Facility Lifecycle Management: BIM Benefits For Design & Construction

Johnny Clemmons

Globalization, shifts in workforce composition, and changing demographics are affecting the way companies approach project execution and facility lifecycle management. In the era of digital empowerment, construction firms must reimagine their business models and adjust their processes to stay competitive. This starts with enhanced facility lifecycle management through BIM (building information modeling).

What are the benefits of BIM for construction?

The benefits of BIM start during the building design phase of the construction process. The preparation of construction documents using two-dimensional CAD drawings can be a challenge. BIM represents a major advancement in information modeling by producing realistic three-dimensional views and visualization walkthroughs for design clarity. Most significantly, BIM supports building performance analysis in the earliest design phase, guiding the decision-making process regarding mechanical systems and building materials. Since BIM can be embedded with data, new data is then generated as the design process unfolds, making previously daunting tasks (like the calculation of building supplies) precise to the smallest fraction of a penny.

As the design phase transitions to active construction, BIM tools offer two key benefits for construction companies and general contractors. First, BIM empowers general contractors to better coordinate schedules with various subcontractors and suppliers, allowing for just-in-time delivery. This enhanced coordination is key for large urban projects where staging areas are limited. Second, BIM tools enable contractors to identify layout errors in advance, reducing the need for expensive change orders and lengthy construction delays.

BIM and facility lifecycle management: Understanding the new digital process

The growing preference for green construction, LEED certification, and sustainability has made facility lifecycle management a business imperative for today’s commercial real estate developers and construction companies. The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) reports that “building design professionals are embedding data on life expectancy and replacement costs” directly into construction plans. Their goals is to help developers and owners better understand the benefits of investing in materials and systems that may have a higher upfront cost but ultimately generate significant maintenance savings over the life of the building.

Facility lifecycle management uses (BIM) as the primary information conduit for the collection, harmonization, and enrichment of data throughout a building’s lifecycle. This starts during the construction process when BIM provides an easy means for realistic three-dimensional building representation, including detailed visual representation of mechanical systems. Increasingly, BIM combines with building automation systems (BAS) to provide real-time monitoring and control over a building’s sophisticated electrical and mechanical systems.

This complex process is not without challenges, however. These challenges include deciding which building information to track, how to manage this data, and how to infer actionable intelligence. New digital solutions are emerging to help streamline the management process for facility managers and building owners.

Digitization of lifecycle management: Reimagining the process

In the reimagined process, project planning is captured in the digital core and communicated to stakeholders through business networks. Stakeholder feedback enables accurate estimates and proactive risk identification/analysis back in the core. Business networks then optimize sourcing of materials and workforce allocation. Virtual mockups are used to ensure that the workforce clearly understands the plan and the work environment. The core ensures just-in-time delivery of resources and prefabricated components. Business networks allow automated progress reporting and deliver work instructions and safety information directly to workers via enhanced reality devices. Real-time monitoring enables a continuous feedback loop that keeps the project on track. As-built information is collected via the business network and augmented with commissioning data, facilitating a seamless handover to the customer.

This is a digital process for effective project delivery and efficient, seamless transition to operations. It provides an optimized, visual context to information delivered to the right person at the right time to improve productivity, reduce errors, and eliminate injuries. This gives users a competitive advantage by leveraging visualizations to deliver real value.

Next steps: Embracing the power of digitization

BIM technology is most rapidly being adopted in Asia, reports IFMA. BIM tools were recently used in the construction of the 128-story Shanghai Tower, for example, and the government of Singapore is “actively promoting BIM” in all new construction projects. In the United States, federal agencies including the General Services Administration, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Smithsonian Institution are all beginning to integrate BIM technologies, reports the National Institute of Building Sciences. The McGraw Hill Construction 2014 Smart Market Report estimates that 70 percent of North American contractors were using BIM as of 2012, up from just 17 percent in 2007.

We are at a tipping point in the construction industry. Soon, an entire construction project will be designed, managed, and executed from a single file. SAP is at the forefront of this digital process revolution. SAP estimates that the new digital process for facility lifecycle management will result in 10 percent fewer engineering changes, 45 percent less rework, and 79 percent lower accident frequency. SAP is powering this revolution with digital solutions for facility lifecycle management that include strategy alignment, opportunity assessment, solution road map and ROI, value realization, and governance. These solutions will maximize BIM investments, value creation/delivery, and continuous innovation for facility lifecycle management.

To learn more about how to leverage digital in construction, see Building a Sustainable World, How to survive and thrive in a digital construction economy.


Johnny Clemmons

About Johnny Clemmons

Johnny Clemmons has been with SAP for five years and is the Global Chief Engineer in the SAP Industry Business Unit for Engineering, Construction, & Operations. Johnny is an electrical engineer with over 15 years’ experience managing construction projects. He came to SAP from the customer side, where he held numerous operations and IT positions at construction companies. Johnny helps clients deliver value through SAP solutions and is instrumental in defining the engineering and construction industry solutions and best practice processes.