Using BIM for Operations and FM

Using BIM for Operations and FM


In this lesson, students explore how the powerful tools available in the Autodesk Revit platform can be used to track, update, and maintain facilities management information to support better planning, operations, and maintenance decision-making throughout a building’s lifecycle.

Students will learn how to use key Revit features, including project and shared parameters, rooms, area plans, color fill legends, conditional formatting in schedules, and highlighting in model views, to provide accurate and up-to-date information about the elements in a project model to building designers, users and facility managers. They will also learn how the Revit DBLink utility can be used to integrate the information a Revit project model with external databases and asset management systems for updating project parameters and life cycle information for the building elements.

Information Flow through the Building Lifecycle

The information about a building project that is collected and created by the project team during the planning, programming, design, and construction phases provides a vast resource of incredibly valuable data that can be used by facility owners and managers to improve the effectiveness of operations throughout the lifecycle of the building.

The expanding use of BIM models for design, analysis, construction planning, 4D coordination, and fabrication creates an opportunity to capture and unify the information in these models into a record model of the as-built facility. Rather than handing off printed documentation and static records during the commissioning phase, it is far more valuable to integrate and deliver a live BIM model of the project. The information in this model can support the day-to-day operations and planning needed to ensure that the facility continues to operate reliably and at peak efficiency.

This flow of building and operating information is actually cyclical. Information collected by continuously measuring, monitoring, and tracking history throughout a building’s lifecycle is in turn valuable for the planning and design of future renovations and improvements as well as for new construction projects. This real-world use and performance data is needed to accurately assess the performance of our designs and improve our predictive models.

Creating and Maintaining an As-Built/Record BIM Model

Building projects often undergo many changes during the construction phase as project teams respond to needed changes and unforeseen conditions. So, BIM models must be updated continuously throughout the construction phase to incorporate and capture changes introduced through RFI’s, as-built conditions, and so on.

Creating an accurate record model requires updates from all participants on the project team. Contractors must continuously update the model with constructed-related changes. Design teams must incorporate design changes and coordinate these with the contractor via RFI’s and change orders. Subcontractors and fabricators must provide the fabrication models used to produce manufactured components.

Upon substantial completion, the design team should integrate an as-built BIM for handoff to the facility owners and operators as part of the commissioning process.

Applications of BIM Models for Operations and Facilities Management

Although the Autodesk Revit platform is not a facilities management software application, it provides many tools that enable users to accurately and effectively explore, track, and manage facility information using the powerful parametric capabilities of the software. Using these tools, designers and facility managers can analyze space-related data, track inventory and lifecycle data, perform cost needs analysis, and much more.

Some suggested applications of BIM for operations and facilities management include:

Programming—using a spatial program to efficiently and accurately assess a design’s performance and effectiveness relative to the spatial requirements.

BIM models enable project teams to efficiently analyze the proposed spaces and compare these to complex space standards and governing regulations. Critical decisions made during the programming and early design phases of a project can be greatly improved by bringing data and analyses of the proposed design options to the owner for consideration. Using BIM models for analysis enables efficient and accurate assessment of each option’s performance relative to the spatial requirements established in the program.

Record Modeling—creating an accurate depiction of the physical conditions, environment, and assets of a facility.

Using BIM models, project teams can record information relating to a facility’s main architectural, structural, and MEP elements by information from BIM models used throughout the project. Creating an as-built model (from the design, construction, 4D coordination models, and subcontractor fabrication models) provides a valuable resource for owners and facility mangers to link operations, maintenance, and asset data for effectively operating the facility.

With continuous updating, the record model can serve as a living document that contains an accurate snapshot of the completed space. Record models can include links to all relevant facility information (for example, serial codes, warranties, and the operation and maintenance history of all the components within the building.)

Preventative Maintenance Scheduling—tracking and maintaining lifecycle information about the building structure (wall, floors, roof, etc.) as well as the equipment serving the building (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, etc.) to plan and schedule a program of maintenance activities that will improve building performance, reduce repairs, and reduce overall maintenance costs.

Preventive maintenance scheduling enables facility managers to plan maintenance activities proactively and appropriately allocate maintenance staff, as well as reducing corrective maintenance and emergency maintenance repairs.  Using this information, facility managers can evaluate different maintenance approaches, analyze data to make repair vs. replacement decisions, and document the effectiveness of a reliability-centered maintenance program.

Building Systems Analysis—measuring how a building's actual performance compares to design model predictions.

Tracking performance data from the building systems and comparing these values to design model predictions enables facility managers to ensure that the building is operating to specified design and sustainable standards and identify opportunities to modify operations to improve system performance. Building designers can also use this data to validate and refine their prediction models and evaluate the impact of proposed materials and system changes to improve performance.

Building systems analysis typically focuses on mechanical systems and building energy use, but it can also include ventilated facade studies, lighting analysis, airflow analyses using computational fluid dynamics, and solar analysis.

Asset Management—linking data in a BIM record model to a database of building assets to assist in efficiently maintaining and operating the facility. These assets often include the building elements, systems, and equipment that must be maintained and operated efficiently to satisfy the facility users’ requirements in a cost effective way.

Asset management systems are used to support financial decision-making, short-term and long-term planning, and maintenance scheduling. Using information in a BIM record model, facility managers can: evaluate the cost implications of changing or upgrading building assets; track the use, performance, and maintenance of a building's assets for the owner, maintenance team, and financial department; produce accurate quantity takeoffs of current company assets for financial reporting and estimating the future costs of upgrades or replacements.

Space Management and Tracking—allocating, managing, and tracking spaces and related resources within a facility.

Using a BIM model for space management enables the facility team to analyze the existing use of space, evaluate proposed changes, and effectively plan for future needs. Having accurate and detailed space information is especially useful for planning renovation projects, where some building segments will remain occupied and change during the construction phase.

Disaster Planning and Response—using a BIM model to give emergency responders access to critical building information to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their response and minimize the safety risks.

Combining building information, such as floor plans and equipment schematics, with the dynamic real-time state information provided by a building automation system (BAS) would provide emergency responders with valuable information to support better decision-making during crisis and disaster response. The BIM model could be used to clearly display where the emergency was located within the building, possible routes to the area, and any other dangers that first responders should be aware of in real-time.

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Understand and use the powerful tools available in the Autodesk Revit platform to calculate, track, update, and present facilities management information.
  • Utilize and leverage project and shared parameters, rooms, area plans, color schemes, and highlighting in schedules and 3D views to provide accurate and up-to-date information for building users and facility managers.
  • Use the Revit DBLink utility to integrate a Revit project model with external databases and asset management systems for exchanging and updating project parameters such as costs and life cycle information.


Adding Facilities Management Information to BIM Model Elements

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Identify the parameters needed to track the lifecycle of building elements and support facilities management operations.
  • Create new parameters and add them to BIM model elements (such as rooms, areas, surfaces, fixtures, and equipment).
  • Build formulas to calculate, track, and report key FM metrics.
  • Create schedules for reporting and quickly entering parameter values for model elements.
  • Display FM information in plan views using color fill legends.

Figure 7.5.1. Adding new parameters and formulas to track key facilities management information

Video Tutorial
Student Exercise
  • Create formulas to make comparisons between Gross and Net square footages for the rooms in the project dataset.
  • Use those values to define areas of assignable/non-assignable space.
  • Create a room schedule of the spaces on Level 2 and create a project parameter called “Assignable” and add it to the appropriate rooms. This parameter should a simple Yes/No parameter that allows users to simply toggle a room’s assignable designation.
  • Using schedule Sorting/Grouping and Filter options to set up the schedule to appear with subtotals for assignable and non-assignable space, as well as the total space available on Level 2.
  • Add additional parameters and calculated values within the schedule using these formulas:
    • Assignable Area: If(Assignable, Area, 0 SF)
    • Assignable Area %: Assignable Area / <enter the total building area>
    • Net to Gross %: Area / <enter the total building area>
  • Create a plan view and use a color fill legend to display a custom color scheme based on the space’s designation as an assignable or non-assignable area.

Figure 7.5.2. Plan view with color fill legend showing assignable vs. non-assignable areas.

Using BIM Models to Track and Plan Preventive Maintenance

In this exercise, students will learn how to:

  • Create new parameters and views for tracking maintenance history.
  • Use schedules and formulas to plan for element replacement and preventive maintenance.
  • Highlight building elements in schedule views based upon parameter values using conditional formatting.
  • Use filters and graphic overrides to select and highlight elements in 3D views.

Figure 7.5.3. Adding formulas to compute maintenance tracking information

Video Tutorial
Student Exercise
  • Create project parameters and set up a schedule for tracking lifecycle information of building elements (such as flooring, plumbing fixtures, doors, furniture, and so on.)
    • Create project parameters to track information about the floors. These should be instance parameters assigned to the room category, and they should appear in the floor schedule. For example:
      • Floor Installation Year
      • Floor Lifecycle
      • Floor Type (material name)
      • Floor Cost per SF
    • Duplicate the existing room schedule and add these new fields.
    • Add formulas to compute and track the flooring replacement information using these formulas:
      • Floor Replacement Year: Floor Installation Year + Floor Lifecycle
      • Floor Replacement Cost: Floor Cost per SF * Area / 1 SF
    • Enter values for these new fields in the room schedule or by selecting the room objects in a floor plan view and editing the values in the properties palette.
    • Use conditional formatting to highlight the floors requiring replacement within one year.
  • Use a similar process to add lifecycle tracking parameters to the component families in the project.
    • Create shared parameters to enable them to be accessed from any project and provide the ability to be exported them to external databases (for example, Microsoft Access or SQL) for updating outside of the Revit environment.
      • Installation Year
      • Lifecycle
      • Replacement Cost
    • Create project parameters with the same names and link them to the shared parameters. These should be instance parameters to enable tracking of individual elements.
    • Assign these project parameters to all categories except floors and rooms.
  • Create a plumbing fixture schedule and applying the Filters and Sorting/Grouping options to create a schedule similar to the one that appears in Figure 7.5.4.
  • Create a filter and use visibility graphics overrides to the highlight items in a 3D view based on this maintenance data. For example, highlight the items with a replacement date within the next 6 months in red.

Figure 7.5.4. Schedule highlighting building elements based upon maintenance tracking values

Integrating BIM Models with Asset Management and Tracking Systems

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Compile and update building performance and element tracking data.
  • Export BIM model data to external editors (such as spreadsheets and databases) for updating.
  • Import and merge external data into a BIM model.

Figure 7.5.5. Exporting BIM model data to an external editor for updating

Video Tutorial
Student Exercise
  • Use the Revit DBLink utility to export, link and manage project parameters from an external database (such as Access or SQL) for asset tracking and management.
    • Verify that the shared parameters to be included in the export are available as project parameters.
    • Create a database connection to move Revit data in and out of the project database.
      • Open the Revit DB Link tool from the External tools drop-down on the Add-Ins tab.
      • Create a new connection and choose the Microsoft Access Driver as the new data source.
      • Navigate to a convenient location for the database and save the DSN file. Then, click Finish to create the Access database file.
    • Select the new Access database file and export the data from the project model.
  • Open the database file using Microsoft Access and change the value of the Date Installed field for several of the elements that appear in the database.
  • Return to Revit and open the Revit DBLink tool again to reimport the updated data from the database file.
    • Click on Edit and Import to begin the import process.
    • When the import is complete, the Revit DBLink tool generates a report displaying the updates to the BIM model data, similar to the one shown in Figure 7.5.6.
  • Open the plumbing fixture schedule created in the exercise 7.5.2 and confirm that the values changed in the Access database have also been updated in the BIM model.

Figure 7.5.6. Revit DBLink report showing updates to the BIM model data


  • What kinds of data is tracked to assist with space planning activities?

Space planners typically track information on a room-by-room basis. The values tracked can include: room area; room volume; maximum occupancy; whether a room is assignable; which department it is assigned to; the names of the occupants; the current use; the materials (floor, wall, ceiling) in that room; key codes; and so on. The Revit platform provides the flexibility to add new parameters to the project model to support the space planning and facilities management needs of the building managers as they are defined and updated.

  • What type of information is typically tracked for building components to support preventive maintenance activities?

To support and track preventive maintenance activities, many building managers track these values for the building components: installation date, expected lifecycle, expected replacement data, estimated replacement cost, and maintenance history. Using these values building managers can schedule planned maintenance and replacement activities and budget the associated costs.

  • What is the advantage of using shared parameters versus project parameters for facilities management information?

The issue of what type of parameter to use when adding data fields to your building model depends on how widely that type of information will be used. Project parameters can appear in schedules, but cannot be used in tags or shared with other projects or external data editors. They can be assigned to multiple categories within a single project. Shared parameters are more versatile. They can be shared by multiple projects and families, exported to ODBC, and appear in schedules as well as tags.

  • What is the advantage of linking a Revit project model to an external database editor?

Linking a Revit project model to an external database or asset management system enables other users of the facilities information who are not facile with Revit to easily access and update the values they need in their familiar tools. The building data needs to access and flow between the various systems, but it is not necessary for all users to be working within the Revit environment.

  • Are there other tools available for linking Revit data to spreadsheets and other editors?

The Revit DB Link add-in provides an easy way to link Revit data to a Microsoft Access database. One important limitation of Revit DB Link is that database must originally be created using it; databases that have already been created using other systems cannot be linked with this tool.

There are a number of good commercially available tools for linking Revit project data to SQL databases and spreadsheets for editing and updating. Search the web to find the latest list and view comparisons of their features and advantages.

Key Terms

Key Term
Facilities management
An interdisciplinary field focusing on the long-term maintenance and care of buildings and facilities to ensure their functionality and support for their primary activities. It is typically associated with activities performed during the operational phase of a facility and may include services such as maintenance, security, catering, and external and internal cleaning.
Building life cycle
A view of a building over the course of its entire life, viewing it not just as an operational building, but also taking into account the design, installation, commissioning, operation and decommissioning phases. It is useful to use to consider the building life cycle when attempting to improve an operational feature of a building that is related to how a building was designed.
Project life cycle
A view of a building project over the course of the planning, design, construction, and commissioning processes. This view focuses on activities during a project’s active design and delivery phases. It is a subset of the building life cycle and excludes operating and maintenance activities that commence after a building is commissioned.
The process of verifying that a new building or facility’s subsystems (for example, plumbing, electrical and lighting, HVAC, life safety, wastewater, controls, and security) achieve the project requirements as intended by the building owner and as designed by the building architects and engineers.
Planning the spatial requirements for a facility (uses, areas, required adjacencies, etc.) and assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of a design in meeting those requirements.
Record modeling
Creating an accurate representation of the physical conditions, environment, and assets of a facility in a BIM model.
Preventive maintenance
Tracking information about the functionality of the building structure (walls, floors, roof, etc) and equipment (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, etc) to record the maintenance history and pro-actively schedule maintenance procedures to ensure smooth, continuous operations over the building lifecycle.
Building systems analysis
Measuring how a building's performance compares to design model predictions to ensure that the building is operating to specified design and sustainable standards. It typically focuses on how a building’s mechanical system operates and how much energy a building uses.
Asset management
Linking data in a record model to a database of building assets to assist in efficiently maintaining and operating the facility.
Shared parameters
Shared parameters are parameters that you can add to families or projects and then share with other families and projects. They give you the ability to add specific data that is not already predefined in the family file or the project template.
Project parameters
Project parameters are parameters you define and then add to multiple categories of elements in a project. They are specific to the project and cannot be shared with other projects. You can use shared parameters to define project parameters and then associate these project parameters with specific categories of elements within a project.