Coming Attractions: BIM for K-12 Facility Managers

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has stormed into the nation’s design and construction world. The Government Services Administration (GSA) requires BIM for government buildings. The Army Corps of Engineers requires BIM for its projects. In July, Wisconsin became the first state to require BIM on large public projects. Texas followed suit in August.

BIM has been used in private design and construction markets as well. Few owners and facility managers have not heard about the benefits BIM brings to project design and construction: three-dimensional images of a building from the exterior to the interior down to the components of the walls and the floors. Equally important, an expertly created BIM database catalogs every component and building material specification in great detail.

Don’t let that go to waste. BIM’s job doesn’t have to be finished when the keys are turned over to the owner.

A K-12 facility manager can request as-built BIM files. Equipped with BIM and knowledge of how to use BIM technology, a facility manager can use BIM to maintain a new facility and all of the buildings in a district’s portfolio.

Further, an as-built BIM file can form the foundation of a facility maintenance application that assigns and tracks computers, office and classroom furniture, telephone lines and virtually everything else that facility managers assign to administrators, faculty, staff and students.

“My experience tells me that most public school systems are not this far along with BIM yet,” says Doug Wickstrom, AIA, the chief technology officer with Celina, Ohio-based Fanning/Howey Associates, Inc., an architectural firm that specializes in the design of K-12 schools as well as college and university buildings, libraries, recreational facilities, religious facilities and other institutional styles.

But some districts will soon begin using BIM for facility management. According to Wickstrom, colleges and universities with giant building portfolios are adopting BIM as a facility management tool.

“One of the central problems in managing large real estate portfolios is tracking what you have and how what you have changes,” Wickstrom says. “If you have as-built BIM data for all of your buildings, you can use that data as a basis for maintenance.”

BIM’s benefits start with the as-built file, which already contains all of the relevant specification data for the equipment, components and materials used to construct the building. You don’t have to enter that data into another application to use it.

“The benefit is that you can manipulate the as-built BIM data,” continues Wickstrom. “You can query the database and ask it to show you the components on the roof or all of the filters in the system.”

It may be also be possible to add notations and alarms to an as-built BIM file, telling it to request maintenance for filters and systems needing lubrication or fan belt inspections at certain intervals.

Wickstrom believes it might be easier for a K-12 district to pull data on maintenance-sensitive systems out of an as-built BIM file and import it into a maintenance application that interoperates with the BIM system used to design and construct your building.

That would make it possible to move data back into BIM to record maintenance and renovation work done since the building was put into service. It can then exist all in one place.

Managing Equipment and Furniture Assignments
Another use for as-built BIM files: record equipment assignments. Enter identification data for all of the computers, furniture and equipment assigned to classrooms, the media center, science laboratories and other kinds of rooms. That will enable you to check the rooms periodically to make sure no equipment is missing.

You can use BIM to assign furniture and equipment to faculty and administrative offices. When employees move on to other jobs, you can query BIM about what you should ask them to return.

Of course you can do this work with other, less sophisticated applications. If those applications will interoperate with BIM, you will have the ability to send maintenance and equipment management data to a single BIM database.

Think about the value of storing maintenance and equipment management data for every school, athletic facility and administrative building across an entire district in a single, powerful database.

That’s what BIM can do for facility managers. Even if you can’t do it now because you aren’t familiar with the technology, you can still request as-built BIM files covering building renovations and new construction.