Intelligent Buildings

Keeping K-12 Schools in Tiptop Shape

In the k-12 sector, facilities management plays a central role in delivering high-quality learning experiences to students of all ages. Research has found a clear link between student performance and building characteristics like ventilation, lighting, and acoustics.

K-12 school spending on facilities management is significant in the United States. According to the National Council on School Facilities’ report, “2016 State of Our Schools,” between 1994 and 2013 American K-12 school districts spent an average of $6 billion per year on maintenance and operations. In public education, every dollar counts. Leveraging the data in building information models (or BIMs) is one way to improve the efficiency of facilities management.

Building information modeling is a concept where data is shared by all relevant project stakeholders during construction. Everything from structural beam placement to specifications on HVAC equipment could be part of a BIM (or Building Information Model).

BIMs are used by architects and construction firms to streamline the early stages of the building life cycle. After new construction or a renovation project is completed, the data captured in these models can be utilized for building management and automation. In “The Facility Management Handbook,” authors David G. Cotts, Kathy O. Roper, and Richard P. Payant, note that by maximizing the use of BIM data in facilities management and building maintenance, owners and building developers can reduce operational costs. The payoff can be significant, since these expenses often represent up to three times the design and construction cost of a building!

As student enrollment increases in the coming years, many K-12 school districts are expected to initiate building projects. The National Council on School Facilities suggests that between 2014 and 2024, K-12 enrollment in the United States will grow by 3.1 million students. In response, school districts will invest as much as $10 billion in construction between 2014 and 2024. These projects present an ideal opportunity for districts to incorporate building information models into the design and building phases. Those models can then be utilized to support more efficient facilities management during the lifecycle of the buildings.

In the world of facilities management, BIM data can be used in several ways. It can support asset inventories, space management, building system analysis, environmental analysis, and regulatory compliance management. BIMs also provide accurate as-build information for renovation projects.

Levering BIM is simply done by applying the following best practices:

  • Identify Facility Management BIM Requirements. Identify upfront what information will be needed by facility management systems. Then work with the architects, engineers, and construction professionals to ensure this data is delivered in a final as-build BIM.
  • Develop a BIM Guideline. BIM Guidelines are used in BIM projects. They help all stakeholders ensure the data for their requirements are included in the BIM process. School districts need to make sure their unique requirements for the building information model are included in this process. The following three simple questions will provide a guideline:
    1. What data do we need? All facility management systems need basic information such as room numbers and basic asset information. Additional information will be required depending on the systems that the district uses. The district’s IT department and facility management team can help define the necessary data elements. In most cases, BIMs used by facilities are simpler than the design or construction models.
    2. How will we collect it? Facility managers must maintain what was built. This means that as-built information must be collected for the BIM during construction and commissioning. Sometimes, this data does not originate in the building information model. Stakeholders, including the FM team, must decide how to gather as-built information as construction progresses.
    3. How will it be kept up-to-date? To be most useful, the data in the building information model should be kept current. Remember that buildings change over time. Keeping data current while maintaining history will help facility managers make better decisions.

Building information models are a great resource for keeping K-12 schools in tiptop shape for students. By using a structured approach to defining FM requirements and BIM standards, districts can enhance their maintenance practices and extend the lifespan of their facilities.

This article originally appeared in the School Planning & Management November/December 2018 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Peter Costanzo is director with the IMAGINiT Facilities Management group, where he has worked for more than 14 years. His blend of experience in hardware, software, mobility platforms, BIM, and facilities management applications allows him to work with clients to craft solutions that meet both current and future facility management needs.