BIM and CAFM - best friends forever?

Operational efficiencies is supposed to be the holy grail of BIM. It is still early days however. In the recent NBS BIM survey only 16% of the respondents said that models in their project were handed over. In this article we will look at how CAFM can play a part and be relevant in the evolution of lifecycle BIM.

Results of the NBS BIM Survey - 16% handover models from project to operations

The rise of BIM, and the stagnation of CAD and CAFM

It seems BIM is becoming “everything” in the AEC industry. Any time someone talks about innovations in process or technology within AEC, BIM is given credit or at least mentioned.

To see how BIM is disrupting the market for design software have a look at the google trends graph below.

Google trends - CAD vs BIM - BIM has caught up in interest

The trends curves show that CAD is continually declining and being replaced by an ever growing interest in BIM. The interest curves have reached the intersection point. The leading vendor in the design space, Autodesk, is in fact cannibalising its market leading CAD suite, AutoCAD with its Revit product line. They have to do this to stay leaders in the space. (Autodesk acquired Revit in 2002).

Let´s continue our trend analysis and turn our attention to both the search term “CAFM” and some of the leading vendors in this space (no one company is leading the market the same way Autodesk dominates CAD/BIM).

Google Trends - Declining in interest in CAFM and leading vendors

The graph show a similar declining interest in CAFM tools (as with CAD). Why is this? Is the market saturated? Are the big vendors being disrupted by smaller vendors? Will BIM be the “saviour” or the “angel of death”. Let´s examine how these markets evolve to give some insight into these questions.

The evolution of Lifecycle BIM

BIM adoption is continuously evolving along two main trajectories.

  1. Data exchange interoperability - In the past BIM data exchange was mainly digital (or paper) drawings. Now we exchange “interoperable” discipline models for federation. In the future the arrival of web-services exchanging granular data “on-demand” is expected.
  2. Phase expansion - Designers were the BIM pioneers. Now we see more and more use in construction both in production planning and execution. The future is expected to include the operations and use “phase”.

Together these two developments will form the future of “Lifecycle Management” and integrated BIM (iBIM) as shown in the “BIM wedge” below

BIM Level3 will be integrated BIM - iBIM - and lifecycle management

But how will this lifecycle integration happen? The most common way for an “BIM evangelist” to describe lifecycle BIM is by showing a BIM wheel-of-life similar to the one below.

The BIM project lifecycle

The “project BIM” is in the centre if the circle. The phases and processes revolve around this model in sequence. The model gets improved upon at every stage. When the circle is almost complete it is time for operations and the model is handed over (or for some - the BIM server lives on). The rich model and linked data/ documentation will give the owner a complete history of the building including design intent, performance history and instructions for use, operations and maintenance. Operational Nirvana achieved.

Where do CAFM fit in this model? Will CAFM tools be gradually replaced by a new generation tools like we are seeing in the design space. Or will CAFM tools evolve to become the “operations and maintenance apps” of the lifecycle BIM vision? The answer will probably be somewhere in between. CAFM tools will find their place in the mix of tools that will become the “Asset Information Management” of the future, and different vendors will have different strategies for how to integrate, embed or ignore BIM capabilities. To explore this further let's have a look at how CAFM has evolved over the years.

CAFM trends and developments

CAFM as an industry started as a movement to use capabilities of design tools (CAD systems) to keep track of building information. 2D floor plans with space polylines and equipment objects were the foundation onto which documents and tasks were connected thus providing a holistic view of “what do we have”, “what needs to be done”, “where is it” and “what has happened to it before”. The systems then evolved over the years to support more and more FM processes, both hard FM (maintenance, repair and technical inspections, energy management etc) and soft FM (cleaning, reception, catering etc).

In later years the industry has evolved with the new possibilities for

  • Mobility - access documentation and tasks on your mobile device. Capture data and update work orders wherever you are.
  • Integration with enterprise systems (e.g building management systems, finance, and property management) to limit the need to re-enter data needed across systems (e.g cost data from work orders)
  • Cloud computing and software as a service - renting access to a “shared” service to optimize the cost both to implement and maintain the CAFM solution. Also easing collaboration with outside suppliers of FM services.

The integration trends are accelerating as more and more systems want access to building data and more and more systems are generating building related data (e.g. sensors, internet of things, indoor position systems etc).

So what about BIM?

Many of the leading CAFM vendors already have projects underway to provide BIM support. The primary support is usually to import bim data and 2D geometries into the CAFM tools (e.g making 2D floor plans and asset registers from models and COBie spreadsheets).

The next step is usually integrating BIM viewer or BIM server functionality into the CAFM tools to use the model to visualize where equipment is located or use the model to visualize status (move CAFM from 2D to 3D).

And the next step? How will this be integrated in the next phase/ level? Let´s revisit lifecycle BIM.

Lifecycle information management from a CAFM perspective

For the facilities manager (and the CAFM system) a separate project BIM is no longer the sun the world is revolving around. The FM have a portfolio of facilities being supported by a mix of tools. The tools may be an FM suite from one vendor or it may be a best-of-breed mix from multiple vendors. Either way, the core FM tools will need integration to other enterprise systems as mentioned above. Most of the facilities are already built.

The owner and FM needs to put their portfolio and asset information system in the center and gradually improve BIM data, BIM skills and BIM tools

Owners cannot wait for “BIM level 3 systems” (integrated BIM) to arrive from each of the newbuild projects. What they need is the correct data (component intelligence and history) to fit their needs and to be able to import that data as efficiently as possible. To bridge the gap a combination of industry standards and custom requirements specifications and validation is needed.

For BIM tools there are various options

You can wait for you CAFM suite vendor to integrate BIM tools for you and buy it as an add on product. If you are happy with your current vendors there are advantages to this approach, but just remember you will be even more dependent on your vendor and what you get access to and how will be entirely dictated by them.

Or, you can use this paradigm shift in the market to reconsider your current CAFM vendor and put out a tender for a new integrated system with BIM support. Currently however, in many cases you will see that the difference between two “legacy vendors” is not big enough to justify a migration (data and skills). Also newer more modern vendors with BIM capabilities native may not be up to the task yet with a complete solution.

Or, you can use a BIM server and integrate it into your existing stack. The BIM server will have some export/ import capabilities and probably probably also an API you could use to integrate. However, make sure that that integration API fits your integration needs. Integration in design/ construction means federating discipline models. This will not help you integrate with your CAFM system.

Or, you can use an asset information model server as described in PAS 1192-3. The AIM server will have the capabilities to store building data (geometric, structured data and documents) in an intelligent way across the whole portfolio of assets. The AIM server will provide two way integration to any CAFM system and enterprise system via an open and documented API and thus provide the single source of truth for building data and history. You are then free to add new (and replace existing) building data applications as you see fit.

What does it mean for you if you in your role?

To round off the post we will add some quick ideas and advice for our different audience types.

The best advice we can give to owners for now is learn, experiment and keep your options open. As soon as you are ready you should standardize on an information management system (an overall strategy to be continuously improved). Sooner or later you will need to standardize on an “Asset Information” repository with BIM support. You will need to make an informed decision on whether that will be your current CAFM system evolved or there are better options out there. When changing or adding systems be careful of shutting down applications that are in fact working and users love. Focus on filling the gaps first.

BuildingSMART has the best open data model for building data and very good traction in parts of the global market. To be relevant for operations and CAFM buildingSMART need to innovate and complement its “offerings” to cover the FM domain. buildingSMART should consider teaming up with OSCRE or similar organisations to provide a holistic lifecycle view of building data.

CAFM vendor
CAFM vendors need to make strategic decisions on how and what BIM features they will provide to their clients. They also need to decide how to source those capabilities. Build in-house, license from third party or strategic partnerships. Some partnerships may make sense but our general advice to CAFM vendors is to open up your systems to ease integration with any BIM or non-BIM tool. And then let the market decide what tool fits their needs best.
Vendors should also make a conscious decision on what parts of the market you will be exceptionally good at. Some vendors will have great repositories and some vendors will have great FM applications, e.g specialist applications for cleaning management, energy management, lifecycle cost analysis, environmental management, emergency management etc etc. This is the new world that BIM is enabling.

BIM/ CAFM Consultant
The standardization and openness of BIM eliminates and automates some tasks. That may be scary for some. At the same time there is a need for a new kind of skill and an opportunity to move into higher value services.

BIM managers have an opportunity to add to their skill set and provide asset information management services.

We also believe will be a new kind of specialist, similar to what we see in architecture. “Design technologists” are a special kind of architect with knowledge on how to combine a wide variety of tools for computational design. There is room for an “asset data specialists” that will be able to use a wide variety of specialist tools and big data analysis to get value out building data repositories and support strategic decisions for optimal performance, cost and environmental impact.

Let us know if you have additional comments or questions. We will probably revisit this topic in the near future so let us know if there are particular questions you have.