Many architecture and engineering firms have invested in BIM technology and workflows in the past five years. Many of our clients have also embraced BIM to support their facility management needs. What can design firms and owners do NOW to increase the ROI of BIM?
1. The “I” in BIM will really start to mean something. Designers, constructors and building owners will leverage the information that is right in front of them to add value to the building they are producing. The biggest opportunity is not merely the managing of a facility with a model in the background, but connecting space and asset data to business operations data. It is often stated that the design and construction costs of a facility are dwarfed by the cost of operating that facility. It is important to point out that it is even more common for business operations costs (and profits) to dwarf the combined cost of design, construction and operation. This sets the stage for the AEC industry to help our clients work smarter by leveraging the operational data and facility data. It’s our job to demonstrate this value.
2. Room and Furniture, Fixture, & Equipment (FF&E) validation between the client’s requirements and what’s in the design via robust data analysis. Great tools like dRofus, Affinity and CodeBook are already here to help us analyze our models to prove to our clients what’s in the project is what’s on the requirement list. All too often I see teams not using the model to check against the program from the client. We know we can do it with brute force because that’s how we’ve done it for years, but that’s not enough. We can do better by leveraging what’s in the model. Even if only a few pieces of equipment are not the way they were intended, that’s a few pieces too many.
3. Better utilization of FF&E assets via RFID, Ultrasound and similar tracking technologies. This technology has been utilized in forward thinking institutions for years. But designers are not getting access to this data so they can learn from the past and apply it to their current projects. Today’s BIM authoring and analysis tools already have the capability to pull in data from other sources. In a hospital for example, why not use it to see where all the stuff actually ends up, or what gets used, or what gets swapped out and how often. Imagine connecting the location and the model number of a piece of equipment, and having the manufacturer’s 3D component automatically downloaded and loaded into a simulation BIM to see what really happens to our “perfect” layouts. It may explain why so much equipment ends up in corners and corridors.
4. Real-time visualization and simulation via cloud computing. Autodesk, and others, have built great cloud computing platforms where we can click a button and have rendering and simulation done, in almost real time, while we continue to work. Sometimes these cloud computing results are so fast and back on your screen you don’t even have time to grab a cup of coffee. Some may not think this is progress. This next big thing may be evidence of “too much of a good thing.”
5. More Design-Assist relationships between design firms and specialty constructors by passing high value model data back and forth. We don’t see nearly enough of good model sharing between designers and specialty contractors such as elevator & escalator, curtain wall or any other complex system that is manufactured, supplied and sometimes installed by the same company. More often than not we see simple 2D CAD drawings inserted in models to represent this data, leaving too much to chance when it comes to coordination.
6. Building owners will start using the model now that they have it. It is very common in the last few years for owners to require a model be turned over to them from the project team at the completion of a project. I see this as an opportunity to help owners create value out of their data. They are looking to us to help solve their facility needs.
It is my opinion that the above items are not being used, not because they don’t add value to the design process, but because it’s all too common for architects, designers, engineers and building owners/operators to adopt technology too slowly. We change based on a slow thawing of our resistance to doing something in a different way with a different tool, but I’m convinced that it’s this slow pace of change that causes us to miss any positive return on investment. I do see the leaders of our industry using these items, but most of these technologies and processes should be common practice. Anything less and we’re not fully delivering the value that is right in front of us.