Squashing the Misconceptions of BIM for Owners and Facility Managers

Luis Terry
Over the last decade, the AEC industry has made big progress in implementing building information modeling (BIM). While design firms were among the first to use BIM, contractors, subcontractors and some owner organizations are using BIM routinely. Most owners, however, have not yet realized the full potential of BIM because of misconceptions.

BIM is just for designers

This misconception is the most common and probably stems from the fact that most owners first learned about BIM from their design firms. But BIM has evolved to be more than a better way to produce drawings. For example, contractors are now using BIM routinely to perform pre-construction tasks such as scheduling, estimating and site logistics planning—all of which are of interest to owners.

Owners can’t benefit from using BIM

Some owner organizations might not be fully aware of how BIM is being used by other owners to manage their built assets throughout their life cycle. Owners who have used BIM for their projects know that it can be instrumental in designing high-performance buildings, shortening project schedules, improving communication among stakeholders and improving the facility handover process, to list a few examples. Successful implementation of BIM might not be a task that can be fully performed by the owner’s team on their own; however, their leadership and commitment are key to the success of the process.

Sporadic capital projects don’t justify using BIM

Owners might think that since their involvement with capital projects is not continuous, the effort to implement BIM is not worthwhile and leave the decision to use it up to their design and construction partners. However, considering the benefits that BIM can bring to a project, it is a good idea to implement even a project-specific approach for using BIM, documenting the workflows and ensuring ownership of the model at the end of the process. These models and workflows can be re-used on future projects, saving the cost of regenerating the initial model and understanding the as-designed or as-built condition of the project. If owners don’t have the in-house capabilities to manage this work, they can use third-party consultants the same way they use design and construction service providers for the project.

BIM only works with some delivery methods

The benefits of BIM when used with some delivery methods like integrated project delivery (IPD) have been documented and highlighted in several Industry publications. However, BIM can be used with any delivery method. For example, in a traditional design-bid-build (DBB) delivery, BIM can be used during design to coordinate the work of all the design disciplines. This can result in producing a set of construction drawings with zero clashes, which minimizes the risk of discovering these types of issues during construction, saving money and time for the owner.  

BIM is only for Design and Construction

Too often all the efforts made during the design and construction of facilities to implement BIM and create accurate models are not leveraged by the facility managers (FM) group. BIM can be instrumental for FM professionals, when properly coordinated. By using industry standards like Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie), the same model can pass from the design teams, to the construction teams, to the FM operations team. If the model is kept up to date to reflect changes made during the life cycle of the facility, that model can also be instrumental when the construction group needs to plan major facility upgrades. 

So how can owners get more value of BIM implementation in their projects?

An important aspect that owners should recognize is that BIM, to a certain extent, is being used by the design and construction companies working on their projects. By implementing some extra steps to increase their involvement with how BIM is used for their projects, owners can leverage the full potential of BIM.

Some examples of extra steps are:

  • Identify opportunities to use BIM beyond the design and construction phases.
  • Standardize how BIM is used in the projects and mandate established BIM requirements when contracting with designers and contractors. The use of a standard approach will provide efficiency gains and improve the overall project delivery process.
  • Identify, train and support the staff to lead BIM utilization in the delivery of their projects and then through the operations and maintenance of the facilities.

Owners are the reason the AEC industry exists. The more that owners get involved with how their projects are delivered, the better the project delivery itself will become. By using BIM to its fullest, owners can reduce capital expenditure, improve the quality of the projects they deliver, evaluate life cycle impacts of their decisions and reduce the time to market for their facilities. All of these benefits are vital to keep up with the current market trends and increased competition in almost all industries.

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