Building Value that Reduces Long-Term Costs

by Darren L. James, AIA Business Information Modeling (BIM) is a data-rich technological tool that design and build teams use to produce quality buildings, and that is then handed over to developers and owners to enhance their facility management processes over the life of the structure. BIM can help owners and developers achieve their common and sometimes disparate goals by providing intelligent data with real-time effects that factor in systems maintenance, energy use, and even product repair and warranties. If an owner is concerned about the durability of certain materials or the lifecycle of certain building systems, the design team can conduct the analysis and feed the information directly into the BIM database. A Wealth of Information BIM goes beyond 2D lines and arcs and creates objects and intelligent building systems. To be truly robust, it requires a higher level of management involvement at early stages of the project. This allows the BIM team to capture intelligence and a wealth of information from building owners and developers. The design team then uses this data to help deliver a project that substantially minimizes costs over a conventionally delivered project. A true BIM deliverable provides a rich and useful database of building design and system information. From this central database, different views of the information may be generated. Because the resulting construction documents are derived from the same database, they are continuously coordinated and updated. This includes not only graphics and drawings, but also data such as type of building materials and building system information. Data included in the model can be exported to other traditional construction management software to generate and coordinate schedules and cost estimates and to develop phasing information. Construction professionals review the model and visualize complex areas before any activity starts. Our analysis showed that using BIM could result in up to a 50 percent reduction in RFIs, a reduction of more than 50 percent in coordination-related change orders and a shortened construction schedule. Those familiar with BIM recognize its inherent strengths with regard to clash detection and material quantities. Equally appealing is the ability to create repeatable modules. These modules include all of the necessary building systems and typical finishes that can be added in a plug-and-play fashion. For example, KAI Texas’s Housing Studio has developed numerous standard dwelling units as reusable BIM modules for mixed-income, multi-family housing developments. Each distinct dwelling unit ranges from one to three bedrooms in differing configurations. As the developer is working on the pro forma, the BIM team can provide unit mixes and gross building information that the developer needs to define and refine the financial data. Upon completion of the exercise, it finalizes the unit mix and then adapts the composition for the project to the site location and city. Neighboring context, use of local materials and building techniques are taken into account and the final documents are produced in BIM from the basic modules. The modules are created and maintained independently so that the knowledge gained and financial return the developer has earned on previous projects is replicated and refined through lessons learned for each subsequent endeavor. This framework offers a starting point, with a proven record of profitability that then helps expedite the process of initiating multiple sites nationwide. Filtration and Analysis As concepts are explored, the benefits of BIM allow quick progression of ideas through the filter of clashes, quantities, and schedules including sustainability that incorporates the lifecycle analysis. Sustainability and green initiatives are measured by LEED® for commercial and institutional clients; however, sustainability is much more than meeting the criteria for attaining a certain rating. Facility managers and owners seek reduced lifecycle costs that include utilities and replacement costs plus daily and yearly maintenance expenditures. Developers may seek reduced start-up cost or free green practices to enhance the marketability of the facility and make it more palatable to potential tenants or purchasers. BIM’s benefits for owners include completion of higher quality work on a faster schedule, better design visualization, clarification and control of the scope of work, more detailed scheduling, more accurate estimating, quantity takeoffs and improved spatial coordination. By investing in a robust BIM process in initial building planning, owners have a tool that can more effectively control construction and operating costs. Less is More With The Power of BIM The benefits for design and construction aside, BIM’s applications in facilities management (FM) are equally impressive. For example, one owner/developer realized the benefit of BIM in the ongoing management of its new facility after the documents were delivered and the building was constructed. Once they understood the value, they requested a BIM model for use in FM for long-term operations. The modules translate materials into FM activities relating to building materials and systems including carpet life, replacement cycles and HVAC system maintenance periods. In addition, the software helps define operational efficiencies and retains data regarding operational costs for each unit. This data is useful to owners in determining their exposure over the life of the building, and can provide replacement cost information. With this detailed data loaded in the BIM database, owner can make informed decisions to change a system or finish items and immediately determine the impact on cost. This article, authored by Darren L. James, AIA, appeared in the March 2010 issue of The Network magazine.