Tuesday 4 October 2016


My name is Steve and I’m a BIMaholic, my problem started about 3 years ago when I attended a BIM event.  The problem is, I’m an FM and FM don’t do BIM…… Well judging by FM attendance at most BIM events at least.

During the last week of September I was honoured to have a small speaking part at the BIM Conference 2016 held at Coombe Abbey.  The Conference was almost entirely attended by Architects, Designers, Construction professionals and Supply Chain specialists.  I was invited to share some information about how the Operate and Maintain function fits into the BIM process.

The keynote presentation was delivered by Professor Mervyn Richards OBE and covered a whole host of information about BIM, Level 2 and the history of construction in general.  The presentation was fantastic, as you would expect from ‘BIM royalty’ and taught me quite a few things I hadn’t know or realised previously.  Suffice to say, the conference earned its pay in the first hour for me.  If only there were more ‘FM types’ at these events.

“It was quite impossible for the surveyor to take out quantities from drawings such as sometimes come from the architect’s office, imperfectly finished and possibly incorrect”

The Present Condition of the Building Industry - A paper and discussion reported in RICS
Transactions Vol. XXXIII (1900– 01)

It was very interesting to see some of the quotes and comments from history that are still relevant today.  We seem to be much better at identifying our shortfalls and giving advice to future generations than we are at following that advice.  Perhaps that is just human nature?

When we think about BIM for FM, I believe we are in a position at the moment where we can either sit back, and carry on making the same mistakes as we have in the past, or we can change the narrative around delivering our built environment to the eventual operators and users of those assets.  What do I mean by this?

Currently, we view BIM (largely) as a tool for design and construction to save money and reduce waste.  BIM offers much more than that.

Design and Construction have been working closely to develop our BIM guidance to make the most of the technology and process to realise the savings that have been projected but, they have never really included the Operate and Maintain element in the early stages of the process.  It is true that much of the documentation and guidance mentions operations or FM or ‘the client’ but, in reality their actual involvement prior to handover very rarely happens.

Why is this?  Well, I have a theory.  It may not be popular with some groups or individuals but, here it is:

Firstly, the divide between Capex and Opex is difficult to bridge.  Whilst ever the people delivering the asset are concerned only with the Capex element, it is unlikely that they will consider the effect of changes that impact only on the Opex budget.  It’s somebody else’s problem.

When we order a new car, if we ask for air conditioning and electric windows, we do not expect someone else to decide that actually, manual windows and a decent fan will do.  Put this in the context of a building project and you know it happens all too often.

We do however; accept that if we want aircon and all electrics, that we have to pay extra for that.

Building an asset is similar although the figures are a little bigger and the timeline (depending on car manufacturer) longer so, you would expect we would have the same mental approach?  Sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case in my experience.

BIM offers us a chance to change this two stage view as long as we truly look at the ‘bigger picture’.  Anyone heard of this ‘Lifecycle Management’ idea?  It’ll never catch on!

Secondly, when we talk to Architects and Designers, we commonly hear “the client has asked for Level 2 BIM” often followed by “we asked them why and they said, ‘because we have to have Level 2’” or “but, we have no idea what that is.  We were hoping you were going to tell us”.  Unfortunately, it is still the case that most clients do not fully understand what Level 2 BIM (or indeed BIM generally) means to them.  They also don’t know what information they need and how they need that presenting.  

The painful truth is that they (FM/client/owner/operator) do have all the answers but, haven’t been asked the right questions.

Education is lacking on both sides, we must be able to educate ‘the client’ on what/why they should be asking the design team (and vice versa), what that means for them and, most importantly, what benefits it will bring.  If there are no benefits, why would you do it?

Finally, the current leading edge of BIM (Design & Construction) do not always understand the way that buildings are used and operated.  Sure they know how to design them, specify and install assets that fulfill specifications and meet the standards but, by the time we have to actually use the building/asset in anger, they are usually long gone.  

There is this description, ‘Post Occupancy Evaluation’ but, to my mind at least, all the POE I have ever come across is largely a list of what should have worked but doesn’t and how we will try to correct it.  Surely with the advent of BIM (the process and it’s supporting technology) we should be able to do better?

Ok, so there’s clearly a lot more to consider than the three points above but, I don’t want the reader dropping off whilst I’m in mid-rant.

The design and construction industry spends a fortune on showcasing and selling their BIM credentials and services.  FM as a sector is sadly not part of this circus as yet.  We need clients to wake up, service providers to get on board and software developers to come up with solutions rather than waiting for someone to do it for them.

We now have good evidence of the value of BIM to design and construction.  The true value of BIM for the Operate & Maintain phase has not been fully realised (although there are some very promising early adopters coming to light – MOJ, Manchester City Library etc). 

We even see main contractors with an FM arm who still don’t do joined up BIM.  Why?  Because Construction and FM are separate functions and they only cross paths at handover.  Time for a change?

In order to progress the use of BIM generated data within the FM environment, FM as a sector/discipline has to take responsibility for telling Design and Construction industries what it needs, in what detail and at what frequency in order to streamline the delivery of the operate and Maintain phase as we have now done for design and construction.

I may sound like a grumpy old man but, the truth of the matter is that someone needs to bang the collective heads together of all stakeholders in the BIM process and show them how to play as a team rather than them telling each other how good they are at their own bit.

We are better together, greater than the sum of our parts etc etc.

Perhaps, the current problem of transitioning BIM from Construction into Operate & Maintain is due to the fundamental separation enforced by our previous approach to handover at Practical Completion.  

Here at FM180 we are trying to bridge the gap and act as the island in the stream that allows that bridge to be built (in BIM obviously).  We have a solid foundation in FM and the BIM process.  Why not talk to us about how you can turn your BIM project into a winner on all sides?

I should probably qualify that by saying that we are independent, have the interests of our built environment at heart and are fluent in FM, colloquial level in Construction and can order a beer in Architect.  Whatever your discipline, we are here to help.

#Facman #BIM #BIM4FM #FM180


  1. Bravo! Well said and explained in simple English. Until we bridge the Cape Opex chasm the full potential of BIM is unattainable.

    1. Thanks Donald, I fear you are right but, we must all work at this to bring about the change.

  2. So it is interesting and very good written and see what they think about other people. bim consulting firm

  3. With the introduction of ISO 19650 to replace BS1192 are we still lagging behind in incorporating FM within these new standards?!!!