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Why Everyone Including FMs Should be at The Table in the Early Stages


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If you’re looking for a way to reduce clashes, defects, and rework, the experts say you should get everyone on the same page right at the outset – even the eventual facilities manager.

In the UK, the Government has mandated the use of an integrated team approach called “Soft Landings” in conjunction with Building Information Modelling on major projects. The Soft Landings Framework was developed by the UK’s Building Services Research and Information Association [BSRIA]. Its fundamental principle of bringing everyone to the table early is gaining some major traction in Australia.

National Manager, Sustainability for WT Consultancy, Steve Hennessy, says it is an advantage to have FMs involved during early design stages because “the FM knows things the design team don’t”.

He says a good example is a project that was using the Soft Landings Framework where the FM was involved in the early stages and the architect was still designing the basement level that included the garbage storage room. The design of the lift exit would have meant needing to turn the bins at 90 degree angles to get them into the room, however, the FM pointed out this would not work as the type of bin the building would be using is not capable of the manoeuvre. The architect changed it then and there – saving either a need for later rework by the builder or 25 years or more of pain for the FMs. There was no cost implication for the change, Hennessy says.

That particular case was one where the FM the owner would be using was already known.

However, even when this has not been decided builders can add an FM consultant to the team and reap the benefits, he says.

“The other thing the FM brings is an unbiased perception of what works and doesn’t - because they have to live with that. That perspective is quite valuable.”


The benefits include delivering a building that is better in terms of operability, and a reduction in potential rework to fix issues discovered by FMs during the defects warranty period. This can mean engaging the consultant pays for itself.

“It is very good value for money,” Hennessy says. “The other thing the FM brings is an unbiased perception of what works and doesn’t - because they have to live with that. That perspective is quite valuable.”

According to Hennessy, the cross-disciplinary HVAC industry initiative, PRIME, is also trying to get commissioning added to requirements in the National Construction Code. It should happen at the design stage to make sure the building is commissionable, he says.

The contract is one of the key factors that can limit the ability of a builder to go to the client with better solutions that emerge during an integrated design process.

Hennessy says an example was a major landmark commercial building completed 15 years ago by a major builder. The contractor called for prices for fans and had two bids to consider – six energy efficient fans for $106K or six fans for $100K that would use an extra $75K a year in energy to operate. The builder chose the cheaper option – and the owner was then left with the ongoing energy spend, because there was no mechanism in the contract for the builder to approach the client and put the business case.

“The running cost saving would have paid for the difference [in upfront spend] in weeks,” Hennessy says.

He says that Australian building contracts are often based around an “adversarial approach” between client and contractor.

According to legal experts from Mills Oakley, both design and construct, and construct only contracts limit the contractors’ ability to fully leverage the benefits of collaboration and BIM. A new model of contract – Integrated Project Delivery – is a better pathway, they say.

Executive Director of the Australian Construction Industry Forum (later referred to as ACIF), James Cameron, says that BIM is the “biggest story” in terms of early team integration.

Australian building contracts are often based around an “adversarial approach” between client and contractor.


ACIF is on the Australasian BIM Advisory Board, and has also advocated extensively for the adoption of Project Team Integration. This has included developing and publishing resources such as a Framework for the adoption of Project Team Integration and BIM.

“Getting the main players in a construction project together at the earliest stages means less conflict, less waste, and less re-work,” Cameron says.

It also creates a better working environment – and this is something the use of BIM also facilitates.

“Everyone can see the model, and comment on the model. It enhances Project Team Integration,” he says. “Getting everyone on the same page, you create a whole lot less stress.”

ACIF and the Australian Construction Procurement Council have undertaken research that shows 30 per cent of project costs could be saved where there is less waste, rework, and time involved.

Putting PTI and BIM together is, therefore, a “very good investment”, Cameron says.

Not only does it save the project team money and time in the early stages, it can also reduce the expense of having to bring in extra professionals or consultants down the line.

“You can see how safe a building should be based on the information in the model,” says Cameron.


There is also a safety dividend because everyone is on the same page. It can generate a safer environment for the construction crews, users, and maintenance staff of the building.

“You can see how safe a building should be based on the information in the model,” says Cameron.

He explains it is because the electrical, plumbing, working at heights, and fire safety elements are all worked out early on. Staging can also be finessed, for example, knowing exactly when concrete is being poured, so other trades are not put at risk working in proximity.

BIM is not just 3D, he says. It is 4D as it shows time sequencing, and 5D as it shows how elements are unfolding cost-wise. It also enables teams to calculate how different products will interact with each other, for example in the event of a fire.

Essentially, BIM is a tool that has benefits throughout the asset lifecycle, as the same data files that are developed during design, then translate across to the build, and then become part of the toolkit the FMs have for operating and maintaining the building, Cameron says.

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