The value of any Facilities Information System is determined by how well it addresses the complex information needs of today’s Facilities Management organizations. Let’s face it, the responsibilities of a Facilities Manager today are daunting. They have to make daily decisions on topics including capital planning, regulatory compliance, space management, energy performance, asset and work management, insurance coverage, lease management, and security planning & operations to name but a few. Furthermore, actionable information must be provided to many different groups including executives, operations professionals, safety & security, health & human safety, space planners, residents, etc. through applications that are appropriate to their individual needs.
Many Sources of Facilities Information
The information required to support these varied decisions and actions comes from many different formats and systems. Chief among these are CAD, BIM, and GIS sources. CAD, BIM, and GIS are particularly important because they describe the location and geometry of the facility’s structure at varying levels of detail. This location foundation is critical to establish how information from other sources relate to each other. A basic map – indoors and outdoors – provides the ability to see how different information sources related to each other across the facility. It is location that allows room equipment inventories to inform class scheduling. Or class schedules to inform security operations. Or hazardous materials inventories to inform fire safety planning. Or deferred maintenance backlogs to inform capital plans. Location can be used as the organizing principle to collate information from many different sources into information that is more valuable in combination.
Location as the Organizing Principle
As sources of location information, CAD, BIM, and GIS each have different strengths. Each has been built to serve different purposes. In combination, they can establish a strong foundation for a Facilities Information System. CAD and BIM have long been workhorse tools for design and construction professionals. BIM is rapidly becoming the emerging standard for design and construction for good reasons. Significant reductions in rework and improvements in constructibility have been documented by projects using thorough BIM-centric design and construction processes. That said, the vast majority of our existing building stock is tens to hundreds of years old and the availability of BIM for operational uses will remain an edge case for the foreseeable future. GIS has the ability to consume information from both CAD and BIM sources and combine that geometry with many other information sources to create a rich geography of facilities operations concerns.
GIS as a Systems Integration Platform
GIS has a number of characteristics that make it ideal as a systems integration platform. To begin with, GIS is a database-centric system. This allows the system to scale and perform well with extremely large datasets. The database-centric nature of GIS also supports the transactional nature of operations data that is continually changing. GIS also has mature server technology that allows complex geometry and attribute information to be rendered into simple browser-based applications. This means that information initially authored in complex desktop applications like Bentley Architecture, Archicad, or Autodesk Revit can be simply consumed through a web browser albeit at a reduced level of detail. The server-centric nature of GIS also makes it a solid integration platform to interchange information with other enterprise systems through web services.
Advances in Data Interoperability
In the past, interoperability between CAD, BIM, and GIS has been a daunting undertaking. Today the products of Safe Software (the best small company you may have never heard of) make the automation of interoperability highly predictable and reliable. In addition, new market forces are at work that will increase the productivity of design and construction professionals in the future. Recently Esri and Autodesk announced an alliance aimed at making their products more interoperable. Trimble is building a formidable product suite around their Trimble Connect offering aimed at enabling better information exchange throughout the design and construction phases of a project. Autodesk has a similar offering in its A360 product albeit with a more Autodesk-centric implementation.
A Continued Focus on Operations
As promising as these recent developments are for the Design/Build segments of the Facilities Life Cycle, we at PenBay continue to focus on the challenges and opportunities of the Operations phase of the life cycle. After all, 85% of the total cost of ownership of a facility is incurred in the Operations phase. We continue to invest in automated interoperability from CAD, and BIM sources to Facilities GIS. We are also investing in building connection strategies to other enterprise information sources such as scheduling, work order management enterprise content management, automated access control, etc. We are also developing exciting new capabilities to analyze and report on a wide range of data quality issues in each release. Our commitment is to ensure that as a Facilities Manager you and your team have the best information available to operate your facilities at peak performance.