Editor's Letter

July 25, 2011
Where is the Path to the BIM Utopia?

Like many utopias, it’s easy to imagine all the benefits that BIM might deliver for FM. Also like utopias, it’s hard to envision exactly how to get there.

As this month’s feature article on BIM by assistant editor Jennie Morton points out, the 3D visual component is an immense benefit for ongoing operations and maintenance as well as for energy and sustainability efforts. (For more material on BIM and maintenance, view the free on-demand webinar, Design for Maintenance: Using BIM as an FM Tool, by clicking on the BuildingsVIP and Webinars tab at www.buildings.com and registering for the Smart Sustainability Expo.)

But perhaps the greatest potential benefit of BIM is having one database that integrates all information into a seamless, interoperable model in which data from different sources can talk to each another. Design files provide information about space, floor plans, and schedules; contractor files supply information on products installed and manufacturers; commissioning files contain information on warranties, safety, and maintenance and operating procedures.

The rub here is getting all the information from different sources – and created in different software programs – to work together on tasks like generating work orders. One solution developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the COBie (Construction-Operations Building information exchange) file format. Any software program that can output information in the COBie format would, in theory, have a degree of interoperability – and the power to populate the model.

Another issue is training: What knowledge is necessary to effectively operate a BIM model, and who should be charged with the task? A third issue is how best to begin building a BIM model for existing facilities that have limited information in digital documents.

Where are you on the BIM path? The editorial staff is planning another BIM feature on best practices for the November issue. Let Jennie ([email protected]) and me ([email protected]) know what questions you have and what you’ve learned.

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