Increasing emphasis is being placed on the contribution that BIM can make during the operations phase of a built asset.

However, according to Phillip G. Bernstein, VP Strategic Industry Relation, owner-operators still have a long way to go before they can fully extract the technology’s long-term benefits over the whole life cycle of a project.

Speaking at the sidelines of Autodesk University 2015, in Sydney, Bernstein pointed to inadequacies in the data contained by most BIM models for applications during the operating phase, due to the dividing juncture between the designers and builders of a project and its eventual owners and operators.

“The philosophical perspective about BIM and operations is that the building information model has a ton of useful information for the operation of an artefact – but right now that’s still largely speculative,” he said.

Bernstein used the room design for a commercial hotel as an example of how even the simplest data that is important during the operating phase of a built asset can be absent from the building information model if not specifically requested.

“If I splash my coffee on the wall panels of a conference room, and the hotel needs to replace it, the building information model has no information about the backing of the wall panels or what particular material those panels are made from or who made that material, or exactly what colour it is,” he said.

“The model just said 12 green acoustic panels with this kind of material wrapped around it, but in order to replace it, they need something very specific – they want to know who made the fabric, and where they can get it.”

According to Bernstein, in order for that information to be embedded into BIM and play a useful role during the operating phase, owners and operators must still request it specifically during the development of the initial model by designers and builders.

“That information doesn’t exist in the model unless the hotel said at the beginning, when you turn that building information model over to us after construction, please make sure it has the following information,” he said.

“And the genome of that information across the entire building does not exist – it’s not widespread practice yet at all. What you have is owners going ‘I’ll take what you can give me,’ or some owners going ‘I’ll take what you can give me but make sure I can at least get this, x, y, z’ – building area, finishes, whatever it is.

“It’s very discontinuous right now.”

Bernstein noted that a major barrier to enhancing BIM usage during operations is the division between needs and imperatives of designers and developers on the one hand, and owners and operators on the other.

“There is no BIM-phase owner-created data standard, because an architect or engineer working on the design side does not a priori know what the owner might want,” he said.

“What happens with most Western commercial hotels, for example, is that a developer builds the hotel, they use the hotel brand as a consultant to consult with them about how the hotel is supposed to be configured. The hotel brand then runs the hotel, and the information flows are completely discontinuous.”

As a consequence, the extent to which BIM can play a useful role during the operating phase of a project remains contingent upon the knowledge and sophistication of owner-operators.

“What I have observed is that the more sophisticated the end consumer is about knowing what to ask for – whether it be Crossrail, big hospitals, large universities, or a development manager with a large asset portfolio, the more that information works for them,” Bernstein said.

While Bernstein considers the transfer of key BIM information to still be in a ‘discontinuous’ state for many built assets, he points to the rising prominence of public-private partnerships (PPP) as a likely spur to more sophisticated, long-term usage of the technology in the infrastructure sphere.

“Infrastructure consists of assets that operate over the very long term, and the project delivery models for these infrastructure – how they’re designed, procured, constructed and operated, are largely becoming consolidated, in these public private partnerships,” he said.

“It makes perfect sense that Crossrail, for example would be articulating [BIM] as part of their process, but they’re a deeply consolidated institutional owner.

“They procure, construct and operate an asset throughout its entire life cycle, which is going to be about a hundred years. They can demand that the information be continuous, so it creates a much cleaner information supply chain.”