AECbytes Feature (September 30, 2011)
In January 2007, I wrote an article on FMDesktop, which at that time was Autodesk's dedicated tool targeted towards facilities management (FM)—it could automatically interpret room data from DWFs published from Revit. It was based on an FM product that Autodesk acquired in January 2006. Autodesk expanded its capabilities and released version 7.0 of the FMDesktop Product Suite in October 2006 to address the primary functions of facilities management: space and asset management, project management, emergency management, and maintenance management. It was exciting to see this product as part of Autodesk’s portfolio, as it seemed to move the industry closer to the promise and vision of BIM that Autodesk itself had espoused when it introduced the idea of BIM in 2003 at a series of events (see this article I wrote about one of those events): that the benefits of BIM could extend beyond the design and construction phase of a building to its operation and maintenance phases as well, making BIM the cornerstone of an integrated "building lifecycle management" process. All the other BIM vendors also advocated this idea: that a BIM model could be gainfully used for FM, since it was able to capture so much of the building information that could be re-used for its operation and maintenance rather than have to re-create it.
It was therefore somewhat of a shock when Autodesk discontinued FMDesktop in 2009, leaving it without a proper FM application in its BIM portfolio. To be fair to Autodesk, it did not leave its FMDesktop customers high and dry but arranged for them to transition to an established provider of FM applications, FM:Systems. Established in 1984, FM:Systems now includes BIM integration with Autodesk Revit, technically allowing a BIM model created in Revit to be utilized in the FM phase of a building. In the meantime, other BIM solutions have come up with their own FM modules, either developed in-house or by third-party developers. These include ArchiFM for Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD and Bentley’s internally developed application for FM called Bentley Facilities. In addition, there are other vendors developing different technological solutions and services for facilities management and lifecycle management, some of which are explored in this article. The field of FM is too vast and diverse to be captured in a single article, but hopefully this overview will be helpful to those seeking to have a better understanding of the potential of BIM in FM, and the technologies and services that are currently available to facilitate it.
FM:Systems develops FM:Interact, which is a modular suite of Web-based applications that enables organizations to access and analyze facilities, real estate and maintenance information in real-time. It has three main modules: Space Management, which enables detailed space inventories, occupancy data, and facilities benchmarks to improve occupancy rates and space utilization; Strategic Planning, which allows real estate and facilities plans to be aligned with business operations by analyzing headcount requirements and forecasting future space needs; and Asset Management, which allows tracking of furniture, equipment, computers, life safety systems, artwork and any other physical assets. In addition, FM:Interact can include other modules such as Real Estate Portfolio Management, Move Management, Project Management, and Facility Maintenance Management. It has a new Sustainability module that can help facilities and real estate professionals balance environmental and financial impacts, allowing users to manage critical information on energy performance, building certifications and sustainability projects like energy retrofits from a standard Web browser.
The latest version of FM:Interact also includes a BIM Integration Component that allows it to directly integrate with Autodesk Revit, creating a bi-directional link between Revit models and FM:Interact Web sites via Web services (see Figure 1). Using this BIM integration, users can publish floor plans from Revit models to FM:Interact for enterprise-wide access to floor plans and data; manage actual space inventory, allocations and occupancy, used in the Space Management module, in Revit Architecture (see Figure 2); and synchronize families in Revit models with building systems data in the Facility Maintenance Module. The intent is to connect BIM data from design, construction and renovation to facility management and operations.
Figure 1. The ability of the BIM Integration Component to connect different BIM models to FM:Interact for facilities management. (Courtesy: FM:Systems)
Figure 2. Editing space and occupancy data in Revit Architecture to publish directly into FM:Interact. (Courtesy: FM:Systems)
Of course, simply having the capability for BIM integration does not mean that it is actually being implemented. Just as BIM took several years to gain significant momentum in architecture, engineering, and then construction, despite the availability of the technology, similarly the adoption of BIM in FM is also far from the norm. There are several challenges involved, such as the change in mindset of FM professionals who have been using drawing-based FM technologies for years and don’t know much about BIM, and the lack of high-profile success stories of the adoption of BIM in FM. The biggest hurdle, however, is the lack of good data for FM in the BIM model. Just as with energy analysis, which relies heavily on a properly created BIM model to produce any meaningful results, the FM field also relies heavily on getting usable data from a BIM model to do anything meaningful with it. All too often, this data is not really there or is inaccurate, as the model has not been updated with any design changes made after the design phase and is therefore not an accurate model of the facility as it is built.
It all comes back to the frequently asked question: who does the model belong to, and who is responsible for updating it? If existing contracts do not oblige the architect, engineer, or contractor to continue to update the model with changes made during the design and construction phase of the building, are new contracts needed? Does the owner of the facility need to step in at this point and resolve this issue? There are no ready answers to these questions yet, but they can help to explain why BIM has not yet been adopted to a larger extent in the FM industry, despite the availability of tools like FM:Interact’s BIM Integration Component that can allow BIM models to be used for FM tasks.
This is an FM tool that integrates with Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD BIM solution. It was originally developed in 1998 within Graphisoft with the intent of creating a second, ArchiCAD related product for building management and technical operation/maintenance purposes. The rationale was the same as described earlier: to enable the ArchiCAD BIM model created by the architect be re-used for the building’s management throughout its lifecycle. In 2005, the management of Graphisoft spun off ArchiFM to a new company, named vintoCON Ltd. Thus, ArchiFM now continues to be developed by vintoCON, which has expanded the ArchiFM product line to additional modules including ArchiFM Asset Planning, which can be used to manage real estate properties and buildings with furniture and technical equipment within the facility; ArchiFM Maintenance, which is focused on planning care/maintenance activities for facilities and controlling their costs; and ArchiFM ProFM Reporting Services, which is the web-based reporting module of ArchiFM that allow reports to be generated in real time and displayed/edited in a web browser, without requiring users to install client applications to execute, export or print reports. vintoCON also develops additional FM applications including ProFM Helpdesk system, a breakdown reporting and maintenance management system for a facilities maintenance or operating services, and new GIS integration that makes it usable by cities to maintain elements such as roads, gas pipes, etc.
ArchiFM integrates seamlessly with ArchiCAD, allowing the BIM model to be used as the data source and for any kind of graphical reporting needed for FM. When the application is installed, it appears as an add-on to ArchiCAD, allowing ArchiFM to be directly opened from within ArchiCAD. All the information in the currently open ArchiCAD model is automatically transferred to ArchiFM, where it can be used to populate a new project. Here, all the physical assets of the building are organized into a tree structure and can be browsed. The ArchiCAD model can continue to be synchronized with the ArchiFM database, making any change in either application to automatically update in the other. For example, dragging and dropping an object from one room to another in ArchiCAD automatically updates the ArchiFM record of the object to show its new location (see Figure 3). ArchiFM can handle large asset portfolios at many physical locations, which means that different ArchiCAD models can correspond to different projects in one portfolio. ArchiCAD also provides graphical reporting capabilities for any data in ArchiFM: for example, a graphical display of rooms below a specified area (see Figure 4).
Figure 3. Relocating a person from one office to another in ArchiCAD immediately updates its ArchiFM record (Courtesy: vintoCON)
Figure 4. Specifying a condition in ArchiFM and seeing its results graphically in ArchiCAD. (Courtesy: vintoCON)
The sophisticated ability of ArchiFM to bidirectionally integrate with the BIM model in ArchiCAD, as advanced as it may seem, is beset by the same fundamental problem as FM:System’s solution: the ArchiCAD model may not reflect the final building’s as-built status. Also, even though the application attempts to keep up with every new release of ArchiCAD (it currently works with up to ArchiCAD 14 and has a bridge to the latest release, ArchiCAD 15), it is no longer listed on Graphisoft’s website among ArchiCAD add-ons. Has Graphisoft lost interest or given up on the “BIM for FM” market? It is definitely unfortunate not to see this vote of confidence, given that FM is often regarded as the final (but still critical) frontier for BIM.
At the same time, it is heartening to see that vintoCON has a number of success stories to share about organizations that are using ArchiFM and its other products. These include: Hungarian Oil Co., the largest business organization of the Hungarian region, which is using vintoCON products for managing its entire building portfolio, including space management, asset management, move management, and complete breakdown/planned maintenance management; Messe Berlin, the Berlin exhibition center, which was one of the earliest ArchiFM users, and is still using it; CIB, a large private bank organization headquartered in Budapest with many offices countrywide; the Palace of Arts, Budapest’s large, new concert hall/museum; and the University Campus Nyíregyháza, a university in the western part of Hungary, which is using ArchiFM in collaboration with their own intelligent building system developed internally.
Bentley Facilities is Bentley’s internally developed BIM solution for FM that supports the management of organizational spaces, corporate assets, and facility-related documents. It is built on top of MicroStation, allows organizations to use either DGN or DWG files for their FM tasks. It is also is fully integrated with Bentley’s ProjectWise, ensuring that data in the Facilities Database is connected to the engineering drawings and other documents that are managed and maintained in the ProjectWise environment. In addition to its space planning and asset management capabilities, Bentley Facilities provides web-based reporting capabilities that allow a wide range of users in an organization to access or create facilities reports for their needs. Just like FM:Interact, Bentley Facilities is actually a suite comprising five distinct applications: Bentley Facilities Planner, which is the main application focused on space and asset management; Bentley Facilities Manager, which is a tool to access and edit enterprise data through a non-graphic interface; Bentley Facilities Inquirer, which is a web-client that enables organizations to publish, modify, create and report on all facilities-related data over a standard web browser; Bentley Facilities Web Reports, which is a scalable report server providing web-based reporting for all Bentley Facilities clients; and Bentley Facilities Administrator, which includes data modeling tools to ensure that organizational structures can be exactly represented in the Facilities model.
Figure 5. Some screenshots of Bentley’s solutions for facilities management. (Courtesy: Bentley)
From the Bentley Facilities website, it was not clear if Bentley Facilities can also integrate with BIM models created using Bentley’s BIM solutions, or if it only integrates with drawings since it is built on top of MicroStation. But when I checked with Bentley, they confirmed that their BIM and Bentley Facilities are indeed fully integrated, and all the information about the building (including spaces) that is created in the Bentley BIM solutions is shared with Bentley Facilities. As with most Bentley solutions that are used for large, complex projects, Bentley Facilities is also extensively used in airports, research labs, governments, auto manufacturers, etc., in integration with Bentley BIM as well as other products in Bentley’s portfolio such as those for real estate management.
The Onuma System is a web-based BIM tool created by Onuma, Inc., a software and architectural firm that has also been using the tool in-house for its own projects for many years. The foundation of the Onuma System is a set of tools based on cloud computing that are built on open industry standards. The cloud approach means that users can view and edit data and graphics in real time in a web browser on multiple platforms from smart-phones, to tablets and PCs. Also, the open standards connections allow for interoperability across many other software applications. Access is controlled at the user level by a secure login. The system can run on an external server and can also be hosted in an intranet behind a firewall.
Onuma, Inc. uses its software to work as a contractor to forward-thinking owners like the GSA to integrate BIM into FM for their projects. It is currently consulting on three GSA projects, showing them how to work with their design build teams and extract data from BIM and non BIM sources in the design and construction process to support any FM application. This is an important distinction, since it is not about formatting data to go into a single FM application, but keeping the data neutral. To do this, Onuma Inc. is using an upcoming standard called COBie, which stands for Construction Operations Building Information Exchange and is specifically designed for project handover and FM. COBie forces the FM data to be neutral, and the Onuma System is used to check compliance of the data and create the links between the various submittals. Onuma Inc. emphasized that all the FM data, for example, detailed equipment data, does not have to be captured in the BIM model. Instead, much of this information can be captured in Excel spreadsheets, and all the graphical and non-graphical data from different sources is stitched together in the Onuma System to make the connections and relationships between elements.
Other similar projects that Onuma Inc. is working on, using the Onuma System, include new facilities by the Los Angeles Community College District and the California Community College District (CCC). Onuma is also working on the live integration between BIM and building automation systems, known as BAS. The Onuma System was used to define the workflows and use cases for a live connection between the BIM model maintained in Onuma and live sensors from Energle. Maintenance personnel could view live data streaming in from sensors to the Onuma System and could turn specific pieces of equipment on and off from the Onuma System (see Figure 6). It is the start of what is clearly a key trend going forward—being able to adjust the controls of a building using its BIM model.
Figure 6. Selecting a light fixture in a room with Energle live sensors and adjusting its attributes in real time using the Onuma System. (Courtesy: Onuma Inc.)
EcoDomus is another third-party provider of a “BIM for FM” solution. What it actually does is integrate various systems including FM systems, BIM models, GIS systems, and any Building Automation systems (BAS), allowing the Facility Manager an increased ability to analyze operational data and have a more holistic approach to capital asset management. EcoDomus is doing this using advanced integration with major applications like Autodesk Revit, Bentley BIM, IBM Maximo, and others. For example, it was the contractor for the GSA on the first phase of the NASA New Town Program, which is a 15-year facility modernization program at the NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) in Hampton, VA. The first phase of New Town consisted of a new Langley Headquarters Building, which is currently completing its construction phase. This building, like all new GSA projects since 2007, was designed using BIM. When the project was underway, EcoDomus developed a strategic plan to integrate NASA’s existing asset management software, IBM Maximo, with the on-going design updates in BIM throughout the construction phase and beyond. This plan, which is still forward-thinking and quite advanced for the building/FM industry, was met by EcoDomus operating as an independent contractor (see Figure 7).
Figure 7. The use of EcoDomus in connecting the BIM model to FM data for NASA’s new Langley Headquarters building project. (Courtesy: EcoDomus)
It is hardly surprising to find that one of the key people behind EcoDomus is Mieczyslaw (Mitch) Boryslawski of View by View, which has already worked as an independent BIM model manager on a number of high-profile projects (for one example, see Mitch’s 2006 article in AECbytes, Building Owners Driving BIM: The "Letterman Digital Arts Center" Story). He co-founded EcoDomus in 2010, and the company has developed two products to date: EcoDomus PM, which helps integrate BIM data into FM software applications and supports the Lean Construction Institute's Last Planner system; and EcoDomus FM, which provide real-time integration of BIM with building automation systems like Honeywell, Johnson Controls, etc. and with FM software like IBM Maximo, AssetWorks AiM, Accruent FAMIS, TMA Systems' webTMA, and others. The company is typically involved on a consulting basis for BIM-FM integration services. Its solutions also support the COBie standard that was described earlier.
Another important case study highlighting EcoDomus’ success in connecting BIM with FM data is the USC School of Cinematic Arts, which was building a new facility to add more educational and production space to its existing building. EcoDomus used its software to develop a custom solution and user interface for the facility that linked the Revit models and data to USC’s existing O&M (operations and maintenance) platform, giving it a more accurate and interactive visual capability (see Figure 8). It enabled USC to compare the “as operated” data received from building sensors and meters to the BIM-based “as built” data, and improve performance using “as maintained” data from USC’s maintenance management software.
Figure 8. The top image shows the building cutaway model, including all MEP systems, of the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ new project, while the lower image shows the connection between BIM and “smart” building operations for the new building created using EcoDomus. (Courtesy: EcoDomus)
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, we have barely scratched the surface of the “BIM for FM” topic, which is a vast and complex field by itself. Facilities management is a dedicated industry, with many firms devoted to providing a range of FM services, both in-house within an organization as well as by external well-established consulting firms. Just like the architecture, engineering, and construction industries, there are many vendors developing a wide variety of FM solutions that have been used by FM professionals for years. They typically involve large databases, since they deal with enormous amounts of data related to buildings, spaces, people, equipment, controls, sensors, and so on, that has to be continuously updated and managed. While this basic functionality of FM applications does not change with BIM, it is how “intelligently” they get their building information that is affected. The earlier integration with the drawings of the building, even if they were available in a CAD format, was quite low-tech—spaces had to identified from the drawings, which often meant “polylining” them again to make sure they were fully enclosed. In contrast, a properly created BIM model can provide the spatial information that is needed for FM space management right away. Also, if an up-to-date MEP BIM model has been created, capturing all the MEP subcontractors’ work, it can also be used right away for asset management and building maintenance.
No doubt, we are still a long way off from the commonplace use of BIM—or even non-BIM 3D models—in facilities management. Just ask any homeowner if they know where the structural components of their house are located or where the pipes run. In all probability, they have to pay specialized consultants to come in and run tests to determine this information before they can get any kind of repairs or remodeling work done. This is also true of larger facilities. Ideally, every facility should come with its BIM model, almost like an owner’s manual. And, city codes should mandate that these models be updated every time a building is repaired or remodeled.
Too unrealistic and futuristic? BIM does make it possible. But of course, our processes have to change too, and we know from our experience in the AEC industry how long that takes. The FM industry has only just begun.
Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She email@example.com.
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