Why You Should Embrace BIM

BIM is a very important concept for asset managers, but it’s highly misunderstood. While the various frameworks and technology that make up BIM aren’t new, the term itself and what it represents is relatively new. There’s even debate around what BIM stands for: Building Information Modelling, Building Information Management or Better Information Management.

Simply put, BIM is a way of planning, constructing, operating and maintaining a building using digital computer models of the project. It provides an end-to-end process that involves everyone from architects and engineers to construction and maintenance professionals. This avoids mistakes and duplications, helps with regulation and compliance and improves collaboration and communication. Ultimately it provides much better transparency over the entire project and the final results.

For asset managers, BIM means a more efficient building, because predicted usage has been modelled and incorporated into the design. It also means a greater ability to predict maintenance and future modifications. Asset managers can also become involved at the design stage.

Smarter Data Management

Traditionally, the asset management industry has struggled to effectively manage asset information across the lifecycle of assets. Components of BIM may be used, but maximum value isn’t being extracted from the data.

BIM solves this problem. It provides a formalised framework for defining, storing and sharing information to ensure the right people have the right information in the right format at the right time, enabling the best decisions to be made.

BIM can exist at different levels, ranging from basic 2D drawings and stand-alone documentation through to fully integrated asset management platforms. An example of higher level BIM would be a design drawing for infrastructure that enables integration with a lifecycle costing platform, or maintenance management platform that generates maintenance plans for the assets.

Level 0 BIM: No collaboration at all. Most countries are already past this stage.

Level 1 BIM: A mixture of 3D CAD for conceptual work and 2D for the drafting of legal documentation and production information. CAD drawings are managed according to standards while electronic data exchange is carried out in a common data environment (CDE), usually administered by the main contractor. Most organisations are currently operating at this level.

Level 2 BIM: Building information is developed in a highly collaborative 3D environment, with CAD software capable of exporting to a common file format, but created in separate discipline models.

Level 3 BIM: Level 3 is currently the target for BIM, representing full collaboration between all parties through a single, shared project model held in a centralised repository, including construction sequencing, cost and lifecycle management information. It would remove the final layer of risk for conflicting information.

Level 4 BIM: This is still a concept, but it holds the greatest potential for asset management purposes. It involves the advanced use of data and algorithms to design and operate buildings that are more attuned to communities, and improving social outcomes and wellbeing.

The United Kingdom has been one of the pioneers of BIM. Back in 2011 the UK government mandated all centrally-procured projects to require "fully collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) as a minimum by 2016".

The primary target was to save at least 20% on typical capital expenditure costs while also delivering higher quality built assets. Other macro benefits targeted in the strategy include:

  • Lower costs: a 33% reduction in initial cost of construction and the whole life cost of built assets

  • Lower emissions: a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment

  • Faster delivery: a 50% reduction in the overall time, from conception to completion, for new-build and refurbished assets

  • Improvement in exports: a 50% reduction in the trade gap between total exports and total imports for construction products and materials

Australia is also starting to increase its adoption of higher levels of BIM. The Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities recommends a level of BIM for all infrastructure projects exceeding $50 million. Although it hasn’t yet been mandated at either a State or Federal level, various states are exploring BIM adoption or using higher levels of BIM in some of their current projects. Hospitals, universities and transport are examples of this recent adoption of BIM.

Ultimately BIM enables better-informed decision making through the efficient use of data, combined with improved communication and collaboration, and results in better business outcomes.