BIM: After the Building is Finished

In previous blogs on this site we’ve discussed Building Information Modeling as a tool assisting Lean Thinking in design and construction phases of developing buildings. But there’s more, its benefits extend to the building owners use of the documentation far beyond the construction phase. Indeed it can assist the owner for many years beyond in operating and maintaining the facility as well as aiding in future planning efforts for the facility.

Having long ago mastered the use of two and three dimensional documentation tools, the design and construction industry is beginning to leverage both 4D and 5D applications, which promise exponential future returns. 4D is simply 3D with time integrated and 5D integrates materials/procurement.  4D supports uses such as energy modeling over time to evaluate operational costs and refinements that can be made in the design to optimize performance.

Particularly in the case of the complex business entities in healthcare many times with multiple governing authorities and stakeholders, 4D along with BIM and animation can be used to explore energy usage and operational challenges to help coordinate schedules for the usage of power usage of the facility.  Visualization is able to advance the planning effort of delivery, distribution, and pickup affording the facility a seamless behind the scenes operation. The 4D model was an essential component for explaining impact and gaining stakeholder cooperation.

4D and 5D can be utilized by the owner after construction in many ways.  These specialized models are ushering in an era of greatly enhanced facility management capability.  Owners are just beginning to leverage the power of the model to help predict, monitor and guide maintenance programs.

4D can help track repairs and utilization of downtime/scheduling of work. 5D can maintain a record and monitor inventory such as specific specialized parts and wear and tear of one item on a unit versus all the other units within the building. Tagging and integrating MEP/architectural cut sheets as well as operational manuals and “how to fix it” videos can be incorporated.  So when maintenance workers approach any specific piece of equipment, while it may physically be their first encounter in reality, they have the capability for advanced study in the model to become well-versed in its details.

BIM models can interface with other virtual reality platforms, allowing owners to literally walk through the design with use of portal cost-effective headgear.  In the future, this technology aligned with accurate geo-location could be used in the field by contractors to maintain design quality control by virtually turning on and off the renderings in a set of lightweight glasses.

Just as BIM and tablet computing are already used by design and construction team members in the field, eliminating the need to carry around paper data (that may be expired).  This model portability will aid in the near future, will be tied into the building management system for use by building engineers.


Knowing that there will be use of the model post-construction is becomes imperative to guide development of models during design and construction. Architects can share lessons to help owners be more prescriptive in their RFPs and requirements for the A/E/C industry. Some as simple as establishing clear model parameters like naming convention and origin points to detailed specificity about what level of model development is expected, for instance, – will ½” pipes be modeled? These initial criteria drive significant consequences to the flexibility of the model downstream to drive the ease of owners’ use post construction.  Owners can develop guidelines for future use of BIM models including how to link to their building management software systems, or they can explore alternative software that may be more intuitive and easier to navigate.

— Dan Killebrew is a partner at Dallas-based FKP Architects.

Posted in Expert Opinions.