What About BIM?

Competitive or complementary?

One of the first questions I’m often asked when I talk to FM and real property managers about the idea of using GIS for their facilities management is, “what about BIM?” They are concerned about whether I am suggesting bringing in a solution that is redundant to or even competitive with their BIM technology.

BIM or building information model technology allows facility planners, designers, and builders to collect and manage the great amounts of detailed data necessary for building and campus design and construction. Over the past decade, these solutions have grown more robust and easier to use. This has been great news for the design and construction industry. However, BIM is not GIS. The power of GIS in building management is the same thing that makes GIS unique among all types of business intelligence; the ability to bring the geographic or spatial dimension into the management and analysis process. The same types of critical questions that a GIS answers outside a building are equally valuable being answered inside: Where are my assets located and how can I most efficiently place and maintain them? Where are the best locations for groups of people who do complementary tasks? Where is my energy usage higher than it should be and why?

The great news is that BIM data, complete and accurate as a building is completed, provides the data input to the GIS, giving those charged with operating, maintaining, and updating a facility an accurate starting point for their work. So, in fact, BIM and GIS work hand in hand to give designers, builders, and facility managers both the data and the best systems to manage that data over the various periods of a facility’s life cycle.

Can BIM be used for ongoing facility management? Yes, it can. Can GIS be used for design and construction? Of course. But the real power of these technologies lies in utilizing each for what it is best at—BIM for design and construction and GIS for ongoing management. These are complementary technologies, and the building facility life cycle is most efficiently served by employing each for the tasks it does best.

What are the benefits of using GIS with BIM for facilities and real property management?

Shelli Stockton

About Shelli Stockton

Shelli Stockton is the Esri industry manager for facilities management. She has more than 10 years of experience in the facilities management field and is a frequent speaker on a variety of topics including leadership and sustainability issues.
This entry was posted in Industry Focus and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

One Comment

  1. John Przybyla says:

    As Shelli has described, BIM and GIS are really complementary technologies, each focused on the information management needs of specific life cycle phases of real property. With today’s GIS products, organizations can create full 3D models of their facilities or entire campuses that include all features above the ground (think airspace for airports), on the ground (transportation, landscape, etc.), under the ground (buried utilities), and inside the buildings—and it can all be stored in a single relational database.

    This opens the door to a world of capabilities—proximity/adjacency analysis, space and tenant management, asset management, wayfinding, routing, and tracing contaminants, to name just a few—that are no longer constrained by artificial boundaries in our data. The benefits that result from such capabilities are huge and often greater than anticipated.

    Organizations today typically manage multiple separate versions of their infrastructure data—some in scanned drawings, some in CAD, some in GIS, some in proprietary databases. There are huge inefficiencies that typically occur when data is managed in multiple locations—duplication of data, incomplete data, and old or inaccurate data. The operational savings from integrating all the data into a comprehensive GIS often justify the cost of implementing a singular infrastructure database.

    But the real cost to an organization is that storing spatial data in multiple environments makes it impossible to achieve integration with other information systems. This is where GIS excels—because of its open architecture, its underlying relational database structure, and its server-based nature. For most organizations that manage real property, the real power of GIS is in its ability to spatially enable information from other (nonspatial) information systems to be integrated to achieve a result that was never possible in any other way.

    You may be thinking, “If this is such a great idea, then why hasn’t it happened before?”
    This is where BIM comes in. The cost and effort to create a 3D database of a facility from scratch has been so prohibitive that it has not been practical up to this time. But with new facilities being designed in BIM (and, because of the power of BIM, being built as designed), a building owner now receives a complete 3D model of every new building. Recent developments in 3D laser scanning have made it possible to create a 3D BIM-like model of an existing building at an affordable cost. Laser scanning is now becoming a commonly accepted practice to document as-is conditions prior to renovations. Over time, more BIM models will become available, and at some point it will make sense for organizations to use laser scanning to build models of their remaining stock.

    For some organizations, this scenario may be some time in coming. In the meantime, scanned and CAD drawings can be converted into 2D GIS datasets and, in most cases, extruded to form passable 3D GIS models that will provide the foundation for all the benefits described above. Once all your infrastructure data is in a single repository, the options are unlimited.