How to Get the Most Out of BIM

Nov. 7, 2018

When deciding on the best course of action for managing your building projects, one tool becoming more prevalent in the industry is building information modeling. Follow these tips to get the most out of yours.


As technology transforms the ways in which buildings are constructed and operated, so too are the ways in which you make decisions on things like performance and design.

When deciding on the best course of action for managing your building projects, one tool becoming more prevalent in the industry is building information modeling (BIM).

What exactly is BIM?

It refers to a 3D digital model of a building that gives facilities and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals the information and tools to more efficiently design, construct and manage the physical building infrastructure.

It’s a step up from such software as AutoCAD, which is a computer drafting and design application often used by the AEC community. Peter Costanzo, director of the facilities management group at IMAGINiT Technologies, says that CAD data is now being converted into BIM and combined with database systems in the facilities world. “They need a little translation to talk to one another,” he explains.

“I call BIM the holy grail for facilities management,” he adds. “Most people in facilities are trying to figure out what they have and where it is. BIM not only offers the ability to know what you have and where it is but detailed information.”

[Read also: Use Virtual and Augmented Realities in Your Renovation or Build]

Although adopting a BIM model might present a significant change, it’s beneficial for better access to your building’s data.

BIM and Energy Reduction

BIM can be particularly useful with things like energy reduction. It can take into account your building’s location, the weather conditions, usage, etc. Based on those factors, analysis can be run to see what sort of energy will be required to keep the building comfortable.

“Because it’s a virtual model, it’s easy to swap things out,” says Joe Eichenseer, director of building solutions technical team for IMAGINiT Technologies. “What happens if I add solar panels to the roof? What happens if I change insulation materials? We can start getting comparative analysis to see what’s likely to impact your overall energy use.”

As an example, Eichenseer recalls a client years ago who had recently repaired the roof of its building’s gymnasium, which was leaking. After the repair was done, it saw energy costs had increased.

“They ended up taking a lot of time to try and figure out why,” Eichenseer says. “And what it came down to is they were spending a lot more energy and money cooling the building once all of the holes were capped. Previously, all of that extra heat was escaping through the roof. Once it was repaired, it was captured in there.”

If that client had access to BIM, it could have analyzed and extracted data to create projections for preventative maintenance. Maybe there would have been a different way to remove that heat, one that accounted for the lack of natural airflow caused by the repair.

[On topic: 3 Energy Management Games for Your Facility]

“The idea of BIM is we can analyze these before-and-after conditions at varying degrees of accuracy,” Eichenseer explains.

Take those projects and then compare them to historical data and information from sensors to see how well reality matches your projections. “Then adjust accordingly, so that you are getting all these benefits that you’re looking for and not just continuing to do the same thing,” Eichenseer says.

3 Tips to Get the Most Out of BIM

1. Utilize your IT professionals.

As BIM becomes more widely used in the industry, Costanzo says that involving and having discussions with the IT department becomes more important. Often, they can help you decide which data needs to be implemented into the system. Be sure to include them if you decide to use BIM, as they often can help convert data from other systems.

2. Don’t keep data that you’re not going to regularly update.

Costanzo says that’s a simple rule for building any database, and reiterates that IT professionals can help you decide which data to include. If your BIM data isn’t up to date, the model becomes less useful.

3. Use a BIM standard.

Each BIM needs a standard because the models have varying levels of detail. Costanzo recommends starting out with COBie, which is supported by the major facilities management software applications. This can also assist in identifying data and information you want BIM to hold.

Using BIM successfully can be difficult, so it’s important to understand how it works and know what data is most useful. A survey from IMAGINiT Technologies even showed an increase in 2017 for facilities managers’ use of BIM. Although challenges remain, it’s likely a tool worth considering.

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About the Author

Sarah Kloepple | Associate Editor

Sarah joined the BUILDINGS team as an associate editor in August 2018. She is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, where her focus was magazine writing. She's written and edited for numerous publications in her hometown of St. Louis.

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