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By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
There’s no shortage of initialism and acronyms in the field of facilities management. You might use a CAFM or IWMS platform, review vendor SLAs, and pursue training for your FMP, SMP, or CFM. It can get a little confusing—especially when new terms rise within the industry. For example, what does BIM mean?
BIM is the latest and greatest abbreviation in a long list of important terms and concepts, and one FMs need to get familiar with. The concept of BIM itself isn’t new, but its relevance in an increasingly digital world means it’s skyrocketing in popularity and importance among facilities professionals. Here’s what you need to know about Building Information Modeling (BIM).
What is BIM?
Let’s start with the basics: what is BIM? Building Information Modeling is the practice of creating a comprehensive digital mockup of a building, with each of its subsystems quantified. The simplest analogy is to imagine a layered design, with each layer representing a subsystem of the building. Stack them atop each other to form a complete picture of facilities or peel them back one by one to get a deeper understanding of each subsystem and its role as part of the whole.
But BIM is much more than a nuanced CAD mockup: it’s an intelligent system that brings every subsystem together in context and profiles dynamic insights about how they affect facility function. If you change X aspect of a specific subsystem, how does it affect systems Y and Z, and the building as a whole?
BIM brings dynamic capability to all aspects of facility management: planning, budgeting, maintenance, and much more. It helps facility managers make data-driven decisions on a grand scale.
Building Information Modeling, explained
BIM is incredibly complex, even for small buildings, because it brings together so many sources of information and delivers dynamic insights at every level. Facilities managers can see the effects of their decision-making not only on the subsystem they directly apply to, but within the broader context of the building as a whole. This extrapolation forces much more sophisticated thinking and a more thoughtful approach to facility management.
To contextualize how complex BIM is, you need only look at a digital twin: the CAD mockup of a building, linked to its real-world counterpart. Digital twins quantify the tangible.
For example, the building’s electrical system isn’t just a series of wires and outlets anymore—it’s a central nervous system that supplies power throughout the building. The digital twin shows this, and quantifies everything from how much power it uses, to its costs, to the integrity of the system based on service records, to its proximity to other systems within the building.
Through BIM, every system has context and every decision has effects. BIM brings facilities managers an accurate depiction of both through a digital twin. That way, if you ever decide to do anything with the electrical system, you’ll have a complete understanding of how your decision affects your facilities, budget, other subsystems, and more.
The benefits of BIM
BIM isn’t needlessly complex. Harnessing the power of BIM and the many insights it offers leads to significant value for facilities managers.
- Fewer mistakes made in the decision to update or improve facilities
- Better collaboration and communication among stakeholders
- Improved ability to project costs and budget
- Mitigated risk in changing facilities
- Expedited results on facilities-related actions
- Sophisticated oversight for better facilities management
- Reduced instances of rework or conflict in facilities systems
- Improved outcomes for maintenance and improvements
The underlying factor for all these individual benefits is better building visibility. The broad information afforded to facilities managers through BIM translates into more powerful decision-making capabilities with better outcomes—all because they’re data-backed. BIM can be the difference between a well-intended decision and the right one.
BIM means better facilities management
BIM might stand for Building Information Modeling, but it equally stands for “Better Insights and Management,” because that’s exactly what it enables. There are significant opportunities to channel BIM insights into better facilities management, including:
- Development of a proactive and preventive maintenance plan
- Better planning, including for emergencies
- Smarter budgeting and cost planning for capital systems
- Informed decision-making about floor plans and workspaces
As buildings become epicenters for data generation, BIM gathers and contextualizes that data for better facilities management. It takes the guesswork out of maintaining and using facilities and provides context for how facilities management decisions affect the form and function of a building. BIM is rooted in Building Information Modeling but embodies Better Insights and Management.
Keep reading: How Does BIM Work?