Throughout Australia and much of the world, the most significant benefits associated with Building Information Modelling (BIM) accrue during the operations phase of projects.

Using BIM, operations personnel can understand how each part of the building works, the materials each asset consists of and where non-visible parts can be found in a more intuitive way than is the case with 2D drawings. Capturing information about where drains are positioned on roads, for example, avoids the need to send workers into dangerous environments to conduct drainage surveys.

Alas, much data needed for this is lost during construction. Moreover, to derive maximum benefits from BIM, asset owners need to think about the kind of information required upon handover, how information will be delivered and how issues such as security and access will be managed.

In a recent presentation at a conference hosted by his employer in Singapore, Bentley Systems principal solutions consultant Glen Worrall outlined several areas for consideration. Whilst many of these can be dealt with on individual projects, some require consideration at a broader industry level as well.

First, it is important to look at what is needed from BIM in terms of outputs.

For this, the digital requirements of the employer at handover must be defined. From there, a BIM execution plan outlining specific information which various parties agree to deliver at specified times can be made.

Such a process, Worrall says, encourages up-front consideration about how the digital asset will be delivered and the technology which is to be used. He says this should be done before physical asset design starts.

For this to happen, it is important to select project team members who can deliver upon the digital requirements of the project, as well as the physical requirements. Thus tender processes need to assess the digital delivery capacity of contractors in addition to their physical delivery capacity.

Whilst that focus revolves around owner operator requirements, the plan will also need to deliver information needed by various project team members during construction.

From this master BIM plan, Worrall says information can be divided into tasks to ensure each participant has the right data for their role. This requires looking at what information they require and what the components provided to them will look like.

Next, it is important to create common terminology and identification and a common data environment. This ensures relevant information can be delivered to all parties irrespective of the systems they use and that information can be ‘captured’ at various parts of the chain as required.

At this stage, Worrall says information should be structured according to various levels. This will enable, for instance, information to be delivered to suppliers at a technical or minute level, rolled up for bigger picture approval and decision making and subsequently delivered so that the asset owners/operators can see relevant maintenance and operational information.

To ensure consistency and integrity of data is maintained as information passes through the supply chain and through various stages of revision, Worrall says technologies similar to Blockchain could play an interesting role.

To get this happening, owners/operators must think about how BIM can deliver value in asset operation. Too often, Worrall says owners/operators fail to do this and thus perceive the technology simply as a ‘cost’.

Where this happens, owners/operators can drive standardisation in BIM use throughout the project – a phenomenon which in turn creates opportunities for builders and designers to unlock greater BIM value at their end. To deliver this, Worrall says it can be useful to embed members of the operations or design team into the construction process and to assist contractors and suppliers to make better use of the tool.

Once information is captured, further issues surround access and security. This involves thinking about how different users can see their relevant information whilst simultaneously preventing information from being seen by parties it shouldn’t be.

An important concept here revolves around the ability to hide or mask information. Where certain contractors require information about a door, for example, other information should be hidden so that they saw only the door and not that the room behind it is in fact a security control room.

Further, it is important to think about how assets will be used in operation and what information is required to optimise their value. Where we are talking about transport assets and reducing journey times, for example, Worrall says it is important to think about how we are going to measure and track performance against objectives and what information is needed to do this.

Moreover, to ensure digital requirements relating to operations are embedded up front, maintenance personnel should be involved in making the BIM execution plan.

Finally, Worrall says it is important collaborate in a standardised way. This includes processes for sharing information, feeding information into the model and undertaking communication. In doing this, he says it is important to mandate standards and processes whilst retaining flexibility for participants to utilise design tools of their choice.

Australia must deliver maximum value for BIM throughout the building and operation cycle of assets.

By observing simple principles, the chances of this happening will be maximised.