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Laying the foundation for sustainable lab operations and management with BIM

Wed, 08/14/2013 - 9:59am
Terence Alcorn, AIA, and Phil Wirdzek
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Figure 1: “Who should provide BIM for the owner?”  

There is an increasing awareness of the need to provide building owners with a BIM model that instructs and reinforces the operations and management of laboratories and high-technology facilities, especially in achieving sustainable performance. The authors believe the high-tech building sector (labs, data centers, cleanrooms and hospitals) are at the forefront of this effort because of the increased complexities, substantial capital investments, significant lifecycle costs and economic value derived from their creation.

Because of their operational complexities and the associated risks to investors and occupants, these facilities provide the greatest return on investing in the operations and management opportunities that are made possible through BIM. The authors believe that early adopters will not only encourage the industry’s use of and value for BIM in design and construction, but help guide its future application for owners. Further, the authors believe stimulating BIM’s application in this market will establish benefits that will reverberate throughout the building sector.

Through partnership agreements, individuals from the National Institute of Building Science’s buildingSMART Alliance (NIBS), the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) and the International Facility Management Association’s Research and Development Council (IFMA) initiated a program based on a framework conceived by Virginia Polytechnic and State Univ.1 to research and build support for BIM as a facility operations and management platform. The initial requirement of the framework was to assess the level of knowledge of BIM in owners and operators. To do so, a survey was developed and conducted in 2012 that was organized with a series of educational packets followed by questions related to the information presented. This survey was sent to approximately 30,000 individuals through each of the above noted organizations’ newsletters, and responses were received by over 250 individuals representing owners, designers, construction managers and other consultants associated with building operations.

The survey results for high-tech building owners are summarized below:

  • Owners’ current use of BIM: 1/3 are requiring BIM for all new projects; 1/3 are doing pilot projects with BIM; and 1/3 aren’t sure if they are getting it right or have never heard of BIM.
  • Owners’ future with BIM: 82% expect BIM to impact their future; 75% feel they need basic knowledge of BIM and the usefulness of it for their organization.
  • The “I” in BIM stands for information, which is inputted into BIM using the format standard of Construction Operations Building information exchange (COBie). Yet, 50% of the high-tech building owners have not heard of CoBie.
  • High-tech building owners are currently using BIM 38% of the time post-construction for their facilities.
  • High-tech building owner’s use of BIM for managing expenses: 16% use it for energy management; 19% for improving work management.
  • 13 to 27% of owners use BIM for managing processes (scheduling, space management, cost estimating and equipment inventory).
  • 81% of owners would like to use BIM more to address continuous commissioning.
  • 60 to 70% of owners would like to use BIM for energy monitoring.
  • Only 20% of owners feel that their building information is very accurate.
  • Delivering and maintaining BIM for the owner: 66% of owners felt that either the architect or contractor should provide the final BIM deliverable (Figure 1); 53% felt that either a supervisor or the commissioning agent should verify the building information and model (Figure 2); 65% felt that either a technician or supervisor should maintain the building information and model over time.

BIM Contracts
BIM is changing fast and very few owners, and subsequently owner contracts, are able to keep abreast of the changes. What we are seeing in the marketplace for delivering BIM to the owner is currently very chaotic. Owner contracts are typically ambiguous in their contract language and absent in specific requirement for BIM deliverables, resulting in less than optimal conditions for everyone involved.

There are several organizations providing current contract requirements for BIM. The AIA has developed a Building Information Protocol (AIA document E202-2008 available at www.aia.org), which delineates the basic requirements for a BIM contract. We must develop the proper standards for BIM in our contracts so the industry can be consistent in developing and delivering BIM to meet an owner’s need.

Owners are the last group to understand and implement the broad benefits that BIM can offer and they are at a distinct disadvantage in preparing BIM contracts. If the owner doesn’t have BIM expertise, then it is advised that the owner gain the services of a BIM expert.

The expert would be expected to educate and advise the owner on the basics of BIM and the range of applications that are now known and anticipated. The expert, through discussions with the owner’s operations management and O&M staff, user representatives, the CIO, budget officer, environmental health and safety and others, should gain a thorough understanding of the owners' needs. The expert should guide the owner to understand how BIM is the platform for programs that can support the management and operation of the facility throughout its lifecycle. The expert should then serve to facilitate the incorporation of the owner’s needs into the project contract and facilitate discussions between the owner, designer and construction manager.

With BIM changing so fast, a BIM expert should have experience on numerous projects that are similar in type to your project. The most critical characteristic, however, is someone who is willing to listen and learn. Everyone involved with BIM today is gaining experience, but no two experiences are alike, and we need to be open to learning from each other and proceed forward as a team. Although it might appear biased, we believe they should also be members of the buildingSMART alliance as that indicates they are keeping up with the latest standards and business processes.

BIM and Building Efficiency: Modeling, Measuring, Monitoring
How well are our buildings designed to optimize building efficiency? How well are they performing after they are commissioned? And how well are they operating over time for the owner? The high-tech building type is a very complicated assembly with thousands of objects and processes that influence the buildings performance. Furthermore, by their very mission the users of high-tech buildings greatly affect the performance of the building.

Performance aspects of a high-tech building can include energy and water consumption, worker health and safety, security, contamination, hazardous materials storage and management, hazardous releases and more.

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Figure 2: “Who should verify BIM for the owner?”  

BIM is a platform that can provide a comprehensive and interactive assembly of the components in a building to create a new type of energy model. As we add more information into BIM for each individual part of the building, BIM becomes increasingly closer to matching the real-world building itself. An example of what we are expecting is an energy model, which by understanding how the occupants may filter in and out of a building throughout the day, can tell us the most efficient array of pump and water heater sizes, that will maximize energy efficiency to meet the required need. Better data will translate to better designs and allow us to create more efficient buildings. Currently, both IBM and GE have ad campaigns touting how they are creating smart machines. Cars are smart, even refrigerators can now be “smart;” and we will increasingly see smart products in our buildings. BIM is the ideal platform to visualize and use the information that is and will be available for us to use.

Some high-tech building owners currently require that the building energy model be maintained and updated throughout construction and building commissioning. As we move forward into building operations and use, it is important that our buildings have the ability to measure and monitor their energy use. It has been documented that providing users with metrics on their impact on building energy has resulted in changed behaviors and reduced energy consumption. The adage is “That if you don’t have the right information, then you can’t make the right decision.” Measuring and monitoring of energy use provides the information for operators and users to make the proper decisions to reduce a building’s energy use.

BIM for Building Owners Awards: Best Practices, Best Products
We are presently on the cutting edge of the development and adoption of BIM for owners. This era that we are about to enter is the computerization of building ownership, the ability to work virtually to monitor, maintain and operate buildings. Being on the cusp of this wave, it is important that an effort be put forth to provide comprehensive and accurate information on the changing environment to everyone that is involved or touched by this event.

The most effective way to influence an entire emerging market, as it literally develops and changes before us, is to have the market come to us, to provide the mechanism for the market to showcase itself and present its ever changing landscape. This “pulling” of information is best accomplished with the development of a national or international awards program that provides the mechanism for both vendors and users to showcase their accomplishments, but also the mechanism to distribute this information to the broader user base that will be desperately seeking real-world information.

Summary
The most important point of this article is that designers and the construction managers who may be responsible for their aspect of the building for one to two years do not have responsibilities for the next 50 to 100 years of the building’s operations, maintenance and renovations. What is desperately needed is for our buildings to provide the owner with information on how it is performing: dashboards that provide users with information on their energy use on a real-time basis, improved safety and health of workers, environmental benefits to the site and community and much more. Finally, this expanding application of BIM, which would provide more information on how buildings are used and perform over their lifecycle, will be invaluable in the design and construction of new buildings for the future.

The authors, working with a nine-point roadmap proposed by Dr. James Jones of Virginia Polytechnic and State Univ., created a survey which results confirm the value of the roadmap which, when implemented, will ensure the evolution of BIM into a full building lifecycle tool. The survey results confirm that concerted efforts need to focus on:

1. Creating education/research/certifications that focus on owners.
2. Bridging the silos to alleviate the confusing world of BIM.
3. Identify the clearinghouse for the best practices/metrics/awards for BIM applications.
4. Creating business processes by re-engineering/change management/best business practices.
5. Disseminating consensus standards.
6. Guiding the development of tools.
7. Delineating data lifecycle issues.
8. Assuring data maintenance.
9. Recognizing the model holder of record.

The authors and their collaborating organizations will continue to lead the implementation of the roadmap. Individuals who can contribute and share their expertise are encouraged to contact any of the authors to be involved with directing the evolution of BIM.

Reference
1. “Development of a Research Framework for Building Information” http://i2sl.org/documents/bim_framework_proposal_draft.pdf

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