BIM for Handover

Editorial Type: Opinion Date: 05-2013 Views: 5,766 Tags: CAD, BIM, Facilities Management, Excitech
'Does BIM end at handover?' asks Bob Garrett, Marketing Director, Excitech Ltd. As construction projects reach their conclusion, what happens to the mass of information gathered in the process - and how best can we use it?

The adoption and use of Building Information Modelling in a project can be initiated by different groups for different reasons. Significant at this time though is the number of building (and infrastructure) owners who are now requiring the use of BIM for their projects. This is most visible within the Government Construction Strategy.

In this article we look at what these owners hope to gain and then some of the techniques which may be employed to facilitate the handover process and provision of information.

In requiring a BIM process for their project we can expect our client - be they owner, occupier, developer etc. - to be seeking benefits in three different areas. Firstly, they may expect to be more closely involved in the project as it develops. This would be by participating in and understanding the designs as they progress, because the use of BIM should make the project more comprehensible for them. Secondly, they will be expecting BIM to improve the design and construction stages in timescales, risk management, costs, quality, etc. Thirdly, they should be expecting a better handover process and the provision of information which they can take advantage of to aid the management of the building (or road, or bridge, or tunnel, etc.) for many years to come. It is this last area which we will focus on.

The last few years has seen the rise of the new term "Field BIM," which is used to describe the use of BIM at the final stages of construction, when commissioning and snagging are being undertaken as well as "as-built" information being gathered. Field BIM takes the information from the design and construction model for verification and enhancement on site. Someone from the construction team might take a portable device, such as a tablet computer, into a room and confirm that all the information relating to the design and construction of that room had been carried out correctly. They could then note any discrepancies - which would add to the snagging list - or note any changes.

But beyond this snagging, they could gather extra information for later use by the client as part of the handover materials. They might take photos in ceiling voids to show the positions of serviceable items, or note the serial numbers of actual installed units (having already verified that the correct unit was installed), or just take room photos as a record of completion.

The whole point of Field BIM is to aid commissioning and further enhance, in a cost and time efficient way, the information in the design and construction model so as to aid the production of Operations and Maintenance documentation for the client.

It is important at this point though to consider where this information is stored. We freely use the term "model" as if all the information relating to the building in its design, construction and ongoing management might exist in a single file - but this is unlikely in the extreme. Instead, within design and construction we talk of a "common data environment" allowing multiple files of interelated information to combine for the most effective collaborative system. It is the output, or the source of this information which makes up the handover content.

As with many processes this is not new, but simply changed and made more efficient by BIM; and like other BIM processes it is supported by software, and in this case it is also enabled by increasingly portable computer hardware.

So, the building work is complete, the as-built information is added or updated, and the occupier is ready to move in. Does BIM end there? Here we enter what might be something of a debate about responsibilities, ownership and even semantics!

The general view is that all the information should be provided to the client - and indeed they are generally its owner - but with restrictions as to how they may use it. Some then conclude that BIM continues into the client's hands and that their management of the facility for years to come will be through use of that design/construction BIM model.

Much of that information, however, is irrelevant or unintelligible to them (not being architects or engineers). The software tools used to bring the information to this point are not really designed for the tasks they will have to undertake; and they will be needing to link this as-built information to other systems which manage finance, staff, space allocation etc. So we need to recognise another acronym: FM, for Facilities Management. The Facilities Managers will want to take advantage of some of the information from what was provided either by linking to it or transferring it into their systems.

This handing over of information can be done in a number of ways. Traditionally it might be delivered as a pile of drawings, ring-binders of papers and boxes of documents; no wonder clients see taking over a new facility as a costly exercise, as they cope with entering all this into their asset and space management systems.

More effectively, much of this information can in theory be exported from the BIM systems and imported into FM systems, but this does require careful planning, data collation, field mapping and methods to corelate different types of data. Trying to standardise parts of this is one of the goals of COBie as required in future public sector projects; and software is now becoming available from BIM and to FM which aids this. However, this will still not be a simple task as not all the likely data is within COBie and the volume of data could be significant and coming from a range of sources.

Other methods of data transfer for handover from BIM to FM will probably remain project specific but aided more and more by the software. For example, the popular Revit software for BIM can now interact in a number of ways with popular ARCHIBUS software for FM.

The key to managing the information handover to the benefit of all is to discuss and seek agreement between all the parties from the start. The client needs to identify what they want and how it should ideally be delivered, while the supply chain needs to consider how to provide this and what is practical. Methods and solutions may change during the life of the project but at least there is a starting point then for identifying and agreeing changes.

In previous articles in this series we have seen how BIM applies during the design and construction stages. Now we have seen how BIM can aid in the final steps leading to handover and the actual project completion. The government "soft landings" policy takes this a stage further by keeping the contractor involved in the first few years of the management of the facility to ensure a more shared approach to design, construction and management.

The completion and handover of a BIM project should be more efficient, faster and cost-effective, but like all changes in process it requires planning and management to gain the greatest benefits.