Facility & Maintenance Management

BIM to CAFM System: How To Leverage BIM on the Facility and Maintenance Management?

February 1, 2021

Technologies used in modern building engineering are heading towards modern innovations ever more frequently. We’re talking about designing buildings based on the BIM model, understood as Building Information Modelling. This trend has been visible around the world, and we can also notice it more and more in projects of commercial real estate in Poland. Using this innovation during building designing, certainly translates into higher LCA (Life Cycle Assessment). Building Information Modelling is one of the fastest growing technology in architecture. It is estimated that the Building Information Modelling market will increase to $8.8 billion to 2025.

The above is influenced by:

1. Increasing urbanisation and infrastructure projects.

2. Growing benefits offered by BIM for AEC sector (architects/engineers/constructors).

3. The actions of some governments regarding the requirement to design publicly funded investments using BIM model (e.g. UK).

What is BIM?

BIM model is a methodology based on digital modelling of a building in a way, that the model and the architecture of the building design, is understood by all the industries. The tool allows for more effective coordination of the industries to avoid possible conflict. The above possibilities have led to OpenBIM standard creation – an initiative of universal approach in designing, realization, and building operation based on open standards and data exchange.

Ensuring continued update of the BIM model during the lifecycle of a building and obtaining maximum benefits from the solution during the building operation phase is a challenge. What challenges like ahead of owners, managers, and building maintenance of a BIM designed building? I will attempt to answer all these questions further on.

How To Close The Gap Between BIM And CAFM?

BIM model is associated with intensive use of its assets at the building stage; in industries coordination and individual components and installation conflict avoidance. CAFM software is in turn responsible for improving the management of building maintenance during the operation period of the facility, which is from the moment of building reception, especially in case of Reactive, Asset or Planned and Preventive Maintenance. It seems crucial to integrate both solutions in a way that data collected in BIM model could be implemented into CAFM system. Similarly, in the other direction – data generated during ongoing maintenance could update existing BIM model.

A fundamental barrier to a smooth transition from BIM model used at building stage to BIM model used for current property service is the difference in the needs of individual service providers. BIM model is created and used in various capacity by General Constructor at the construction stage, and Facility Management company at the current building maintenance stage.  In most cases, they also use different types of software.

Asking yourself questions about the design and requirements of BIM and CAFM systems integration, the following aspects should be taken into consideration:

1. Functional possibilities that will be used by potential users:

  • Facility manager as the main user
  • Owner and tenants as the benefactors owning a building designer in the 3D model

2. Technical possibilities of BIM and CAFM integration:

  • Integration in the viewer area allowing 3D model reading
  • Integration of the BIM installations and devices database with CAFM installations and devicesTechnical possibilities of BIM and CAFM integration

The main potential problem that needs to be solved is the different CAFM systems, different BIM systems and problems with standardization of one method of integration.

What are areas and ways of BIM integration with CAFM systems?

CAFM systems have the ability to integrate with the BIM model at the level of the following solutions:

  • Autodesk Revit – software allowing the use of intelligent method, based on a model that enables to plan, design, and create constructions and infrastructure elements, and manage them. Revit program supports cross-industry project collaboration.
  • Autodesk Forge – developer platform that enables companies the use of project data to create a new type of application combining multiple recipients from different areas of designing.
  • BIM 360 – as part of Forge, it’s a cloud application that runs directly on your web browser, but also on mobile devices. It’s a cloud application allowing to keep and manage project files online from any location and to exchange remarks and comments between users on specific drawings.
  • COB Standard – international standard related to OpenBIM, regarding information about managed resources based on popular spreadsheets (.ifc .xlsx .xml).

Analysing the technology solutions concerning BIM that are available on the market and business values that they provide to their recipients, we see two key aspects of the values that such integration should deliver:

  • First area – sharing viewer area under CAFM software, allowing view of installation in a 3D model, in real time.
  • Second area – allowing integration between individual objects, devices, and installations, as well as data sharing between BIM and CAFM; and CAFM and BIM.
BIM integrated with CAFM software
BIM technology

The first area is a great value, especially for the users being part of the Facility Management team. It allows, in real time, to receive information about a device that is out of reach, e.g. above a suspended ceiling. This solution allows to save time when it comes to determining locations of the device, even though it is out of reach. Another advantage is the verification of pairing the device with other devices and locating it across the entire infrastructure, which it’s part of. Information that the Facility Management team receives from the 3D model level located at sight, allows a much faster problem diagnosis and identification of any defective components at each point in the entire infrastructure. The solution should allow the Facility Management team to also extract layers that are relevant at the work level of the CAFM system, like e.g. the fault of the device selected in the BIM model. What is more, a promising technology solution is using IoT sensor technology, which allows to obtain parameters about a device (e.g. temperature, pressure) in real time. The solution in the first area seems the most optimal to achieve, based on the integration between the BMI API system, IoT modules, and CAFM system.

In summary, it’s reasonable to introduce the following functionalities to the CAFM system, within the first area.  

  • Integration via API provided by BIM and CAFM
  • Building a model browser in the CAFM system
  • Working in BIM browser in Reactive, Preventive Maintenance, and Asset Management areas.
  • Designing context menus within different components of the model.
  • Visualization of IoT sensor parameters in the model integrated into the CAFM system.
  • Adding additional layers to the 3D model from the Facility Management area.

The second area is more relevant from the strategic management of the building life cycle and the preservation of the financial value of the property in view of its use. The building is originally designed in BIM model, after the construction phase, responsibility for the technical state of the property and the management of the guarantees passes to Facility Management company. At this stage, it is important to allow data exchange between BIM model and CAFM system to Facility Management company. The most important thing is to maintain the possibilities for data exchange in the area of:

  • Replica of selected devices and installations from BIM model to CAFM system.
  • Current work on CAFM system and periodic data update in BIM model.

Integration in this regard doesn’t have to be realised in real time. For BIM model updates, periodic data imports with a reasonable time interval, seem to be sufficient. OpenBIM concept comes to assistance in this area, as well as an internationally carried out COB standard, based on a popular spreadsheet (.ifc .xlsx .xml). The standard allows data exchange between BIM and CAFM systems in the area of essential devices, their parameters and installations.

Is full integration of BIM model and CAFM system always necessary?

It’s important to notice that a complete mirroring of the BIM model in the CAFM system, together with all its layers shouldn’t necessarily take place. Layers restriction of the BIM model in the CAFM system brings ergonomic values and smooth CAFM system usage on mobile devices. The Facility Management team rarely needs detailed design construction. Also, entering information about doors, woodwork, colour of elevations provides the CAFM system with information that from the FM maintenance point of view, is of less importance. This data should be kept in the model and remain ready for integration. However, it’s worth paying attention to data that is crucial from the Facility Management maintenance level, in order to keep the FM team effectiveness. Which in turn results in a quick and intuitive system operation of the entire property.

Bearing in mind the above, it is crucial to keep the possibility of the BIM model update regarding data that was not initially imported from the BIM model into the CAFM system. As it was highlighted, it stems from the fact that all data import from the BIM model into the CAFM system can be difficult as far as technological reasons are concerned (e.g. technical limitations of data processing equipment like e.g. tablet). Also, not necessarily needed from the expected BIM and CAFM system correlation (in the CAFM system we rarely change the architecture of the building itself – demolition of partition wall, or changes within a solid property) and ergonomic CAFM system maintenance by the technical unit.

Cloud CAFM software integrated with BIM technology
CAFM system integrated with BIM

Summary

To make the implementation of the BIM model with CAFM system integration a success, an appropriate cooperation and coordination between: General Constructor, FM company, design company, property owner and company supplying CAFM software is crucial.

Each of the above types of company should play a specific role at the start of BIM model and CAFM system integration:

  • Owner – initiation of the integration process; monitoring and requesting from remaining parties to finish the integration process with success.
  • General Constructor – support and advice in transferring and importing data from BIM model to the CAFM system.
  • Facility Management – support and advice for owner regarding data that should be exchanged between systems; use the tools to maintain continuity of the building history in the CAFM system integrated with the BIM model.
  • Project Company – awareness and vision of using the BIM model not only at the investment stage, but also predicting the ways in which BIM model will be used during the building’s use phase.
  • CAFM system supplier – provision of universal communication tools and integration of CAFM with BIM system; understanding client’s needs, update of integration method depending on the project and the changing standards on the market.

The awareness of the need for BIM model and CAFM system integration, turns out to be important already during the building design phase, but also at each subsequent stage of the building’s reception. The integration of both systems allows to increase the value of the property throughout its life cycle, to reduce the labor intensity of ongoing maintenance, to limit building management costs and the indirect environmental impact. We see an increasing awareness of the Real Estate industry as to the benefits of BIM and PropTech solutions. Technology solutions also mature to deliver universal tools responding to emerging market needs.

Written by:
Dariusz Meres
PropTech Expert

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