What’s BIM got to do with FM?

We have been here before. In the mid ’90s much was written about the potential for the Private Finance Initiative to raise the profile of facilities management.

The argument was that, with PFI contracts of 25 to 30 years, the cost of running buildings and providing services was now just as important as the build cost. Suddenly everyone was interested in lifecycle costing.

Well, PFI didn’t quite transform the fortunes of the FM profession but it did raise awareness and sharpen arguments about the trade-off between the quality and performance of building components as well as the importance of the management and maintenance regimes.

Now we have Building Information Modelling or BIM. Not a new concept but given added momentum by Paul Morrell’s report into the construction industry. The IGT report identified BIM as “having the greatest potential to transform the habits – and eventually the structure – of the industry.” Quite a claim.

The Government is keen. The Cabinet Office is introducing “a progressive programme of the required use of BIM” and the industry was asked to establish “a collaborative forum – leading to an outline protocol for future ways of working.” The mandatory use of (low level) BIM on public projects by 2016, as set out in the Government’s Construction Strategy, has concentrated minds.

There is a danger here, as well as a major opportunity. BIM could be seen as simply a way to streamline and concertina the design and construction process. Certainly the presentations and communications so far don’t encourage the involvement of FM, with operations disappearing somewhere off the right-hand side of the screen.

The real opportunity is to bring FM experience right back into the briefing stage of a project; to develop a model of the building which can be “stress tested” against operational scenarios and to deliver much more accurate and useful information to the team managing the facility.