BIM and commercial property: opportunities for property professionals

Turning data into value

12 January 2016

BIM presents rich opportunities for property professionals throughout the building life cycle; Sara Wilkinson explores its ‘value dimension’

Commercial property professionals need good quality through-life information about buildings, the surrounding environment and the market. At the same time, property services require robust and reliable data from many sources to deliver a complete view of performance and value during the building life cycle.

Effective information management across the various property sectors encompasses sourcing, organising and reusing of built environment information and data. Advocates for building information modelling (BIM) claim that the benefits for clients include faster approvals due to clearer design intent. However, to date, the benefits and opportunities to use BIM for facility managers (FMs) and corporate real estate managers (CREMs) has been overlooked.

BIM tools and processes were developed by the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector to manage design and construction data. As these technologies and processes mature and evolve, so does the opportunity for other professional groups to use data contained within, or linked to, BIM models. The potential extends to FMs, CREMs, property managers (PMs) and investment surveyors to use the data contained in 3D BIM models and building management systems (BMS) to help with strategic planning, portfolio rationalisation and acquisitions.

Property has three key characteristics; risk, growth and depreciation

BIM is defined as 'a modelling technology and associated set of processes to produce, communicate and analyse building models', where 3D models allow data to be shared. Over time, the 3D model has developed to incorporate 4D (time, or workflow, scheduling) and 5D (cost) data. Thus BIM is a series of interlinked databases, represented graphically using models, which can be shared and updated for design and construction tasks.

Property has three key characteristics; risk, growth and depreciation. The value of BIM for property is in the data required when assessing risk, growth and/or depreciation status, because it provides a description of building performance through life. This life cycle perspective includes commissioning, project execution, operations and maintenance, and recommissioning/disposal.

While value is addressed relative to BIM’s return on investment (ROI), this is typically at AEC project level, seeking to understand value relative to participating organisations. As such, these studies neglect the broader processes of client-side stakeholders and activities that lie upstream and downstream of design and construction.

RICS explored the potential to expand BIM to other professional activities through a series of workshops with experienced property professionals in Australia and England. Questions were asked about the types of data needed to provide professional services, where this data was sourced and at what point in the building life cycle it was needed.

After a comprehensive list of data types and services was established, the data was ranked in importance for particular tasks.

Property life cycle

The life cycle of complex buildings makes it important to have robust, reliable through-life information about performance and value. Many investigations on the impacts of BIM and project performance and on business value focus on project and/or AEC outcomes. Industry surveys in Australia, the UK and the US show that most clients perceive a positive ROI when BIM is adopted.

For example, BIM can add value when assessing sustainability in a feasibility study, where costs and options can be assessed in respect of likely sustainability ratings under BREEAM or Green Star.

Because there is a value premium in sustainable commercial property in the UK, US and Australia, by using BIM data and simulations clients can be advised of the social, environmental and economic costs and benefits of options, allowing them to make informed decisions optimising or considering the impact on value.

However, does the information in AEC BIM models meet the needs of property professionals? AEC projects define life cycle as:

  • pre-design, in which the decision maker from the client side evaluates project feasibility
  • schematic design
  • detailed design
  • construction documentation
  • construction
  • operation/maintenance.

Clients are the only party involved throughout. Taking the wider development and property management activities into consideration, a more extensive life cycle process includes activities such as:

  • conception
  • planning and feasibility
  • preparation
  • execution
  • operation and maintenance
  • recommissioning.

Information needs

Information types identified in the survey as used by property professionals were classified (see Table 1), showing the data sourced, organised and (re)used by developers, property and portfolio managers, investment surveyors, valuers, PMs and FMs, building surveyors and in property transactions.

1. Market data

  • National market data
  • State, regional and neighbourhood market data
  • Listings, recent sales, and auctions data
  • Property transfers data
  • Property marketing statistics

2. Property location data

  • Macro location data
  • Micro location data

3. Property site data

  • Property lot attributes
  • Utilities
  • Environmental attributes
  • Surrounding building context
  • Property development details

4. Financial data

  • Payments in
  • Payments out
  • Vacancy/letting
  • Tenancy occupier data

5. Building data

  • Spatial attributes
  • 3D model objects (elements) and properties (parameters)
  • Building documentation and images

6. Real estate data

  • Property value attributes
  • Property imagery
  • Property activity
  • Property insurance attributes
  • Property insurance rate variables

7. Project data

  • Planning and feasibility data
  • Design management data
  • Construction process
  • Management data

8. Operations and maintenance data

  • Maintenance, alteration and repair
  • Asset monitoring and tracking
  • Space management

Table 1: Information categories for workshops and survey (source: adapted Wilkinson & Jupp, 2015)

The data is sourced from building documentation, consultants’ reports, industry databases, building inspections, FMs, and documentation of the design and planning process typically created for compliance with regulations. Each information type was mapped with development and property management activities.

Of course there are challenges too, and the issues raised by practitioners surrounded inter-operability and data standards, data quality and fidelity, context, security and privacy, and digital skills and knowledge competencies.

Overall, there is potential for BIM data to be used by FM. FM and CREM professionals perform many tasks through the property life cycle using 24 data types (see Table 2).

Property professionals ranked the importance and need for the data types and different profiles emerged. CREM professionals have repeated data needs over longer periods of the life cycle, whereas building surveyors need a more limited range of data types at specific points, for instance when technical due diligence is performed.

Although AEC focuses on design and construction, this is being extended into the operational phase and falls within the domains of FM and CREM. Property professionals requiring building performance and maintenance cost data will find BIM data useful, where available. The number of existing buildings with BIM is small, however BIM-enabled stock is more highly represented in new high-quality commercial property managed by FMs and CREMs.

FM and CREM data types

  1. Building description
  2. Health and user comfort
  3. Tenant and occupier situation
  4. Functional quality
  5. Payments in
  6. Construction quality
  7. Land features
  8. FM quality
  9. Surrounding characteristics
  10. Technical quality
  11. National market
  12. Design aesthetic quality
  13. Payments out
  14. Market and letting vacancy situation
  15. Design process quality
  16. Site features
  17. Planning quality
  18. Macro-location
  19. Environmental quality
  20. Micro-location
  21. Cultural image value
  22. Operational quality
  23. Environmental context
  24. Urban design quality

Table 2: FM and CREM data types

A way forward

Overall, it is feasible for FMs and CREM to use some BIM data, especially linked to the BMS. Data needs vary in range and the points in the property life cycle when it is required. The benefits are accessing and using more reliable and accurate data in professional tasks, although challenges prevail around data fidelity and assurances that it is current.

Expanding access to BIM could enable property professionals to improve the quality and accuracy of their services. Education programmes should be developed to allow property students to learn about BIM. At the professional body level, BIM competencies should be developed within the APC structure to provide recognition for this knowledge, skill and capability.

RICS has established the first BIM Manager Certification for members in construction and some aspects may be transferable to a property-focused certification. For existing practitioners, provision of online education resources would raise awareness and knowledge in respect of BIM and how property professionals could use data within the models.

Furthermore, CPD events will allow practitioners to realise the potential of using BIM data. It is time for property practitioners to start realising the potential of BIM in their professional practices.

Professor Sara Wilkinson is Associate Head of School for Research and External Engagement at the University of Technology, Sydney

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