Workplace Technology Assessment
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By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
Most facilities managers recognize BIM when they see it. The ability to open a CAD drawing, pull out a specific layer of information, and dissect it represents the power of BIM, and many FMs have become accustomed to using this data as part of facilities governance. But how does BIM work? Where do those insights come from and how does a BIM system tie them all together in the context of a detailed CAD drawing?
To understand how it works, we need to first understand what BIM is—what its purpose is, how it’s used, and what it represents.
What is BIM?
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the practice of bringing the many functional elements of a building together and quantifying them all within the context of the finished product.
It’s easiest to think of BIM as a layered CAD drawing: mechanical, electrical, plumbing, infrastructure, architecture, and other layers stacked atop each other to form a complete building model. Facility managers, engineers, contractors, and other professionals can peel back these layers to understand how every part of the building works with every other.
But what is BIM without data? In a BIM plan, each layer and the system it represents is chock-full of data, so building managers and professionals understand its role in the greater structure. Altogether, the layers and information of a BIM plan represent something powerful: a digital twin of the building. That digital twin is then used for everything from developing a preventive maintenance schedule, to budgeting and cost planning, to facility management and workplace design.
In a nutshell: BIM seeks to quantify every major subsystem of a building within the context of the whole, allowing professionals to better plan, design, construct, and manage facilities.
The definition and concept of BIM are a lot to take in. And the larger the building, the more expansive a BIM plan, which only serves to complicate the practice of using it. It’s easier to explain BIM in basic examples.
- The architect draws plans for a six-foot doorway, but the developer later changes it to an eight-foot doorway. They change the CAD drawing, which updates the materials list, which changes the costs.
- XYZ Company decides to remodel. They mockup the changes in a BIM plan, which intelligently reroutes plumbing, mechanical, and electrical to fit the changes of the new space design.
- Support tickets synced to specific cost centers within a BIM show the total cost of ownership for the building’s mechanical systems over the past 12 months, which allows FMs to budget for the upcoming year.
These are just a simple few of BIM’s may applications. BIM offers nearly infinite possibilities in how it helps professionals plan, design, construct, and manage facilities. The volume and context of data is what makes it so useful, and the more stakeholders do to enable BIM insights, the more they’ll enable more informed decision-making.
So, how does BIM work?
Now that you know what BIM is and the context for its use, it’s easier to understand BIM software and how it works.
Most people confuse BIM software with AutoCAD, since the fundamental basis for BIM is a comprehensive CAD model (2D or 3D). While CAD design programs are often used in conjunction with BIM software, the important distinction that differentiates them is the intuitive capabilities of BIM. BIM uses CAD mockups as a medium for bringing broad-scope information about a building together. Or, in simpler terms, BIM makes CAD drawings smarter, more dynamic by pairing information to the building’s many systems.
BIM works by applying intelligent insights to the tangible aspects of a building. While a CAD design may show you the layout of a space you intend to remodel, BIM tells you which walls are load bearing, how to reroute the electrical, and what materials you’ll need to plumb HVAC ducts into the space. CAD is static; BIM is dynamic. More important, BIM insights influence changes made to CAD designs.
In an age where buildings themselves are getting smarter, it’s vital for facility professionals to get smarter about how they manage them. BIM informs the best possible approach to facilities management and maintenance, by providing complete context for buildings and the many systems that govern them. BIM insights offer the epitome of information-driven decision-making.
There’s no doubt that the concept of BIM is complex and sophisticated and can be difficult to grasp for those new to it. But BIM is getting easier to understand and more accessible thanks to its role in designing and managing smarter buildings. As infrastructure becomes more complex and connected, BIM becomes more essential. It’s a system every FM needs to understand moving forward, so they can tap into the intelligent insights it offers and achieve a new standard of success in facilities management.
Keep reading: BIM Facility Management Software.