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BIM for Facilities Management - University Campus

Professor Steve Lockley, Research Director of the BIM Academy, recently presented the initial findings of a research project exploring the issues of Facilities Management and BIM at EcoBuild 2013 in London.


Northumbria University’s city campus, which is based in Newcastle upon Tyne, is being used to investigate the possibilities of using BIM protocols to manage its 32 non-residential buildings which have a gross area of over 120,000m² (see Figure 1). In 2010, the University commissioned 5 developers to produce 32 building information models using Autodesk Revit with a focus on space management. Working to a concise BIM Specification, the models were completed in 5 weeks at a cost of approximately £0.33/m². The work was based upon the existing Estates Department’s floor plans in DWG format, scans of the original elevations and sections in JPEG and Excel room information database. The challenge is now to develop the models in such a way that considers the strategic issues of migrating from the current and traditional processes of facilities management and the benefits to the university from a business perspective. Through detailed discussion with the University and its estates department, the key strategic issues have been identified as follows.


·         Business value

·         Ownership and Maintenance

·         Change Management

·         Technology Platforms

·         Content Creation

·         Deployment

Figure 1: Northumbria University City Campus

Business Value


In order for any organisation to change their processes, there must be business value. By migrating elements of their facility management procedures, what benefits can using BIM for FM provide the University?


The University currently update its drawing and data information on separate formats: DWG floor plans which are purely 2D graphical representations; and an MS Excel database, both of which require being updated manually creating duplication of workload. Photographs and scanned elevations and sections from the original drawings sheets are also used to verify specific details. With regular changes in building utilisation occurring year round, this is a lengthy task requiring the full time attention of a CAD technician. By modelling the campus in Revit, the creation of geometric information and inclusion of specific building information allows automatic updating of required schedules, produces instant sections, elevations, 3d visuals/renders, as well as generating drawing sheets, all from one program. This provides instant efficiency gains as well as providing information that is not presently available to the FM team (see Figure 2 & 3).

Figure 2: Comparison of existing data maintenance procedures and potential procedures using BIM

Figure 3: Additional benefits directly available from a Building Information Model

To date the BIM Academy has focused on updating the models to include information relating to statutory compliance: integrated asbestos register; emergency equipment; escape routes; accessibility; and essential maintenance. Detailed information on these components is stored in the Building Information Models and can be easily traced, updated and reported in schedules. An example may include an area of asbestos; properties of the asbestos type, its exact location, date of removal and location of survey documentation can be displayed at a click of a mouse (see Figure 4 & 5).

Figure 4: 3D view of removed (blue) and existing (red) asbestos in building model

Figure 5: Properties associated to an area of asbestos component in model

There are several other secondary benefits that may potentially benefit an organisation. The use of BIM for FM allows more accurate and consistent records, for example, certain areas of buildings on the campus required new surveys to verify the building layout as the DWG floor plans failed to stack up when used as a basis for a 3D model (see Figure 6).

Figure 6: Improved accuracy of building records when tested in 3D format. Red original, Black updated

The models may also be used to benefit communication with users of the Estate Department.  By converting the models to IFC files, and using available technology, services such as room finding, fault reporting, development and refurbishment option generation, and assessment building performance are made available. Such services could lead to significant reduction in response times, with detailed campus knowledge assigned to specific buildings, levels, rooms, etc. For example, with each request to replace a light bulb on the campus, the maintenance staff could check the bulb type and manufacturer using the FM model before carrying out the task. Another example could be to check the paint colour code for a room where the wall finish has been damaged, thus saving staff time and material resources. The models have been used to trial option appraisal for redevelopment and refurbishment as phased plans, sections, elevations and 3D rendered views can be quickly displayed (see Figure 7). Again, this may save time and costs associated with design and provide more accurate representations for strategic decision making from a management perspective.

Figure 7: Example of design options for internal refurbishment rendered directly from Building Information Model


"One size does not fit all"


Ownership and Maintenance


From the BIM Academy research team’s experience to date, there are recommendations for the ownership and maintenance of the data incorporated in the building information models. The estates department of any institution must give “buy-in” and be willing to manage the migration from their current processes to BIM. To do this, they will need to have control of the data and be in a position to maintain it themselves. Above all, they must appreciate the benefits it will bring to them, such as the examples previously mentioned. Staff in the organisation should work alongside the estates department to clearly communicate the deployment plan, so that the staff involved in FM understand the implementation process of BIM and can gradually learn and adapt to new ways of working. The organisation must also define and understand the business value of adopting BIM for FM, and take a long term view (minimum 5 year view) whilst integrating life-cycle costing into their strategy. A concise BIM specification should be developed to define the information required to suit the particular requirements of the business. A project template for all modelling of current and future buildings would provide consistency (information to be included, object styles, line styles, units, export settings, etc.).


Despite the benefits of using BIM to model the campus, one size does not fit all. BIM for FM is an emerging field and is yet to be proven compatible with CAFM (Computer-Aided Facilities Management) systems. Therefore multiple software platforms are essential and multiple data formats pre-requisite. The lifecycle of software is around 12 months, whereas the lifecycle of a building typically around 100 years, meaning data standards are critical. It is of vital importance that organisations do not fit their business to suit a technology, otherwise they will struggle to adapt to new software as technology develops.  


"Content is King"


Another key decision is the level of detail that the model content is created. The approach to developing campus building information models should be that “Content is King”. How much information is used? Is it in the right format? How much detail needs to be added? How much should be omitted? The decision should lie in what the business needs. The Understanding LOD (level of development) is crucial. Time and effort can be spent modelling buildings and internal components such as fire extinguishers in high detail (AIA LOD 500) (see Figure 8 & 9), but in reality much lower detail may provide sufficient data for FM (AIA LOD 100) (see Figure 10 & 11). (For more information on LOD view this blog:

Figure 8: Campus Building Information Model at AIA LOD 500

Figure 9: Fire Extinguisher model with physical appearance at AIA LOD 500

Figure 10: Campus Building Information Model at LOD 100

Figure 11: Fire Extinguisher model with physical appearance at AIA LOD 100

80% of the data required for BIM probably already exists in the current facility management records; therefore it is advisable to consider cost and the ease of updating in future. As noted earlier, authoring (e.g. using Revit) is a phase and should not be confused with data in use, which often uses different technologies (Excel databases, PDF specifications, etc.). The supply chain can help provide this information if a good BIM specification is in place for the data and level of detail required for future work on campus which allows compatibility with the organisation’s FM procedures – having many eggs in multiple baskets.




To summarise, the research to date has provided some interesting findings:


·         BIM for FM is an emerging field – its business value is yet to be demonstrated. BIM for construction is currently better understood.

·         BIM for FM can offer efficiency gains – there are currently various processes that can be implemented to reduce iterations in the updating of the estates drawings and information.

·         FM BIM is not – a generic design model, construction model, or hand-over model – it is specifically what you require for your business.

·         Clients must specify their needs – to the procurement and IT teams.

·         Multi-technology platforms are required – one size does not fit all, problem precedes solution.

·         Content is King – FM models are for life, not just for Christmas.


Current and Future Work


The BIM Academy is currently involved in various research projects investigating the use of BIM in several areas relating to Facilities Management. This includes:

·         Web-based 3D model viewer allowing BIM to be viewed through a free web-browser (xBIM Xplorer)

·         Innovation of cloud-based BIM document management (for more information visit: 4BIM website)

·         Integration of COBie data

·         Research into integrating sensors into lecture theatres to monitor space utilisation and digital lecture attendance.

·         Estates information integration by using 3D models with 2D CAD underlay

·         Campus Online – Where am I? Room locator.

·         3D fault reporting using IOS and Android applications

·         Pedestrian movement simulation

·         Building carbon embodiment using iCIM (for more information visit iCIM website)

Written by Michael Serginson and Professor Steve Lockley