Beyond construction: the applications of BIM in property management

The building and construction industry hasn’t always been eager to adopt new technologies. But as the sector fell behind in the fast-paced digital economy, this trend is starting to reverse.

Digital services like building information modeling (BIM) are becoming industry standards, but they can serve more than just construction.

BIM is a suite of tools that enables teams to create, analyse, and edit 3D digital project models. Like in many areas where virtual documents have replaced paper copies, it brings a wealth of productivity and versatility benefits. Its adoption has skyrocketed in recent years, but the industry may not be taking full advantage of it.

While more than 70% of architects, engineers, and contractors have used BIM in their projects, adoption after construction isn’t as high. People typically see these programs as construction tools, but they can do more. After project completion, BIM can continue to bring value through use in property management.

Work in the building industry doesn’t stop after construction, so why should BIM? If more property managers embraced these tools, they could see considerable returns on investment. Here’s a closer look.

BIM in construction

To understand how BIM can aid property managers, it helps to know how construction teams use it. Perhaps the most crucial benefit of BIM is that it makes the design and building process far more efficient. Since large construction projects typically take 20% longer to complete than scheduled, efficiency is critical.

Teams can make and share digital models far more quickly than paper blueprints, which cuts down on time. Any stakeholders can access them at any time, so there’s less of a risk of miscommunication, too. When everyone is on the same page from day one, the design and construction process can go on with less disruption.

BIM also offers more visibility than traditional methods. Many BIM programs come with a feature called clash detection, which highlights potential problems with a model. If something doesn’t fit or violates a building code, stakeholders can see and resolve the issue before construction, thereby avoiding rework.

Clash detection can also highlight problems with workflows, further ensuring efficiency. Since these models provide a single source of truth, everyone involved can see these clashes as they arise. Different stakeholders can handle the problems in their area of expertise, and teams can ensure a solution doesn’t create another issue in turn.

These benefits aren’t just theoretical, either. According to one study, 75% of BIM adopters have reported a positive return on investment. Property managers should take advantage of these advantages too.

Marketing and sales

At this point, it’s evident how BIM can help in architecture and construction, but what about property management? The first area where BIM applies here is in marketing. The efficiency and accessibility of these virtual models can help property managers appeal to potential clients and make sales.

Some BIM programs include features called digital twins, where a BIM model updates in real-time as construction progresses. These systems gather data from the worksite so the virtual model of a building always reflects the state of construction. With access to real-time data like this, property managers can start marketing before a project is complete.

Showcasing properties before construction is over isn’t anything new to the industry, but digital twins take it further. Since these models provide real-time, accessible data about a project’s state, they offer more insight for cost and completion estimates. Property managers can give potential buyers more accurate information, helping manage expectations and improve satisfaction.

Digital twins also enable property managers to show potential buyers the property without going to the worksite. That way, interested parties can see progress without putting themselves in danger. This visibility can instill higher confidence in clients, helping property managers make sales faster.

BIM can lower construction costs by 20%, which in turn leads to lower prices for buyers or renters of the property. These price drops will help property managers attract more buyers, and faster completion times will increase satisfaction. After enough of these sales, property managers could build a reputation for trustworthiness and affordability.

Maintenance and repairs

Most of the work in property management isn’t making sales but rather taking care of a property throughout its lifetime. Thankfully, BIM can continue to bring value to property managers after

making a sale, too. The same features that make it ideal in construction make it easier to manage maintenance and repairs.

When a building needs repair, property managers can give maintenance workers access to the BIM model. These 3D digital models provide an interactive, in-depth look at the building’s design, helping teams find and address any problems faster. Since repairs are the fourth-highest monthly expense in property maintenance, these savings are hard to ignore.

Since BIM models are entirely digital, updating them is quick and straightforward. Property managers can adjust them throughout the maintenance process, leaving notes about any repairs and trends and informing future actions. As such, these models become increasingly beneficial for repair workers over a property’s lifetime.

BIM provides a single source of truth, so maintenance workers can refer to these models for any repair history. They can access all the information they need, quickly, without relying on word of mouth. Consequently, they can determine the best course of action faster, lowering maintenance costs and shortening timelines.

Repair workers can also use BIM to model any changes before starting. That way, they can see if they’ll run into any problems and can work more safely. Just as in the construction phase, BIM prevents rework here, saving time and money.

Modifications and additions

Over a building’s lifetime, owners may want to add new features or change some areas. Typically, property managers handle most of this work, and they can turn to BIM to streamline the process. Modifying a building requires extensive preparation, so any time savings in this area are welcome.

Property managers can use BIM to model any changes before implementing them, like how architects use it to detect clashes. If a renovation impacts another part of the property, clash detection features let users know. Managers or contractors can then assess whether they need to change their plans or course of action.

A 2020 survey found that 31% of home renovations go over-budget, mostly due to unexpectedly high expenses and unforeseen complexity. BIM provides solutions to both of these problems. First, clash detection reveals any negative effects a change could have, helping managers anticipate a job’s complexity.

Second, clash detection also covers “4D” clashes, which deal with budgets and workflows, and not physical errors. These features help property managers make a more realistic budget from the beginning. Renovations are more likely to stay within budget as a result.

Through all of these benefits, BIM will make the renovation process more efficient. So not only will modifications and additions be safer and more affordable, but they’ll also take less time. Property managers will save time in their busy schedules and occupants will see results sooner.

BIM is a versatile tool

Most conversations about BIM revolve around its use cases in architecture and construction. These are far from its only valuable applications, though. The same features that make it valuable to architects and construction crews can bring tremendous benefits to property managers.

More BIM adoption in property management could lead to safer and more affordable properties, both upfront and in the long run. As the industry becomes increasingly tech-centric, nearly every aspect of it improves.

Written by Rose Morrison, managing editor, Renovated

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