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Just why is everybody banging on about BIM? By BIFM research and information manager Peter Brogan

03-03-17, 09:40

You've probably been seeing a lot coming from BIFM about BIM in recent weeks. Whether it?s new Good Practice Guides published by the Institute or articles in trade journals, sector magazines or industry research papers, it can't have escaped your notice that Building Information Modelling has been increasing in profile over the past few years.

If BIM is not yet on your radar, or applicable to your particular role or situation at this present time, then you may be begging the question why is everyone banging on about BIM? But the fact is, it is becoming more and more relevant for a growing number of FMs.

As with the introduction of anything new, not everyone working within FM may be fully up to speed with the implications BIM could have for the delivery and development of the facilities management function in the future. But the increasing focus on BIM within the public sector indicates that, whether it is a new-build or refurbishment, the operational phases of a construction or renovation project is becoming more important and, to ensure it can capitalise on any gains, the FM sector must be ready to embrace these changes.

BIM is already beginning to transform design, engineering and construction, and this will inevitably only increase the importance of BIM to the FM sector and profession as we continue developing our understanding of its potential to provide accurate, timely and relevant information not just during the design and construction phase but throughout the lifecycle of a facility.

Since the introduction of the 2013 RIBA Plan of Work and Stage Zero, FM professionals have increasingly been expected to be involved in the construction process and have an understanding of the BIM stages that mirror this. It is crucial this happens at the earliest opportunity so that FMs can offer from the outset learnings and insights into how to close the gap between building design and performance, and share expertise on how best to harness this wealth of data to improve the effectiveness of workplace operations and provide work environments that maximise the productivity of their occupants.

In this respect, BIM offers the chance to provide evidence-based data with the potential to offer insight into new ways of working that is backed up by facts and figures, thereby demonstrating FM's worth and value to the business, and resulting in not only a positive impact on the organisation but the economy as a whole.

As an Institute, we have long recognised the vital role FM has to play within BIM projects, which is why we formed our own Operational Readiness Steering Group in late 2015 to inform and develop a suite of guidance and knowledge materials to arm our members, and indeed the wider built environment industry, with the knowledge and skills they need to be operationally ready for BIM.

This started with the 2016 publication of our Operational Readiness Guide to ensuring long term effectiveness in the design and construction process, which offers practical insight into the roles and responsibilities of the FM discipline at each stage of the RIBA Plan of Work process. That document has been followed by last month's publication of our Good Practice Guide: The Role of FM in BIM Projects, which covers the fundamentals of BIM as well as advice to support FMs in their role as productive members of a project or design team, and the imminent launch of the Employer's Information Requirements guide, which helps clients using BIM to specify their exact requirements for the design and construction phase of a built asset through to its full life-time operation.

Our mission to equip FM practitioners with a thorough understanding of the purpose, value and benefits of BIM has been further underpinned by its recent incorporation into the FM Professional Standards, a change that reflects the growing impact it has on the working practices of our members as the industry adapts to the challenges and opportunities BIM will provide.

Our work in this area is crucial in acknowledging the ever-evolving FM landscape, and could be described in one sense as helping to futureproof the profession in the face of criticism from some that FM has traditionally been slow to adapt to change and embrace new ways of working.

Certainly, BIM has the potential to demonstrate the real value of facilities management and its impact on overall organisational performance, and, as the representative of the end user of the building, FMs must now seize the opportunity to be at the forefront when it comes to the delivery of high performing buildings.

For the majority of FMs, the reality is that either now or in the near future they will be expected to operate in an area of innovation they may not necessarily know very much about, and ultimately that is why BIFM is acting now to bridge that knowledge gap and support our members as they prepare to embrace technology and innovations that will affect new and future ways of working.

One of the greatest things about FM is that it is truly multi-disciplinary and covers a whole spectrum of skills, as reflected in the FM Professional Standards that BIFM helped to develop. Arguably, the interpretation of data will be critical to the future shaping of the FM role, and as FM professionals begin to get to grips with BIM and what it will mean for the profession, we want to ensure they are in a position to maximise and protect the value of the property and assets that they are responsible for to ensure all new building projects and refurbishments are fit for purpose for the duration of their use.

BIFM guidance relating to BIM, including the Operational Readiness Guide, Good Practice Guide: The Role of FM in BIM Projects and the Employers? Information Requirements are all available for members to download for free, or for non-members to buy, here.

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