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Last updateWed, 24 Apr 2019 12pm

Why Contractors & FM Providers can use BIM to gain an advantage

Building information modelling or BIM is not new. The UK Government’s Construction Strategy 2011-2015 recognised that the construction industry needed to challenge the existing business models and practices in order to create a collaborative methodology that would deliver cost reduction and innovation throughout the supply chain. The result is that all UK Government construction projects, as of 4 April 2016, now include BIM.

However there remains a tension between contractors and FM providers on how BIM can be used effectively within a project, it can be seen as costly, time consuming and resource intensive. For these reasons the commitment to BIM has largely remained the domain of the public sector. However BIM should be seen as a revolutionary opportunity for designers, contractors and FM organisations working together from conception to delivery on design, build and operate projects.

BIM is the digital avatar of the built environment. It holds and visualises the physical and functional characteristics of the built environment in a format that can be readily shared throughout the whole supply chain over the whole lifetime. This central knowledge resource pool brings the owner, contractor and operator closer together. The shared approach means that collaboration is fostered, reducing the blame-game culture, investing in the asset sustainability and improving the overall asset management. The result is better built and maintained buildings.

How can BIM contribute to effective asset management

The contractor needs to effectively manage the build of large complex assets, whether it is buildings, infrastructure, or utility plants. This is critical to the contractor’s business model (ie revenue generation and cost savings), particularly if the developments are multi-phased or operated post-build. In these instances integrating BIM data into an existing enterprise asset management system, such as IBM’s Maximo provides a number of opportunities for the contractor to minimise costs through the system.  

It allows the operation and maintenance to be carried out through the enterprise asset management system without the need for an additional stand-alone system, generating cost savings, utilisation improvement and improved asset availability. 

In addition, the advances in technology mean that BIM information held within an asset management system can be used to support cognitive solutions. This means that artificial intelligence and predictive analytics combine to be able to create forecasting solutions that calculate downtime requirements and maintenance regimes that minimise the impact of revenue streams, whether it is building refurbishment, track upgrades or managing wind turbines.

What are the benefits of BIM for the contractor

There are some large numbers associated with BIM, the UK Government estimates industry savings of £2.22bn and forecast savings of £1.7bn. At an organisational level the predictions are 33% reduction in the cost of construction, savings of a third on the whole-life cost of the asset and 50% faster delivery. However, for an individual contractor the benefits of BIM are not just these cost savings; it also minimises reputational risk, mitigates health and safety concerns and improves business efficiency.

For the contractor working on a design, build and operate project or a large complex structure, integrating BIM within an enterprise management system delivers a number of benefits: 

  1. Mitigates maintenance risks including safety which can be built in.
  2. Allows temporary works to be overlaid against the permanent design, helping both with planning refurbishment or phased works, as well as improving stakeholder communications.
  3. Cost savings from efficient bidding, procurement and maintenance regimes.
  4. Improved efficiency of projects as information uses as built (not as designed) data.
  5. Creates a sustainable building over the lifetime of the asset for the asset owner.

There are some who believe that contractors pay for the BIM up front whilst the FM organisations enjoy the benefits. In reality there are benefits and cost-savings for both sides, something which is recognised within the USA, where almost 80% of contractors use BIM.

This is reflecting in an increase within the UK of contractors implementing BIM at the design stage.  Within the public sector the recent contract award for the Irish Schools PFI saw the winning consortium of contractor and FM provider committing to use BIM data within a Maximo asset management system for the facilities management function for five schools and an institute of further education across Meath, Carlow, Wicklow and Wexford.  

For those contractors involved in construction and operation then BIM offers additional benefits. If the BIM data is of sufficient quality, then the planning and understanding of the maintenance procedures, statutory activities, spare parts supplies and suppliers, resources required etc will be far more efficient. As many “new” contracts start with a survey of the asset structure; BIM should avoid the expense of providing this.

In the private sector companies such as Royal BAM have used BIM on projects for Argent on their King’s Cross redevelopment and for Great Portland Estates on the 30 Broadwick Street project to maximise asset management. Skanska and Serco used BIM on the Ministry of Justice’s project on the HMP Dovegate Houseblock Expansion for the design and maintenance to look at innovations in design and cost savings overall.

With tight profit margins and intense competition, contractors need to see a definite return on investment on BIM as part of an asset management system in order to recognise the value. Part of this is pressure from the Government requiring all public sector contracts to include BIM and from the finance partner within DBO and PFI projects demanding availability of BIM throughout the whole life-cycle.

This is starting to happen; enterprise asset management systems utilise the data held within BIM to help with the design and maintenance of the asset, negating the need for a separate stand-alone system and the additional cost of resourcing and funding it, and allowing seamless flow of information across the whole supply chain. 

There are a number of high profile projects which have used BIM for effective asset management including the Sydney Opera House which used BIM for benchmarking, procurement and service delivery, and Durham Cathedral where BIM improved asset management through the efficiency of the building management and operation.

Whatever happens though – BIM offers a radical new asset management approach for contractors.