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Something in the EIR for FM. By BIFM research and information manager Peter Brogan

21-04-17, 10:16

To coincide with the publication of BIFM's Employer's Information Requirements manual, BIFM research and information manager Peter Brogan discusses how FMs should be harnessing the latest technological advances at their fingertips to firmly grasp the leadership role.

In my last blog 'Just why is everybody banging on about BIM', I highlighted the major paradigm shift taking place in the built environment and the way the profession and technologies are combining to deliver better operational performance for both the end user and FM. In the future this may well revolutionise the way buildings are procured and perform.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a major driver of the transformation process. Excitingly, it offers enormous opportunities to savvy FM professionals, potentially providing better insight and metrics to demonstrate their own contribution to delivering better business performance.

BIM was borne out of politicians' frustration at public sector projects coming in late and over budget. Instead of accepting construction failure as inevitable, Government instituted a radical overhaul of the building process in 2011 that culminated in BIM becoming mandatory on all publically funded building projects from April last year. Many private clients are also now following suit.

The essence of BIM is collaborative working between client, project leader and supply chain, with a common sharing of data. Using open-access digital technologies, the lead players unlock more efficient methods of designing, building and maintaining assets than conventional construction approaches normally deliver.

It's a true game changer because it empowers clients to manage their assets better and achieve the outcomes they want. By getting to grips with the entire life cycle of a building, through use of transparent 3-dimensional computer models that show everyone what's going on and what changes are being made, the client's advisers can make more intelligent decisions about construction methodology, energy efficiency and the whole life performance of assets. What's not to like?

Of course, this is not the first ever initiative to attempt wholesale construction reform. Many previous well-intentioned efforts have foundered on complex and confusing protocols, which have seen professionals dividing against themselves rather than coalescing. BIM offers a clearer, more disciplined structure but it does need a client who knows what it wants. And it's here that FM can take the lead, if it has the self-confidence to do so.

And that's where how our latest guide comes in. Entitled Employer's Information Requirements (EIR) and published in March, we commissioned the 47-page document to provide an ABC-style manual to help clients formulate and articulate exactly what it is they want from a specific project. This then forms the central part of the building tender documentation, and complements our suite of other BIM-related guidance materials for FMs to reference and refer to.

In the words of the EIR's author, Simon Ashworth, an FM specialist at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, the EIR sets out "the management, technical, commercial and project information and deliverables required for a project in a way that is specific, measurable, achievable and realistic".

Ashworth, who uses his expertise to advise clients on how to get the best out of BIM, says it's still early days and most clients are not very knowledgeable about it. They may not even be aware there is a requirement on them to create an EIR.

As he's mentioned to me on numerous occasions recently, he's convinced FM could lead the process of creating the EIR, but it needs to be involved from the start, engaging with the clients to help define what the building should be. A good 'live' example of this is up in Glasgow, where, following advice from Ashworth, the city's Burrell Museum has taken BIFM's EIR template and issued it to the design team. The project is well on track and the client is delighted at its progress.

Graham Kelly, from the BIM Academy, worked with the research and information team here at BIFM and Ashworth to create the EIR and he also sees the new opportunity for FM created by BIM, but is aware of the burden of history. As he told me: "EIR gives FM the opportunity to be pro-active and take the lead with the client, helping define what the client wants long-term. But it's not used to taking such a central role: over the past 30 years, it's generally been reactive."

In Kelly's view, the key is that FM becomes much better at data management: "Many in FM are still using Excel spreadsheets. Perhaps they need to recruit a few computer scientists to become more data savvy."

It's important to note that our EIR is not the only EIR clients can call on. Other versions exist, mostly created by contractors, who naturally see projects from their own standpoint. So it's crucial for the FM world to explain to the client why this new BIFM document, Employer's Information Requirements, suits the client's interest best.

Happily for FM, Employer's Information Requirements is perfectly in tune with an earlier Government construction initiative, Government Soft Landings (GSL). GSL is a process aimed at smoothly transitioning from the design and construction phase of a built asset to the operational phase. It compares the client's desires for the asset's performance with how the asset actually performs once it's handed over, and helps ensure the client gets what it wants in terms of life-time performance.

FM's input in the GSL should be central, and as GSL dovetails neatly into BIM, there's every incentive for the client to be guided by its FM adviser in the nascent stage of a project. Especially if the client is familiar with last year's seminal The Workplace Advantage report from the Stoddart Review, which highlights the importance of the right workplace for improving productivity of any physical workforce. As much as 12% uplifts are achievable in a well-designed and fit-for-purpose workspace, explains the report - which poses the question why do so many buildings fall short in delivering optimum performance? And that leads us back to BIM and Employer's Information Requirements, which we launched in a determined attempt to address this fundamental problem.

The new guide takes its place in a suite of BIFM documents following on from our Operational Readiness Guide for Facilities Managers, which sets out a roadmap for FM to support soft landings in any environment. Equally instructive is our other new launch, The Role of FM in BIM Projects, which guides FM practitioners through the BIM process and highlights key stages and essential documentation.

Taken together, the guides display a level of FM professionalism and expertise that will make a deep impression on any BIM client looking to safeguard the long-term performance of its assets. With such a deep pool of knowledge to draw from and benefit the client, it is time for FM to firmly grasp the leadership role.

The Employer's Information Requirements is available to download here.The document is available for free to BIFM members as part of their membership benefits, or costs £29.99 to purchase by non-members.

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