The BIM Coin

By: Eric Wilson

Chances are if you are at all involved in the design or construction of facilities, you know what BIM stands for.  Most AEC firms now use modeling to some level during the project.  Unfortunately many of those same firms equate the model files as BIM.  After all, it’s Building Information Modeling.  But what if there’s a longer term view of BIM – one that shifts the focus from models into the higher value process of Building Information Management?

To be clear, this is not a wholly owned CPI concept to shift into a process mindset.  However while most AEC groups focus on the use of BIM (the process or the model) for the benefit of the project team, CPI chooses to extend that focus into the ongoing operational efforts of facilities management.  After all, 80% or more of a facility’s overall cost of ownership will be spent during operations after the initial project completes.  But the ability to drive down this operational cost starts with the information created, reviewed and approved during the project.  This is the paradox of the BIM Coin.

During design, the project team works toward the typical deliverable of construction documents.  This set of plans is now derived from a 3D model which involves placing representative objects into space.  Walls, floors, doors, ceilings, equipment, and anything else that needs to be included for construction is shown visually.  That’s the geometry side of the BIM Coin – a visual model describing what’s to be built.  Then depending on the BIM execution plan, the project team shifts into build mode with the constructor adding further geometry to the model such as hangers, pipe insulation or penetrations that allow for a coordinated and (hopefully) clash-free set of plans used for construction.  Again, the geometric side of the BIM coin.

It’s easy to be drawn toward the visual geometry and forget coins have two sides.  But flip it over and you’ll discover there’s an equally sized effort to develop the information about the project.  Now BIM can emphasize the “I” – a critical task for the AEC as that’s where facilities operations begins.  Even in design which by its nature is heavily visual, there is information defined such as square footage requirements, temperature and humidity needs, or daylighting conditions.  All part of how the project takes shape in order to meet defined Owner needs.  And of course there is a wealth of information generated during construction.  We have whole standard sub-processes that every AEC understands inherently just to deal with it… submittals.  Many AEC’s have begun incorporating these informational workflows into their BIM execution plans, a great step forward for sure.  However, most teams still turn over as-built models separate from the O&M manuals or other information details.  Strange as it sounds, they separate the two sides of the single coin that represents the complete project.

BIM has certainly enabled efficiencies and gains within the project team.  But until the two sides of the BIM coin can be united, the true value of the process cannot be realized by Owners.

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