Avoid costly mistakes in managing your facilities data

Whether you own or lease your facilities the failure to effectively manage activities and data throughout the facility lifecycle can result in significant costs and inefficiencies. Lack of incentives for the various stakeholder groups to work in tandem to design, construct, operate, and decommission facilities often results in mismanagement, loss of data and miscommunication. There are, however, ways to curtail this interoperability and its associated costs through improved management of electronic information.

There are four distinct phases in the life-cycle of a facility:

Planning and Design
Construction and Commissioning
Operations, Maintenance and Renewal
Decommissioning and Disposal

Interoperability often stems from the lack of incentives for coordination by the various stakeholders involved throughout the facility's life-cycle. The primary stakeholders being Architects and Engineers (A&E), General Contractors (GC), Specialty Fabricators and Suppliers (SF), and Owners and Operators (OO). The problem is further compounded when a stakeholder's representative changes. The new rep often introduces new ideas and processes on how to manage the data, frequently without fully understanding systems and procedures originally put in place. It is also not uncommon for the new rep to bring in new stakeholders as part of his/her team further complicating matters and often resulting in additional data loss.

Discontinuities in the transmission of building data typically occur throughout the building process. Transitions from design to construction to operations result in loss of data, added cost to reconstitute the data, and overall reduction in data integrity - the impact growing at each handover, culminating with the handover to the facility operator. Understanding the facility life-cycle and how the actions or inactions of the primary stakeholders affect the downstream costs of operations and maintenance is just the start.
Interoperability relates to both the exchange and management of electronic information, where individuals and systems would be able to identify and access information seamlessly, as well as comprehend and integrate information across multiple systems.


Mandate Consistency: Since maintenance of the data is typically not a primary concern of most of the stakeholders, contract an independent third party such as ARC to manage all of your facility data. An independent data manager's sole purpose is to maintain the integrity of the data and ensure that it is readily available when needed. A qualified data manager will have expertise and knowledge of the needs of all stakeholders through all phases of the facility life-cycle.

This will allow the OO to make changes in relationships with the other stakeholders such as A&E, GC or SF without affecting the integrity of the data. This also protects the OO from loss of data due to changes with it's own representatives.

The independent data manager will ensure that the data is kept safe, in a standardized format and can quickly be retrieved and made available to the required users over the entire span of facility's life-cycle.
Protect your as-built data: As-builts can come in various forms such as hard copy prints, CAD files, .pdf, .tiff, etc. Without an effective document management system in place a facility can quickly lose control of its as-built archives or just lose its as-builts period. Many facility managers will also lend out their as-builts never to see them again. To rebuild this data can be very costly. Unless you are prepared to spend thousands of dollars to re-create them, never lend out your as-builts. Your as-builts are the foundational component of the data needed to manage your facility.

When new as-built data is ready to be handed over to the OO it should be transmitted directly to the data manager for incorporation into the as-built archives.
Use the BIM model as a data repository: Having a BIM model serve as a digital repository will allow easy access to spatial information such as floor plans, exit plans, square footage calculations, department diagrams, etc. In addition, asset based information such as furniture and equipment inventories can be associated with the model. Asset reports may then be generated to give specific information such as model numbers, installation manuals, service records, warranties, etc.

Other information such as digital photography, videos and high definition laser scan data can be linked to the model for viewing. In cases where laser scan imagery is available, dimensional data can be obtained even if a BIM model does not exist (see below).

Above is a 3D Laser Scan image taken inside a building with a moderately complex structural system. What you can't see here is that this image acts like a Quicktime movie where you can rotate around 360 degrees horizontally and 310 degrees over the top. However, this is not a photograph. It is actual 3D scan data that "you" can pull dimensional information from and you don't have to know anything about working with laser scan data to do so. The dimension strings were added directly to the image which resulted in the dimensions that you see.
Validate the data: This is a very important and often overlooked step. Again, because there are very few incentives for stakeholders to ensure the accuracy of the as-built data, few take time to properly validate it. In fact, it is often handed over in haste as a condition to close out a contract.

From time-to-time the various stakeholders will contribute new data. All new data shall be routed directly to the data manager. Before incorporating the data into the digital database the data manager will check to ensure the data is accurate and in the proper format. If issues are found, the data manager can require resubmission of the data and/or can validate the accuracy through field observation. The accuracy and integrity of the data should be vigorously defended. An independent third party data manager will ensure this.
Adopt a BIM solution: BIM (Building Information Modeling) is rapidly being adopted as a replacement to CAD by the AEC industry. As a result the BIM model is quickly becoming the new standard as a uniform repository of digital data which can be utilized by all facility stakeholders.

As a result, many OO's are realizing they can mitigate their portion of the cost associated with the lack of interoperability experienced during the more expensive operations and maintenance phase of the facility's life-cycle by requiring a BIM design process. By doing so they ensure that the data seamlessly transitions from stakeholder-to-stakeholder through each of the phases of the facility life-cycle.

If as-builts are not already in 3D, the as-built documents can be used to create a BIM model to serve as the foundational digital repository of the building data. Again, if this method is used, it would be validated through a process of field verification.
The data must be easily accessible: It is imperative that the users of the various stakeholder groups be able to access and use the data when it is needed. Each stakeholder group will have varying degrees of expertise in working with the BIM software. Typically, those in the first two phases will more likely have the skills necessary to interact directly in the BIM model and those in the Operations and Maintenance phase will require the data to be exported out into a format for viewing in a free viewer such as Autodesk's Design Review. Data can then be published to a secure web portal allowing easy access to authorized users. Exporting out also protects the data from mismanagement.

In conclusion, as an Owner / Operator, your failure to effectively manage activities and data throughout the entire facility life-cycle can result in significant costs and inefficiencies. It has been well documented that the majority of the cost associated with interoperability is borne by the Owner / Operator during the Operations and Maintenance Phase of the facility life-cycle. Most of the costs stem from inadequate incentives to the primary stakeholders to maintain the integrity of the data as it is passed downstream from one phase of the life-cycle to the next.

The OO can, however, effectively control the data through all phases by hiring an independent third party to act as the data manager. This data manager will protect and validate the data through all phases of the facility's life-cycle, will ensure that data doesn't get lost due to transitions or changes in the stakeholders, and will act to hold the various stakeholders accountable for their contributions of data.

Utilizing an electronic data repository such as BIM to collect, store and disseminate information to the various users is key. OO's that implement this early on in the design phase have the most to gain, but cost savings can still be realized if it is implemented in a later phase of the life-cycle. However, it is only when the OO realizes that there is a real cost to interoperability and that it is the actions he or she takes to implement these solutions that will help avoid the costly mistakes of managing their facility over the entire facility life-cycle.

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NIST, Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry

* NIST - Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry. NIST GCR 04-867