National Institute of Building Sciences

Building information modeling (BIM) is becoming more commonplace in the project workflow and discourse of the AECO (architecture, engineering, construction, and owner) community, but gaps continue to limit its usefulness for owners after construction is complete. Instead of hauling rolls of as-built records and binders of operating and maintenance manuals to close out meetings, architects often have little more than electronic files on memory sticks or a secured folder in the cloud that, without careful planning beforehand, do little more for owners than occupy drawer space.

National Institute of Building Sciences

This disconnect in BIM expectations is one of the issues that the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) is addressing in the National BIM Guide for Owners, released at its fifth annual Building Innovation conference, held in Washington, D.C., earlier this week. The free 46-page guide aims to help owners leverage BIM’s capabilities for the entire life of a building, rather than only during design and construction. The guide states its “offers a tool set addressing three broad areas the Owner should understand in order to direct the Project Team to [get] BIM done right: process, infrastructure and standards, and execution.”

For architects and designers, the guide can serve as a resource to what BIM-savvy owners will expect in regards to model compatibility, level of detail, management, ownership, liability, and execution. Moreover, these topics become a list of conversations that should happen among the design and construction teams and owner before signing a contract for a BIM project.

In the process section, for example, the guide recommends defining minimum BIM requirements in the owner’s contract with the project team based on the project delivery method; identifying the roles and responsibilities of project stakeholders in regards to information modeling; and ensuring follow-through on the requirements through continual review. The guide walks readers through sample BIM requirements, intellectual property questions, deliverables and turnover requirements, team roles and responsibilities, and the pièce de résistance: the BIM project execution plan, “a central document for BIM implementation.”

One highlight from the infrastructure and standards section is a list of recommended owner requirements to enable the BIM model’s usefulness post-construction. That list includes compatibility with the owner’s computer-platform requirements; the capability to support existing and legacy file formats; an agnostic, adaptable, and scalable product; and the ability to support open, consensus standards, such as the National BIM Standard–U.S. and the U.S. National CAD Standard.

The guide’s final section on execution walks readers through creating the BIM project execution plan; basic and advanced uses for BIM during design and, for the owners, post-construction; and a list of deliverables, including BIM models capturing the project at different phases, from the intent of the design to the project record, as well as operations and maintenance data.

During the Building Innovation conference, NIBS also announced significant updates to its Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG), an online resource that millions of designers access each year to ascertain the latest “design, construction, and facility management information and criteria required by U.S. military and other federal agencies.” The website’s updates include more rigorous search capabilities and bookmarking capabilities, and the introduction of the Federal Facility Criteria library, which usurps the Construction Criteria Base and organizes documents by government agency and document type.

And, for more reading material, NIBS has released “The Role of Existing Building Codes in Safely, Cost-Effectively Transforming the Nation’s Building Stock,” a white paper by the organization’s National Council of Governments on Building Codes and Standards to promote the adoption of building codes for existing commercial and residential stock. As of 2016, 23 states plus the District of Columbia and localities in 18 other states are using the International Existing Building Code, developed by the International Code Council.