Opinion

Chris Blythe: BIM is an opportunity to deliver the goods

8 June 2012

We are awash with Building Information Modelling. It's at the top of everyone’s to-think-about list thanks to the UK government’s insistence that it will be used for large projects from 2016.

Some approach it as just another burden being laid on the industry, fearing that the long supply chain will struggle to cope — the Big Information Muddle. Others see it as a 3D modelling exercise with fancy graphics thrown in for effect, enabling the industry to look modern — Building Industry Makeover. Yet more see it as a nice little earner — Big Invoices Mandatory.

Seriously, though, BIM has the potential to reverse the traditional hierarchy within the industry. The client, in the shape of the future building operations manager, should become even more crucial in the process because building performance, up to now a rather hit-and-miss affair, will become the primary measure of success in construction.
It’s all very well designing buildings that have a stellar LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or BREEAM scored design, but the real achievement is to have a building that delivers the performance. I suspect that there are few buildings that are delivering as designed.

This is where the building operations managers come to the fore. They should be as involved in the design and construction process as anyone else. They have the responsibility to operate the building when it is commissioned and have the on-going long-term responsibility.

I doubt designers really care about the building once it is finished and the design awards are lodged in the cupboard. It is the same with the contractors too as they move on to the next job. For the building ops manager — aka facilities manager — though, their job is just beginning.

And for them, BIM has enormous potential. As well as helping with routine work such as maintenance, it would allow the client to maximise the value of their asset.

Delivering to design performance should be the norm not the exception. The winners from BIM should be the facilities managers along with the product manufacturers whose products will become embedded into BIM systems as they come on line.

I would like to think that the other winners would be those who use and pay for buildings, such as the tax payer — after all, we pay for the majority of the buildings anyway.

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