information about a building – an ever-updating encyclopedia that informs many of the most important decisions FM managers must make on a daily basis.

Indeed, when integrated with CAFM software, updated information can be fed back to make sure all data pertaining to a building and its assets is always accurate and up to date. This allows organisations to be confident in remaining compliant with many different legal standards (for example, around fire safety assets such as fire doors and extinguishers) and client expectations at all times.

Training New Staff

When new recruits join the FM team, it is vital that they know where key assets are located, the affected areas around them should work need to be undertaken, and where common walkways and important access areas are within their building.

BIM provides the ability to do this via a 3D model instead of physically needing to be on-site.  No specialist CAD training is needed to leverage 3D BIM models within CAFM tools, and useful 2D drawings or 3D videos can be extracted and placed into training materials and videos.

For many, creating a BIM model of a building can be where the journey ends, but digitisation for the sake of it doesn’t come with many benefits. However, when this is viewed as the first stage of a journey, rather than a destination, significant possibilities are available for organisations. Integrating BIM and CAFM software enables organisations to leverage their building information in the operational phase and take advantage of the many benefits listed earlier. With a better understanding of the technology and operational goals, huge efficiencies can be made.

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