In recent years we've made leaps and bounds in the application of Building Information Modelling (BIM) during the design and construction phases of a building. However, it's the operational management phase - the one where BIM is least understood - where it has the potential to add the most value. If BIM is used during the design and construction phases, by the time your building is operating, all the base data you could ever need about your physical asset already exists - it was generated as part of the earlier phases. But why would you want it, how do you get hold of it, and how do you make sure the data you're getting is useful?
It’s time to go back to the future.
"Until recently, the uptake of BIM has been led by design consultants who use it for improving the co-ordination and efficiency of their design and documentation processes, and by larger contractors who use BIM to assist construction co-ordination on complex, large-scale projects," says Project and Cost Manager, Andrew Field.
"But if you take a long-term view of your building, BIM can provide invaluable information that can improve your decisions about asset maintenance and renewal in the future. You just need to think about it at the beginning of a project, during the project brief, to ensure you get the data you need to improve efficiency at the other end."
So building data is available on a BIM supported project, and it’s also accessible if you plan ahead – but what are you actually going to do with it?
"By pulling together all the existing data, you can create a digital blueprint of your building in real-time," says Technical Director, Brett Naylor. "BIM enables us to gather information from multiple sources and in multiple formats to provide a fully integrated view of your building’s information which can be called upon, and built upon, throughout its entire lifecycle."
Mason Bros. Building, Auckland
The redevelopment of the Mason Bros. Building in the Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct on Auckland’s waterfront is a great example. In a ground-breaking first for New Zealand, mobile and cloud based technology was used to capture critical data throughout the project’s design and construction phases, which was made available to the building’s operations team via a digital handover at completion of the project. The data, including 3D models, specified assets and associated data and documentation, is now accessed using the team’s mobile devices and informs the ongoing maintenance programme.
Precinct Properties, the developer for the Mason Bros. Building, wanted to transform a 5,500m² warehouse into a dynamic, multi-functional, commercial environment for multiple tenants. One of the company’s strategic objectives was for the building to be highly efficient to run from an operations and maintenance perspective, helping it attract and retain good tenants for the high quality, strategically located city centre property. That meant being able to accurately forecast capital expenditure, which is where BIM data and a digital Asset Information Management (AIM) solution came into play.
"Precinct was willing to innovate, investing time and effort into new ways of managing construction and asset information," says Group Delivery Manager, Jon Williams. "It hadn’t been done in New Zealand before, so it was a risk for Precinct, but the outcomes they wanted to achieve were clear and we were able to help them realise their strategic objective by tapping into the digital resources available. We created a customised, digital AIM delivery solution for the Mason Bros Building, working backwards from the operation of the building to define the data requirements. The project is now viewed as a potential game changer."
The digital AIM delivery solution incorporates a suite of software from Autodesk, providing a link between information generated during the construction phase (BIM 360 Field) and the live asset management database that Precinct’s operations team uses. The asset database has been designed to integrate with other business management systems, such as accounting or space management systems, to generate even more benefits, but the integrating technologies are still maturing.
Leveraging the benefits
So what does this mean for Precinct Properties on a day to day basis?
"Towards the end of the project, when we were testing for defects, there were ongoing issues with the domestic hot water system," says Paul Singleton, Precinct Properties Operations Manager in Auckland. "Using the digital AIM system we were able to access the design and As-built documentation through a mobile device, allowing the independent team to quickly deduce that the system was not installed as per design."
"Supplier information was accessed and a call put through to assess the actual capacity of the calorifiers and the heating elements," he continues. "The controls of the system were reviewed at the same time, and we realised we could also reduce electricity use by making some small changes. This all happened within a matter of minutes, in the plant room, without the need for an expensive and time consuming search for information."
Critical success factors
As the Mason Bros. example illustrates, there are a few important steps critical to success.
- understanding the client’s desired outputs – what they want out of an As-built model and how they plan to use it – and identifying these in the project brief
- adopting the mantra of “less is more”, focusing on capturing the asset data that is most important to their business – the data set needs to be manageable and useful
- partnering with contractors to help manage gaps in digital information knowledge in the supply chain
The Precinct Properties experience points to the many benefits of applying BIM to asset and facilities management, over and above the benefits BIM brings to building design and construction. In addition to providing reliable As-built information on completion of a project so the operations team is ready to go from day one, a digital As-built handover provides essential information for the efficient, ongoing management and operation of a building over its lifetime.
The potential is huge.