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Przybyla_John_thumbBuilding Information Modeling (BIM) is replacing Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) as the tool in which building designs are created. BIM is a graphic and data model of a building prepared by designers, enhanced by builders, and can be used by owners. BIM enables all parties involved in a project to communicate in a more collaborative manner, develop useful information sooner about a project, reduce errors, and shorten project delivery times.

Przybyla_JohnBuilding Information Modeling (BIM) is replacing Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) as the tool in which building designs are created. BIM is a graphic and data model of a building prepared by designers, enhanced by builders, and can be used by owners. BIM enables all parties involved in a project to communicate in a more collaborative manner, develop useful information sooner about a project, reduce errors, and shorten project delivery times.

The Value of BIM

BIM creates 3-D models of a building in a computer before construction begins, and the visualization capability alone is a huge improvement over the 2-D design methods of the past. BIM is becoming widely adopted within the design and construction communities, and is providing huge benefits to the industry. However, it has the potential to do much more. The greatest potential benefits of BIM — those associated with the operation of the building over its lifecycle — have yet to be realized by owners.

In a typical construction project today, the owner receives the BIM at building handover, but it has limited information about the operation of the building. The information the owner really needs comes in paper form (or as PDFs on a CD) in the way of catalog cut sheets, written operation and maintenance (O&M) manuals, warrantees, etc. The relevant data then has to be manually extracted from these sources, formatted, and typed into the owner’s Facility Management System (FMS) so that the information about the equipment, spare parts, and tasks needed to maintain the building can begin. In some cases, this process takes so long that necessary preventative maintenance tasks are not performed, equipment fails prematurely, and warranties are voided.

BIM is important technology, and plays the critical role as the essential tool during the design and construction phases of a facility. However, it is not intended to be the software tool to manage a facility over its lifecycle. Tools such as Facilities Management Systems and Geographic Information Systems are the tools of choice to manage facilities once they are operational.

The Value of COBie for Tabular Data

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed a technical approach to attempt to address the tabular data handover from BIM to FMS. This approach, named Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) simplifies the work required to capture and record tabular handover data from the design and construction processes, and prepare it for importation into a FMS.

The COBie approach is to have each party enter the data as it is created during design, construction, and commissioning. Designers provide floor, space, equipment lists and equipment layouts. Contractors provide make, model, and serial numbers of installed equipment. Much of the data provided by contractors comes directly from product manufacturers who also participate in COBie and directly from the BIM. The developers of software to manage facilities then import the tabular COBie data into their FMS or Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) systems. This can result in more effective operation of facilities, more efficient use of energy, and longer lifespan for the facilities.

COBie has been adopted as an international standard, and many of the major FMS products can directly import COBie data. But COBie only addresses the tabular data from BIM.

The Value of GIS for Spatial Data

Mainstream GIS products employ server-based relational database architecture, making them incredibly versatile and powerful. In the context of facility management, GIS is being used today by building owners and managers to manage multiple facilities spread out across a campus, even around the globe. Here GIS data can be used to answer a wide variety of questions that involve location, time and tabular information, such as:

  • What is my average number of square feet per employee by department?
  • How many fire extinguishers do we have to inspect in the next month, and where are they?
  • How many ADA-compliant toilet stalls do we have, and what is the maximum distance someone has to travel to get to one?
  • What spaces do we have that will be available in the next six months that could support a new office?
  • Which valves do I have to close to isolate a main break, and which buildings/rooms are impacted?

The only way any tools can be developed to answer these questions is to capture all of the natural and man-made features–including what is on the ground, under the ground, and inside the buildings–in the same seamless database–a GIS.

In the future, the full value of BIM will be realized by using 3-D spatial data from the BIM to facility management systems, building management controls and information systems, using 3-D GIS technology. Once built, a 3-D GIS model can be accessible at regional and corporate levels via web deployment as both a portfolio visualization tool and a dashboard presentation environment. Utility consumption, resource and energy use, operational statistics, building and space utilization data, facility and component condition, emergency system diagnostics, remote system management, and many other datasets can be integrated into a 3-D GIS-based solution. 

Of course, most owners have only a fraction of their portfolios in BIM. However, with only a modest amount of effort, basic 3-D facilities can be created in GIS by converting existing 2-D CAD drawings and extruding them into basic 3-D representations. And as each of these technology pieces matures, owners will begin building intelligent virtual 3-D campuses that encompass everything on the ground, under the ground, and inside the buildings into a single GIS database. And that will transform everything about how those campuses are managed and maintained. 

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