The critical step for closing the AEC and operations data gap: involve facility managers in design and build data management processes as early as possible.
While the formative stages of new projects bring together design and construction teams, facility managers often have more limited representation. Facility teams tend to miss the opportunity to shape AEC data collection processes to ensure they receive useful asset data after a project. Research published in a 2022 journal from Applied Sciences found that the lack of owner-defined information requirements is the critical barrier hindering the integration of BIM for facilities management.
The limited presence of facility managers during AEC processes comes to light up after handover when owners receive a BIM that isn’t usable by facilities teams. For example, the facilities team may struggle to use the data in their BIM due to inconsistent labelling or the fact that critical data for their CMMS is missing. In other words, the BIM data isn’t structured, standardized, and suitable for operations. This drives facility teams back to cumbersome processes, such as completing manual audits to understand facility assets.
A facility manager’s participation in preconstruction meetings will often reveal valuable perspectives that impact facility design, layouts, and material finishes. They can also give practical direction on future data requirements and naming conventions. For example, facility managers are well-placed to define the data they will require to populate their CMMS or what data they want in their future digital twin to drive outcomes.
To help address these industry challenges, the Autodesk Tandem team is developing a set of repeatable workflows to ensure digital twins provide value from AEC to operations. Tandem is establishing a process to support asset owners in specifying their data requirements and use cases at the start of a new project. This is a critical but often missed step that ensures AEC data in a digital twin supports future needs. The workflow also drives project teams to verify the completeness of data at each stage, helping to address problems with construction changes not being documented back in BIM.
Creating A Digital Twin Workflow From Design To Operations
For firms with new design projects in their portfolio, what steps can facility managers take to ensure their AEC data in BIM and digital twins are fit for operations?
1. Ask for outcomes…. not just a digital twin.
While a growing number of owners are asking their AEC firms to provide digital twins, owners rarely specify what they want to achieve with them. Facility managers should connect with design and construction teams to articulate their desired outcomes from the AEC data and models. For example, operators may want their BIM and digital twins to support carbon management or smarter maintenance.
2. Provide clarity on your future operational data needs.
At the start of a BIM and digital twin journey, it is advantageous for facility managers to specify and define the type of data they expect to use in a CMMS. This is also the opportune time to explain expectations for asset labelling standards to achieve consistency in your end model. The key questions to ask yourself are: what data should be tracked? What is the naming nomenclature for the data? Is the asset being uniquely tagged? What management systems do you plan to connect to?
3. Explore existing industry standards for guidance.
One of the complexities in managing data across AEC to operations is the range of firms involved. The process covers architects, specifiers, engineers, construction firms, contractors, asset owners, and operators. Firms should explore existing data standards to enable a common language. For example, the COBIe is standard to exchange information from one phase of the facility life cycle to another. The ISO 19650 standard is an international standard for managing data over the whole life cycle of a built asset using BIM.
4. Define your expectations for updating AEC data along the way.
To ensure the accuracy of the asset information in BIM for downstream use, owners need to make clear how often they require contractors to update the BIM. As a minimum, you will want to ensure that major deviations during construction from the design are written back into your model. Using apps such as Autodesk Build by your contractors allows site teams to annotate models with field data.