Reduce the Cost of Property Management

5 min read

By David Demarest, Architecture Demarest (Click here for Part 1, The Benefits of Building Information Modeling)More than a new design tool, BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a technology that can revolutionize the way multifamily owners manage properties, maintenance, expansions, renovations and brands.  Once the project is commissioned, the BIM model becomes an as-built model quite different from […]

By David Demarest, Architecture Demarest (Click here for Part 1, The Benefits of Building Information Modeling)More than a new design tool, BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a technology that can revolutionize the way multifamily owners manage properties, maintenance, expansions, renovations and brands.  Once the project is commissioned, the BIM model becomes an as-built model quite different from traditional two-dimensional as-built drawings. Unlike CAD designs that show so many different views that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for people untrained in reading blueprints to understand and visualize what they are looking at, BIM requires no imagination. A BIM model is a three-dimensional animation of the finished building. That process is the key to automating building management with BIM. Right now there are two ways to do this. Some owners and property managers have requested an as-built BIM model from a project architect and learned how to use the BIM application. Others have retained a BIM-savvy architectural firm to run the application and respond to queries. The more efficient alternative, of course, is learning to use the program and automate your building management work. This part of the process may be even more important to owners and property managers, as BIM can provide a detailed and accessible as-built model of the finished building that can automate multifamily property management, maintenance, renovations, expansions and brand management.That’s where BIM’s relational database comes in. When developing a BIM design, an architect literally assembles a virtual building, detailing the specifications and brands of every component of the design. When a specification changes during construction, the architect can just update BIM.Property management and maintenance with BIMManaging and maintaining a property with BIM can cut the cost of conventional property management because a BIM database contains more accurate and more comprehensive data than a CAD file. More important, all of the information is in one place. The manuals for the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system aren’t on the floor beside the mechanical engineer’s desk, while the maintenance manager just sent the specifications for the energy-efficient fluorescent lighting system over to the owner’s office, where they will likely get lost. A BIM database and system provides all kinds of ways to organize and retrieve the data. The system can track items that require regular replacement, such as furnace filters, carpet and vertical blinds, and help to ensure that on-site inventories of those materials are adequate.BIM files contain warranty information on all components. By querying the database, maintenance managers can call up warranty information on equipment that must be replaced. BIM can also store maintenance to-do lists along with dates that maintenance tasks were last carried out.Simplify renovations and expansionsA comprehensive, up-to-date as-built BIM file also simplifies renovations and expansions. The file contains complete specifications on every component of the existing structure, making it a simple matter to carry out renovations that are consistent with the existing look. Multifamily expansions might involve the construction of a new building on an existing campus or a horizontal or vertical addition to an existing building. Either way, the BIM database will ensure that the expansion features a consistent look. In addition, phasing schedule and revision of the model can be tracked automatically from the system. Perhaps more important, the BIM file and three-dimensional video capability will help ensure that new construction fits properly onto the old construction. A BIM-savvy architect can wield the application’s conflict resolution features to ensure that structural beams and columns work properly with the existing building’s structural features. BIM is also programmed to detect problems. Suppose, for example, that the connection designed between an existing building and a horizontal addition inadvertently positions the beams in the addition too low so that they would break through the wall of the existing structure instead of connecting with an existing beam. BIM would detect this and flag it so that it could be fixed before the new brick and mortar reveal the mistake and require costly re-work on the job.Brand managementMore and more multifamily owners have begun to brand their properties by developing prototype designs that feature common shapes, colors, architectural accents and landscaping from property to property. BIM provides an excellent way to manage prototype designs. A BIM file stores the basic prototype. To develop a new property, the architect simply copies the prototype file and adapts it to the conditions of the new property. This system enables owners and developers to ensure a high level of consistency and quality control across multiple properties. It’s easy for the architect and also easy for the owner, who need not be adept at reading blueprints, given BIM’s three-dimensional visualization capabilities.Another issue that multifamily housing owners might consider involves portfolio management. Once an owner carries out a few projects in BIM, the benefits the application offers often give rise to the idea of doing as-built BIM drawings of existing buildings originally designed in CAD.   In fact, there are some notable examples of facility managers doing just that. Not long ago, the University of Texas, San Antonio commissioned a firm to put the school’s three campuses into BIM. That effort will encompass the main 1604 Campus with 725 acres and 29 buildings, the Downtown Campus with 18 acres and four buildings, and the Institute of Texan Cultures campus with 22 acres and one building.The University’s idea is to automate facility and property management tasks, maintenance records and the design of renovation and expansions, as well as the overall brand management of the school’s facilities.As the multifamily industry evolves into its important new role of being part of mixed-use urban infill projects, transit-oriented developments and downtown high-rise renovations, building information modeling systems will become ever more important to a developer’s success.David Demarest, AIA, is a principal at Architecture Demarest in Dallas. He can be reached at ddemarest@architecturedemarest.com

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