The project manager’s guide to BIM infrastructure

Paul Sancandi
February 18, 2013

Following on from BIM project information needs for owners, this article will cover BIM infrastructure needs for owners and how project managers can help owners identify their infrastructure needs as related to BIM.

Often, an organisation begins with selecting the software and hardware when it begins to implement building information modelling (BIM), even before they determine the purpose and objectives of the software. The infrastructure needs should consider the BIM uses, processes, and information needs of the organisation. The infrastructure needs an organisation should consider include software, hardware, and physical spaces.

Selecting the proper software is one of the critical factors to successful BIM implementation within the organisation. There are many factors that should be considered when selecting software. Of these, it is important to always ask, “Does the software meet the needs?” Before purchasing and evaluating software, an organisation should know the purpose they are trying to accomplish with the implementation of that software. In this case, what BIM use does this software support and how well does it support it?

Software needs to be selected to support the BIM uses. The list of software packages that support BIM implementation is constantly shifting and growing. It is important that the organisation knows what they need the software to support and keeps in mind that one software package may support multiple BIM uses. However, it may not be possible to obtain all the organisation’s BIM objectives through one software package.

Four major categories of software systems to be considered for owner use are listed below.

1. Facility management systems (FMS)
Facility management systems are software packages that support the maintenance and management of a facility. It helps to manage work orders, assets, inventory, and safety. Many packages include many more modules. Some names that can be classified under facility management system include computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS), computer-aided facility management (CAFM), and computerised maintenance management information system (CMMIS).

If an organisation has an FMS, it should be evaluated for its ability to support the BIM data and uses as defined in the previous steps. If an organisation does not have a FMS, it is important that the proper one is selected.

2. Design authoring
Another common purchase for an owner is design communication systems. Design communication systems support the BIM uses of model/drawing production, design reviews, 3D coordination. The first question that must be asked, is this system necessary? If your organisation does self-perform tasks, then it is most likely these systems will need to be purchased. However, if your organisation simply reviews a model provided by others, then most software systems provide a ‘free viewer’ to view the model.

3. Facility monitoring and control
Facility tracking software systems help to track the performance of a facility in regard to environmental, HVAC, and energy monitoring, to name a few. It may be possible that these tools are integrated into an FMS. However, if not part of the current and future FMS, the organisation should consider how they are going to monitor their facility. When purchasing facility tracking software systems, an organisation should consider the ability to monitor additional new facility systems and the integration of the tracking systems.

4. Planning/design/construction software systems
The organisation should also consider additional software systems for planning, design, and construction of facilities. These software systems should be considered when developing an organisation’s BIM Project Execution Plan Template. It is critical to consider what software is necessary to pull information from the FMS and the operation of a facility to improve future design. In addition, organisations should consider how the design and construction information will be able to support the operational systems if they have already been established.

Not having the proper hardware to support the software systems can lead to challenges and frustration when implementing and integrating BIM within the organisation. It is essential that the organisation understands the hardware specifications of the computers on which BIM models are created. If the owner does not match or exceed those specifications, the model and data created throughout design and construction may become unusable in operations. Also, it is important to ensure that the hardware supports the BIM Uses that were selected for the operation of the facility.

The organisation needs to consider how the end-users will interact with the data. This includes both the device and physical space. Three workstations types that need to be considered are mobile, fixed, and collaborative, each of which has its own benefits and drawbacks.

There must be a hardware backbone to support the interaction with the facility data. Two critical pieces of the backbone include the network and servers.

After the infrastructure has been determined, a plan should be generated on how that infrastructure will be maintained and upgraded when necessary. This includes developing a budget for the hardware and maintenance of that hardware.

For more details on the above process refer to the Penn State University BIM Guide for Facility or Asset Owners.

Author avatar
Paul Sancandi
Paul Sancandi is a senior design manager with InfraSol Group. He has a technical background as a structural engineer, owned an architectural and engineering practice and has worked in Australia, Asia and the Middle East on a wide range of small to mega projects over the past 32 years.
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