Concern that Building Owners are not going to get what they require or what they expect from BIM

When considering the use of BIM, it is important to be clear about the expected benefits.  There is a danger in the rush to embrace the new ways of working optimism and expectation can lead to disappointment and wasted effort.  It is important to identify work flows, what data should be modelled and where it should be modelled.

A current hot topic is how to produce a BIM model during the design stage that could be developed during the construction adding richness and detail to provide the building owner with a meaningful database of information to assist the building owner manage their facility.

A design or construction BIM might be of limited value to a building owner.  Our discussions with design teams and contractors has highlighted concerns about managing expectations, and in order to make the data useful, who pays for the data creation and management.

Appointment documents tend to quote IFC’s or COBie, rather than an analysis of the data content.  If building owners do not understand how they will use the data, they are unlikely to receive a useful BIM and an opportunity will be wasted.

This blog tackles these issues and by means of several case studies explore how steps can be taken to ensure a worthwhile building owner information model.

Our experience of what is asked of the design and construction teams is free BIM :

–          More often than not, the terms of engagement specify deliverables. These are framed in terms of IFC’s or Cobie. These are a mechanism, rather than a spec of what data needs to be modelled.

–          IFC is a text file and COBie is an Excel file in a prescribed format

–          IFC’s and COBie are a means of sharing information, that they have been used does not provide any warranty for the data quality. The same can be said for Revit, while it is a BIM, the data it contains is the data that the creator needed to model for their task and no more.

–          Example of a contractor client in the early days specifying a Revit model should be provided by the architect, because they believed Revit to be a BIM. What they received was a Revit model, but its function was to assist the Architect with the internal planning and window modulation. What the contractor hoped for was something to use for clash checking and measuring materials.

In this blog we want to distinguish between the ‘free’ building information model and one that will pay real dividends over the life of the facility.

BIM provides what’s called an object-oriented digital representation of a building. Unlike two-dimensional traditional CAD (computer aided design) drawings, the model is not a collection of lines on the screen, but a compilation of data that describes — and shows graphically — the functional and physical aspects of a building and its components.  The model will include the dimensions and w structural characteristics of beams, the fire-rating of partitions — even the warranties on mechanical equipment

The purpose of BIM is to provide coordinated, reliable information about a project from design through construction and into operations.

There are many definitions of BIM these points summarise the current intent and technological capability.

  • Help architects and project teams improve visualisation
  • Increase coordination between the many parties involved in any project
  • Improve productivity by making it easier to retrieve information
  • Embed and link together essential information


We have been creating BIM for 20 years; we just didn’t call it that!

It has been our ambition to create a single model containing all the information we knew about a project and now we could do it. The model would evolve from the original brief through feasibility, design and into construction.

For hospitals, there are two key elements of the documentation. Firstly, room data and furniture and equipment schedules, and secondly, a drawn plan and elevations of each room.

The cad drawings were 2D, and we needed to draw room elevations individually, for which we still had to use an army of students. CodeBook allowed us to automate the drawing of the elevations, so that these could be rapidly and accurately produced. These drawings were called ‘C’ sheets.

For the purpose of Architects designing a layout and ensuring all equipment could be accommodated, and the tradesmen carrying out the construction, these drawings were highly suitable. However, they did not address the needs of the health professionals who needed to appraise the design and sign off the rooms, who more often than not are not familiar with reading technical drawings.

When the film Toy Story was released, with its computer created graphics, the cry went up, why can’t 3D C Sheets be created.  The computer resource available to an Architect’s office couldn’t match Pixar, but this was not the entire reason that 3D C Sheets involved a rethink of design process. When we look at Toy Story, we can see that the key characters in the foreground are modelled in great detail; the backgrounds are unfocussed and much less detailed, which reduced the computer resource needed to do the rendering.  The equivalent needs to be done with the architectural model.

The technology available to Architects has improved, but we still only do 3D views of key rooms, and these will often not include all the outlets and the detail of other items will often be surface only. The reason we draw attention to this, is to highlight that a model that might appear to be highly detailed may include compromises for reasons of economy or otherwise, and will only show the detail needed for its purpose.

Useful data is not going to be free

BIM is a catch all term for a collection of information about the project.  We hope we have illustrated the data available and depth of detail will vary throughout the design and construction process. Some data will be superseded, some will be enriched. But one thing for sure, is that the only data that will exist in the model is data that has been useful to someone to achieve their role within the process.  Some of this will be useful to the building owner, but the key data required may not be there.

We all can see that as a concept there are great benefits of creating a database with detailed knowledge of our facility. But in view of the cost of collection and maintaining the model, we should be clear as to our goals.

A BIM generated through design software such as Revit or Autocad is essentially a record of what has been designed and built. To that extent it is a somewhat monochromatic representation. We have seen that it starts with the design. On one plane, it defines what is there, what now exists as a building or set of buildings.

But it does not provide context, or usage or future evolution. It doesn’t provide a continuing narrative of the building’s life for the owners and for those whose task it is to service and care for the building.  This will be different for each facility and building owner, but I would suggest broadly fall under the headings of cost savings or improved performance of FM teams.  They could include better environmental control, preventative maintenance planning, predicting budgets needed for replacing deprecated assets.

One might be tempted to say, because of the items mentioned in the previous question. But it is important to quantify the benefits identified. Useful data is not going to be free, so a cost benefit analysis should be carried out.  There is no substitution for a careful analysis of the building owner’s processes and an analysis of the major maintenance expenditure. In the case of the motor company described earlier, they had identified a major cost.

How to feed information to Maximo, a detailed FM system for managing work orders and the day to day management of a facility, that justified the cost of the data collection.

– Although in the best time honoured tradition, they are hoping the contractors will carry the cost, as it will be part of their terms of engagement!

The sixty million dollar question and care should be taken – Software developers and their resellers who inflate the benefits of specific tools or claim that their product is ‘a comprehensive BIM solution’.

Clients/owners who demand a BIM product/service which they may not understand or – if delivered to them – do not have the internal capability to properly utilize and maintain.  Creating the BIM isn’t a one off process, started and finished during construction, but needs to be maintained and kept up to date.  Therefore, do not just consider the cost of creation, but maintenance.  If the maintenance cost is very high, then might will not be carried out, and as I will illustrate with a case study in a moment.

Case Study (1)

With a complex building such as a hospital, proving that building as handed over to the building owner is fit for purpose is a major task. Ensuring compliance is a lengthy and costly exercise, involving confirmation and validation of the FFE and Room properties such as finishes, ventilation, acoustics etc. have been achieved.

Skanska used the CodeBook databases with some hand held computers on site running Artra software throughout the construction recording the actual as built properties, allowing them to prove compliance to a level not achievable previously.

All this is fine, but the data held within the BIM was the data relevant to Skanska’s construction deliverables, and much key information that the building managers need may not have been collected.  A separate organisation is responsible for the long term management of the facility, and only now are they considering what data they require.


Case Study (2)

A different project, with which we have been involved, is a large car manufacturer. They realised that creating the data that their facilities managers needed was very expensive, and not very accurate. Being created from the designer’s drawings and contractors operations manuals.

An issue that they identified was that that the designers drawings were representational, and did not give the detail of the assets needed for the maintenance engineers. The contractor’s operations manual has more technical data about the assets, but often these could not be related to the location of the assets.

The solution they selected was to use CodeBook to collect a list of assets from multiple design environments. They were not in a position to define the cad or bim tools used by the design teams or contractors. CodeBook can build the asset leads from the key cad platforms, AutoCad, MicroStation, ArchiCad and Revit.

A study was done, by their FM people, who were asked to identify what data they needed. They came up with a list of several hundred parameters. It was quickly realised, that collecting these was not going to be practical or economic.  So they focussed on the key drivers that were needed, and decided to restrict their model to the Mechanical Engineering equipment. The number of parameters to be collected to 20.

Some of these, would be collected by the contractors procurement departments in the office, for instance manufacturers and supplier details and probably the most important ones would  be collected on site, for instance, model number, serial number, date of installation (warranties commence), commissioning status.  Operations Manuals and ‘As built’ drawings have usually been an afterthought, being cobbled together from what information is easily available, rather than a true record of the building.

Without forward thinking, a BIM model will be the same.

Case Study (3)

There is a large hospital in the UK, approximately 6,000 rooms, that has been open 10 years. The architects created a detailed design using CodeBook comprising cad drawings and databases of the assets.  The hospital trust employ a specialist Facilities Management company to provide both preventative and day to day maintenance of the assets in the hospital. Each year, the contract price is based on the asset register of 10 years ago. Over that time, many assets will have been deprecated and replaced. The health trust will have bought new equipment, not originally included. The FM company are maintaining equipment that shouldn’t be their responsibility, and some of the replacement equipment will have warranties that they are unaware of, and so pay for repairs that could be reclaimed.

Using CodeBook Mobile, they are about to carry out a full audit of the hospital, to record salient equipment details, and photograph the asset and its location where pertinent. Once completed, they will then ensure that each time a maintenance engineer replaces or modifies an asset, it will be recorded. This project will be of considerable benefit to all the parties concerned, allowing better budgeting and forward planning for equipment maintenance and replacement.



A useful Building Owners BIM model is not without cost, it isn’t a by-product of the design and construction process.  It needs to be planned and budgeted, with specific requirements and must be built into the initial terms of engagement.

A BIM generated through design software such as Revit or Autocad is essentially a record of what has been designed and built. It defines what is there, what now exists as a building or set of buildings. The contractor adding to the BIM procurement and compliance information, will add richness to the model. But may still lack much of the data needed for daya to day operation of the facility.

It does not provide context. Or usage. Or future evolution. It doesn’t provide a continuing narrative of the building’s life for the owners and for those whose task it is to service and care for the building.

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