[Skip to content]

FM World logo
Text Size: A A A
25 May 2018
View the latest issue of FM
Sign up to FM World Daily >
FM World daily e-newsletter logo


Leveraging the data in BIM

Linking building management systems (BMS) with building information models (BIM) can ‘liberate building management data from the FM’s desktop’, as one project has established.

18 June 2015 | By CIBSE

Building information modelling cropped up several times at April’s CIBSE Technical Symposium in London, with particular attention on the application of BIM for FMs. 

One paper focused on a research project to make the wealth of BIM data more easily accessible to FMs with a new web-based tool.

The government says all publicly funded construction projects must be undertaken using the collaborative approach defined as BIM level 2 by 2016. But there are varying levels of uptake among FMs.

According to the NBS National BIM Report 2015, which looks at how UK building design professionals are adapting to using BIM, 68 per cent of those using BIM last year are producing 3D digital models, but fewer than a third use that model throughout the life of a project. Critically for FM, only 12 per cent of those who used BIM last year passed the BIM model to the people responsible for managing the building. 

BIM for FM

A project being carried out by researchers at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), is exploring the use of BIM in FM. The team is led by Dr Marcus Keane and Dr Daniel Coakley at the Informatics Research Unit for Sustainable Engineering (IRUSE), in conjunction with Dr Hugh Melvin and Ronan McCaffrey at the Department of Information Technology. 

The team has linked a BIM model to building management system (BMS) data to develop a prototype web-based graphical user interface (GUI). The aim is to produce a tool that can liberate building management data from the FM’s desktop, making it more accessible to estate owners and others, raising awareness of building performance generally and aiding the decision-making during a building’s operation.

“Today’s more complex buildings are generating vast quantities of data, but building management systems are not leveraging that data as much as they could,” says McCaffrey. As lead researcher on the project, he outlined his work on the prototype tool at the symposium.

Bringing together the BIM model and BMS data promises a rich seam of information that can be used in a number of different ways if presented in a user-friendly, web-based format.

But BIM and BMS differ on a number of aspects. This project aims to build on the complementary nature of both systems, combining the detailed contextual information of the BIM model with the functionality of the BMS.

The researchers have developed a prototype focusing on temperature data for 11 rooms on the second floor of the Engineering Building at the NUIG. The 14,250 square metre building was designed using BIM and has a Cylon BMS in place, but the two were initially quite separate. McCaffrey explains: “The BIM model has not been used since it [the engineering building] was built [while] the BMS is only accessed by the building manager [when user complaints arise].”

Testing the theory

The building has been designed as a ‘living laboratory’ with live data from sensors throughout the building measuring its behaviour and energy use, and that data going into an overall database. The university aims to create an integrated network where data will be available via visual display units in the building and also to a wider audience on the internet, which can then be used as an educational resource.

The project encountered its first challenge early on when importing the BIM model for the second floor of the Engineering Building; the model had a 22MB file size, which suffered a sluggish performance while loading in a web browser. The team streamlined the model down to a tenth of its original file size so that it was rendered quickly.

Sensor zones were created within the various rooms in the model, connected to the BMS databases. By clicking on a room, the end user can access data specific to that room, such as the room name and temperature at a particular time. Other prototype features include:

  • A walk through the model, where users can zoom in and out and raise and lower the viewpoint, navigating by keyboard and mouse;
  • Zones are updated in real time, and users are able to select a day, week or chosen time period, and then download data into Excel spreadsheets. Users progress through the time series using a simple play button;
  • Navigation to access a dataset over a time period is via a calendar widget, similar to booking a hotel or a flight; and
  • Zones are coloured according to temperature reading, tapping into intuitive concepts like blue for cold and red for hot. Database temperature values can be exported as graphs and CSV files.


Once the model was created and linked to the sensor database, the researchers looked at ways in which a tool could be applied. For FMs the capability to detect faults in a building early and cost effectively could be key to uptake. McCaffrey says: “Fault detection would allow a user to set a threshold value for a zone and log when that threshold is exceeded, as well as seeing surrounding areas. Data could be exported as a CSV file.”

It’s still early days, says McCaffrey. “There’s a lot of work to be done in automating the model and in linking sensor data to rooms. This could be integrated with live BMS data. We will also be looking at integrating it with tablets and smartphones.” 

For details, see www.iruse.ie –or download papers from the symposium here.