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Why BIM isn’t enough?

/images/blog/article-bim.png February 2021

6 min

BIM and Wayfinding

“If I already have a Building Information Model, why do I need a CMS like Mapwize?”

This question arises from time to time when we speak with potential clients. Building owners and managers assume that once they have a detailed view of their space, they have everything they need to help site occupants get from one place to another. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. A Building Information Model (BIM) has many use cases, but acting as a wayfinder isn’t one of them. 

What is a BIM?

When most people think about a construction project, they imagine a pile of floorplans stacked upon a table, or layers within a CAD file. Each page or layer would contain a different set of information – such as indications for walls and doors, electrical wiring schematics, HVAC pipes and even security system designs. BIM replaces the usual pile of floor plans. A BIM project provides a full 3D description of a building, from the structural work to the smallest details such as hot water pipes and electrical plugs. The BIM process unifies all the floorplans and the documentation in one place, providing a single tool for use by everyone ranging from the architect working on the site design to the maintenance workers who keep everything running after construction is complete. 

The BIM, however, goes beyond the limitations of a paper-based model. Rather than assembling a set of lines to represent floor plans or wiring guidelines, it models the building as a series of interconnected objects. Each object has a size, shape, location and a connection to other objects within the building. This is what makes the tool so useful. During the construction phase, it makes it easier to assess how changes in one area might impact others. It can be used to generate materials lists and estimate costs. It can also be useful in understanding the sustainability of the building. 

Who uses the BIM?

While BIM provides numerous real benefits during construction time it also can be of some help for technical maintenance. For example, when it comes time to transition from the construction stage to standard operations, a BIM can provide a host of useful information for helping maintenance teams get up to speed. Rather than having to get up on a ladder or guess at how the electrical and HVAC systems are installed, the maintenance team can have a 3D view, showing every detail. 

The BIM is also useful in keeping track of the age and status of construction materials and appliances, and quickly identifying failure points when something goes wrong. In the event of a local electrical fault or a leak, a building engineer can use the BIM to remotely diagnose the likely cause. This can allow for faster and less expensive maintenance checks and repairs. 

Does every building have a BIM?

Considering its benefits, it may come as a surprise to find out that not every building has a BIM. While BIM comes with benefits, it also has numerous drawbacks: it takes time to implement, it adds complexity, and increases construction planning costs because it requires more engineering workload than the normal way to modelize buildings (CAD models). Most construction companies are using BIM during the conception and build phase nowadays, but put it aside once the building becomes operational. 

When it comes to older buildings, the likelihood of the site having a BIM decreases even further. This is because it is expensive to make a BIM model from an existing building (a.k.a. retro-BIM). All actors seem to agree that BIM brings an extra cost in the process that is not always compensated by immediate benefits. 

Where does the BIM fall short?

BIM 3D visuals and CAD files are very useful for managing a building’s reference data (e.g. data stable over time such as walls, doors, HVAC systems etc.). By design, BIM contains a lot of details about the building, far more than most building occupants or visitors would ever find useful. In fact, presenting such a sophisticated level of detail can be risky from a security perspective. Even buildings that are not considered high-security risks would hesitate to offer up information which could be used by potential intruders or terrorists. 

Setting aside the information overload and security risks for a moment, there is an additional challenge when it comes to viewing the BIM. BIM are heavy files that cannot be viewed simply through a mobile, web or information kiosk interface. To make them accessible to the general public, you need another tool, like Mapwize, which can extract the relevant content and process it for viewing or searching. 

When it comes to business-specific data (e.g. meeting room bookings) and live data (e.g. occupancy sensors data) BIM and CAD models prove to be of little or no help. 

Why use a Content Management System on top of your BIM?

Once your building is operational, you need the ability to generate different views of your buildings for each group of users, with just the right level of details and security. This is where a Content Management System (CMS) dedicated to smart buildings, like Mapwize, comes into play. The CMS takes the information from your BIM or your building CAD files and renders it in a format which is easily understood by building occupants and visitors alike. It removes the requirement for specialized software and dramatically reduces the end result file size. 

The CMS allows building owners and managers to publish customized interactive maps that combine reference data, such as entrances and rooms, along with business and live data, like room bookings, in the same place. Although the most common use of a CMS is to provide simple interactive maps for visitors, maintenance or security officers, it does offer additional functionality. For example, with a CMS, it is also possible to use buildings data to optimize asset usage (e.g. Medical Asset Tracking in hospitals) and to populate accurate building data visualization (e.g. performance dashboard of stores in shopping malls). 

A CMS makes viewing building information simple. Once the building owner or manager has generated an interactive map for their site, they can make them available for use on their website, in a mobile app or at an onsite kiosk. 

Can you have a CMS without a BIM?

The short answer is yes. Only a very small proportion of Mapwize customers actually have BIM. As long as you have at least a traditional building floor plan, you can use them as a foundation to provide new interactive mapping services without spending time and money to build a BIM. What really matters the most is to have up-to-date floor plans and building data, the format under which those data are stored is a secondary matter.

Médéric MOREL's photo


Médéric MOREL, CEO & Co-founder

Médéric is a serial entrepreneur with 25-years experience in the field of Information Technologies. He has written five books about IT performance, IT architecture and complexity management. He is also a regular speaker at numerous international conferences. Médéric is a recognized expert in the field of digital services for smart buildings.