Defining BIM – What do owners really want?

Given the complexities of the building process, it can be difficult for building owners to effectively communicate what they want and need with BIM. The response to the question usually is, “Give me everything.” 

May 12, 2014 |
Sasha Reed

Image: courtesy Bluebeam

There are so many conferences devoted to the topic of BIM today. Each one offers practical and innovative insights into how BIM can benefit the AECO industry as a whole.

The goal of BIM is to tie together valuable information created, distributed and gathered during the project life cycle—ultimately, to remove inefficiencies in our processes and change the way we share, distribute and make use of information. It is, after all, the “I” in BIM that differentiates this approach, from designing and modeling to information-focused exchanges between project team members.

However, the net value of BIM is sometimes challenging to determine. It seems the discussions surrounding BIM are becoming more complex: defining best practices for implementation, standardization, training, negotiations of responsibilities, levels of development and data interoperability makes for some pretty heady discussions.

In order to cut through all of the complexity, I thought it might be best to find out: What do owners want? Once I started asking this question, I discovered that oftentimes the owner doesn’t know how to ask for what they want. Given the complexities of the building process, it can be difficult to effectively communicate what they want and need. The response to the question usually is, “Give me everything.” 

My quest to distill down the usefulness of BIM from an owner’s perspective ultimately led me to Allen Angle with BRG Workplace Resources. Allen works with owners to help them define what they want and need. He focuses on data gathered between systems throughout the project. Our conversation provided some interesting insights and I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Allen’s background gives him a unique perspective. He’s a former construction professional, slash architect, turned owner’s rep. More specifically, he is a VDC - FM Integration Manager. I asked him to outline the top challenges facing owners and how architects, engineers and construction professionals can help provide the most value.

The first challenge Allen identified is that it is tough for owners right now to figure out what they want digitally and how to ask for it. A lot of what they’re asking for hasn’t caught up with the digital age.  He said BIM data is being lost due to contract data, which defines things in the “old” way. This limits architects and contractors’ ability to think in terms of mobility, electronic documentation and sharing information before the end of the project.

He pointed to the success he’s had over the last year and a half in taking a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to the building “exchange” process. The idea is to gather real-time asset data during the construction phase, which allows them to begin the exchange between contractor and facility manager earlier in the process.

The goal of the contractor’s data is to educate the facility manager during construction about the building they will eventually takeover. This includes focusing on gathering metadata and leveraging electronic documentation as much as possible. In addition, he believes that capital improvement, the general contractors and the FM team should be brought together earlier in the process. He feels it’s important for facilities management to participate in the upfront discussions, creating standards for the AEC team. He told me a story about the time he had maintenance guys who “turn wrenches” sit at the table with the Capital Projects group and GC. Up to this point, they’d never sat in a room together to review data needs.

The GCs, as well as others, are beginning to see the value in bringing these individuals into the discussions early on. The conversations focus on requesting the type of data and data standards they want to see in their IWMS/CMMS. If this is done right, the designer, GC and commissioner can work together with FM teams to set this up for the owner.

At the same time, FM teams can’t ask for everything. They need to be willing to narrow down the scope of what they need, taking baby steps towards their ultimate data goals. His focus now is working with owners to create Owner-driven Lifecycle BIM and VDC processes that complement their workflows and IWMS needs. Ultimately it’s up to them to pull the right people together. It’s clear that contractors are more than willing to provide just what the owner wants; they just need clear direction.  

Allen’s last comment was a reminder that that it’s not as much about geometry as it is about the information the owner wants to get out of the model. He suggests you engage the owner early on to find out what information is most important to them and their IWMS/CMMS.  Work with them to define the standards for communicating and providing information, ensuring you have a clear understanding of the value you can provide along the way.  

Editor's Note: This is sponsored content. The text and image were provided by the sponsor company.

Sasha Reed | Digital COM
Bluebeam Software
Vice President of Strategic Development

As Vice President of Strategic Development at Bluebeam Software, Sasha Reed collaborates with leaders in the architecture, engineering and construction industry to guide Bluebeam’s technology, partnerships and long-term goals. She joined Bluebeam in 2007 and co-created the Concierge Approach, a distinctly branded process of customer engagement, product feedback and solution delivery to which much of Bluebeam’s success is attributed, and which today is replicated at every organizational level.

Sasha is known industry-wide as a “conversation facilitator,” creating platforms for exchanges necessary to digitally advance the industry, including the BD+C Magazine Digital COM Blog, which she authors and manages. She’s been a featured presenter at numerous national and international conferences, including the 2014 Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), Federal Project Delivery Symposium and NTI Danish BIM Conference. Sasha also co-chairs the Construction PDF Coalition, a grassroots effort to provide a common industry framework from which to create and maintain construction PDF documents, serves on the City College of San Francisco BIM Industry Council, and is Advisor to the Board of Direction for the National Institute of Building Sciences BuildingSMART Alliance.

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