Category Archives: featured

World FM Day, a day to talk and to listen


Today is World FM Day and, as the BIFM website says, it’s a day ‘To draw attention to the aims, objectives and progress of the facilities management profession around the globe’. In the building design and construction industry FM is increasingly becoming a topic of discussion, not least because of the cryptically named Government Soft Landings (GSL). This programme is focussed on helping building operators to understand and use their facilities as they were design to be operated.

We are part of the way through a digital construction revolution in the UK with the goal of producing accurate, data rich models that will be used throughout the design, construction and operation of buildings. There is no question that parties at the front end of the process are increasingly aware that someone may want to use their information to run the building, but what happens next. Discussion about the ‘importance of FM in BIM’ has been common place for at least five years now, but there is little evidence that integration is moving forwards.

What really concerns me is the evidence of silo like behaviour between FMs and design and construction disciplines. This is a two directional problem and it’s typical of the early stages of integration. The good news is that there is a lesson that can be learnt from what has come before, because the industry has been through these growing pains previously several times. I say been through, maybe I mean is further along the way to resolving. One of the biggest culture changes with BIM workflows is the realisation of just how much more understanding we must have of other disciplines needs, in both what we deliver, and when we deliver it. The risk is a focus on your own needs to the detriment of other disciplines needs. Alarm bells ring when I hear language like ‘we must teach designers how to work’ because this often translates as ‘I want you to consider my needs while I ignore yours.’ Successful BIM process helps everyone do their job better, not one party serve another.

I’ve heard too many complaints that the BIM data is wrong for FMs, or there is too much. One of the reasons for adopting BIM is to prevent the loss of information, and yet I hear a lot of FMs talk about throwing away the stuff they don’t need from the design and construction of a building.

If we look to PAS1192 part 3, which is focussed on the operation of buildings, for guidance one particular diagram shows a central store of information about the building which FM systems will interface with, for both using existing data and feeding back new data. It is encouraging because it makes it clear that this central store of information has value beyond the operation of the building, some of which an operator will want, some which they will provide and some which should be preserved until the building needs to be refurbished or demolished. None of it should be thrown away and operation is a continuation of collection, development and maintenance of the information about the building. FMs need to buy into this idea just as much as the designer and builders need to buy into delivering the FMs requirements.

For those FMs that think they really are the top of the food chain, like perhaps main contractors feel they are at present, I’ll leave you with this thought; If the ratio of cost through design:build:operate is 1:10:100 what happens when the buildings you operate are populated with internet connected devices and this stream of new big data is crunched en-masse to optimise whole portfolios, or reconsider the operation of whole sectors of buildings. Those data gatherers are going to have their own requirements, and if a new tier is added to the ratio of cost 1:10:100:1000 it maybe that ‘teaching’ FMs how to work will be what they think they should do. It would be far better if everyone’s needs were considered so we could all add value at every point we work on a building.

BIM is about working together and taking the huge benefits of the free flow of high quality information coming from constructing a building. Supporting the operation of buildings is a goal that we all have to work towards. We all have to understand each other better, designers, contractors, operators alike we all have a job to do to make and run great and efficient buildings. So I hope that World FM Day can be as much about engagement with the people that operators rely on as it is about celebrating success in FM.

Our buildings, our data? Maybe not.


This blog is about something I believe is fundamental in every aspect of our lives not just the built environment. It is about who collects, owns, controls, and sells data that we perceive as about us, or our buildings. Data which quite reasonably we think should belong to us. It has taken a long time for the world of massive data collection to reach the construction industry, but with the advent of The Internet of Things we can see it approaching. However, because construction is a little behind other areas of our lives we have the opportunity to look at how the data industry works elsewhere and ask is this going to be good for our buildings. How do we want this to work for us?

Of course, there is great potential in collecting data. Improvements in performance and operation could become easier as building equipment and sensors start to become more connected to the internet. The built environment is joining a growing part of our lives which falls within The Internet of Things. There are some big claims being made about the potential of connected ‘smart buildings’. Learning more about your built assets by automated data collection is something I would recommend to any building owner, but we have had this opportunity for a long time with modern BMS (Building Management Systems), perhaps we just don’t have a good interface with the limited data that is being collected. This is why the potential for connected devices to push data to the internet where is can be better analysed and visualised is great, but we need to ask is there a hidden trade off?

Look at smart devices. Whenever you download an app you’ll see a long list of access types you grant the app. This list often increases when you are offered updates and bug fixes. If you look closer the accesses that you grant often appear completely unconnected to the function of the app, for example access to your photos or text messages. This is because the business model involves collecting as much information as possible and then using or selling it to anyone who will pay for it, and by clicking ‘I agree’ you’ve given whoever makes the app, and probably third party affiliates, permission to do so.

Is it worth thinking about this in the context of buildings and the devices we are being offered? If you don’t this could affect your built environment, ask yourself what do you do when you arrive home one evening to find the terms and conditions of your thermostat have been changed and you can’t control the heating without agreeing to give it access to your Facebook friends or your text messages. If you use a smart device you already agree to these intrusive data gathering policies whenever you download an app.

This leads me to ask, what do we get in return for giving access? Is it good enough to get a better interface with the data, and will we even get that? Do we need the expertise of the big data crunchers in order to benefit from what is being collected? It is information collected over groups of buildings that won’t be available to the individual owner that has real financial value to the gatherer. If you get access to a trickle of data that may reduce your bills by a small amount but the device provider gets access to analyse data from hundreds of buildings and sell this on or use it to speculate in the market place who has the better deal?

I recall a comment by Paul Morrell during an NBS roundtable I participated in; when he was asked who owns the model by one of the other participants his response was categorical, ‘The client owns the model’. Of course he was talking about what we call BIM, but I would argue that collected in use data is part of that model, probably a much more important part than the skeletal geometry that a BIM provides. Consider this, if the terms and conditions that you have to agree to in order to use smart devices and sensors means that you must grant a license to collect data, including data outside the device itself but within the building’s network of other devices, do you really own the model? If you are not in control of your data it seems pretty obvious that you no longer own the model. I’d go further and say that, where data collected is from public buildings it should not pass into the soul ownership of private companies.

Let me be clear, I am not saying we shouldn’t collect data, it has huge potential, but we do need to find the best way of ensuring that free permanent access to our building data is retained in a sufficiently raw and open format that we can change data providers. In my mind the BIM protocols need a new section that covers data gathering to protect owners. After all one of the stated aims of the BIM task group is that no building data should ever be lost again. If it is contractually locked up in a private company’s bespoke system it is lost.