BIM and Estate Management

Mark Brain
As the built environment industries move into a new digital era, we're seeing a greater understanding of Building Information Modelling (BIM) across the higher education sector.

Institutions are beginning to shift their focus from the starter concept of a shared 3D model to an awareness of the full benefits throughout the asset life-cycle.

Birmingham City University (BCU) was one of the first of its kind in the UK, delivering fully integrated BIM across design, construction and operational management, on their campus redevelopment. They achieved the usual benefits: space utilisation and showing end users what the space might look like; resolving co-ordination issues; better data capture and usage, and collaborative working.

The BCU project especially benefited from the richer conversations BIM created among the stakeholders and project team. It's easy to become pre-occupied with BIM technology, but the use of the BIM methodology as a fully co-ordinated and collaborative process is usually the greater challenge and the greater benefit. At BCU, both client and project team defined from the outset the type and level of detail of information that would be embedded into the model – at a time when there were no previous BIM projects of this type to use as a baseline.

This pioneering project pushed the boundaries of construction methods and practices, by mandating BIM to achieve optimal performance for the whole life of the asset. In collaboration with the University of Reading, we prepared a detailed case study to share lessons learned and best practice, available on our website.

BCU has now carried out a retrospective BIM pilot project, using laser scanning to capture the data required. Applied retrospectively to existing assets, BIM not only unlocks information on an asset’s past, but enables that information to interact with ongoing management data. This has significant benefits for efficient asset management and futureproofing of facilities.
For institutions just beginning their BIM journey, there are different ways to get started. It’s possible to work with what you’ve got, selecting appropriately sized projects to trial the methodology. BCU started in a relatively low-key way, using SharePoint to hold its data, and demonstrating that it’s not essential to invest huge sums in BIM. Imperial College London has recently embarked on two BIM pilot projects, one new-build and one refurbishment.

In our experience of innovatively developing BIM use for higher education, we have learned that it’s best to start with the end in mind. Define optimal performance for the complete life of the asset – what should this look like? Consider what you want to achieve through using BIM. Do you want to use it for facilities management, to link to your maintenance and operational planning systems, to inform capital and lifecycle costs, to form one of the foundations of your business planning?

Birmingham City University (BCU) was one of the first of its kind in the UK, delivering fully integrated BIM across design, construction and operational management, on their campus redevelopment. 

Our work in different sectors continues to demonstrate the substantial benefits of the BIM/asset management approach. In the prisons sector, for example, we delivered 20 per cent reduction in unplanned breakdowns, 25 per cent efficiency increase in capital project delivery and 28 per cent efficiency increase in asset operational costs.

A strategy for whole-life thinking, taking account of operational requirements, cost requirements and futureproofing, will enable the project to get the best from BIM. It really is so much more than a 3D model.

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