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.