2012 BIMFORUM Recap

The 2012 BIMForum was last week in Tacoma, Washington.  The event is always well put together and gives attendees a great pulse on the “state of BIM” in the industry.  The attendees are made up of builders, architects and owners with the event’s format as a full day of speakers on the first day and a half day on second day.  BIMForum mixes in “rapid fire” technology presentations from software vendors to show off new innovations.  There is a growing vendor sponsor area for product info and demonstrations outside of the presentation area.  The event also includes panel discussions around the theme, which for 2012 was “BIM and Facilities Management”.  The panels generally offer ample opportunities for the audience to participate with questions and comments.

Here is one of our team member’s take on his BIMForum experience.

I was really looking forward to learning more about BIM and FM and also see if there was much substance to all the hype.  I’ve spent my career in AEC, but I have never had much exposure to the world of buildings once they are in operation.  I have seen a number of presentations recently from the owner perspective stating that only 20-25% of the cost associated with a facility occurs during design and construction, the rest is in operation and maintenance over its lifetime.  This was echoed at the BIMForum and one of the questions was…can BIM have a major big impact on this cost?

Collectively, the presentations gave me a better idea of what drives inefficiencies in building operations.  I have to say that I was a little disappointed that I never really got an answer to the big “so what” questions.  How much inefficiency can we drive out?  Can we take this 80% cost down by 30-50% or is it a much smaller incremental improvement that we are talking about here.  How much of this problem does the 3D aspect of BIM help us solve?  Undoubtedly, improvement in information technology in general is needed to get the right information to the right person at the right time, but the BIM process seems to create at least as many problems as solutions once we try to bring it downstream.  Issues with finding warrantee information, properly scheduling routine maintenance, and dealing with emergency repairs don’t seem to be things that a smart 3D model is going to really help.  This isn’t to say that this is not an important cause, I just didn’t find it particularly exciting and worthy of the conference onto itself.

With that said, there were some fantastic speakers and presentations.  The standout presentation was a presentation titled “5200 BIMs for California” by Kimon Onuma and John Roach, from Onuma Inc. and Foundation for California Community Colleges, respectively.   The presentation featured connected systems (Fusion System + Onuma Planning System) used for managing the vast portfolio of buildings across the foundation’s various campuses.  They showed how users can use a smart phone to retrieve a high level graphical information model of any of the 5200 modeled facilities to get information ranging from class room usage to environmental adjacency concerns.  They also involved the audience to submit a fictitious work order online to report a problem to be repaired in a building.  Finally, they highlighted the ability to connect multiple systems together similar to the internet to do things like control lighting and temperature settings remotely which they demo’d live on a real site in California.  They actually pulled up a live video feed of a class room, turned on the lights and adjusted the air temp settings!  This went a long way in showing how connected the data could get and how it can be leveraged to more effectively manage a large portfolio.

Several of the presentations also mentioned Birgitta Foster from the Smart Building Alliance regarding her presentation at a previous BIMForum addressing “designing  for building maintenance” (she was also a speaker at this BIMForum).  This is a subject that is more near and dear to my heart.  She talked about the lack of involvement the maintenance experts have in design and the resulting problems.  Once you have a building in place, you are limited in how much you can reduce maintenance and operations costs.  You can improve your efficiency in handling issues and reduce some cost by having a better handle on preventative measures, but at the end of the day this is probably not going to amount to an order of magnitude improvement.  I personally think that our best bet for substantially cutting into the 80% part of the building lifecycle costs is in using data to make better design decisions that result in buildings that are operationally more efficient on their own.  That was really my biggest take away.  In short, get past improving the processing of issues and focus on how we can avoid them altogether!