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Role of FM in BIM will be key

10 February 2012

Speakers at a conference in London have claimed that building information modelling (BIM) will "break the cycle of buildings being perpetual prototypes", putting operational and life cycle issues on top of the construction agenda.


At the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors' BIM conference in London, architect Paul Fletcher said that the construction industry needed to learn how to work differently.

"Every building we produce is effectively a prototype, and not enough credence is given up front to the outcome we're looking to achieve with each construction project," said Fletcher, the co-chair of 'CIC task force 3.6', a pan-industry group set up to implement recommendation 3.6 of the government's Low Carbon Construction Innovation Growth Team report (concerning the delivery of low carbon buildings).

"We don’t know how the buildings we design are going to perform," said Fletcher. "We need to realise that BIM is about information processing, and our current information processing skills are pathetic. We need to start using information and tools in a completely different way. For too long the construction sector has profited from fragmented, incomplete information."

The ability to manipulate BIM data sets would give designers, architects, construction companies and all other stakeholders the opportunity to produce simulations of building performance, thus de-risking projects, continued Fletcher. Simulation of outcomes could significantly affect energy use, he said. "Retrofitting photovoltaics is all very well, but what if we’d spent more time getting the initial orientation of the building right?"

Although most speakers referenced the value of facilities management in the development of BIM over the coming years, there was little discussion about how FM could be practically involved. Martin Roberts, partner at law firm Pinsents Mason, said there was a requirement for a form of BIM information manager to effectively control the way stakeholders in construction projects liaised with each other. "Is this a role for quantity surveyors," he asked, "or perhaps project managers? Who will take the lead?" The prospect of facilities management taking this role went unmentioned.

The government is using the procurement of four prison projects through the Ministry of Justice as a trial BIM project. Mark Bew, chairman of the government's BIM working group, said that an extension to Cookham Wood prison in Kent would be going out to tender later this month.