3 Advantages of BIM for
Managing Infrastructure Assets
October 24, 2023
Building information modeling (BIM) has typically been seen as an effective 3D modeling process for infrastructure projects’ planning, design and construction phases. Interestingly, it hasn’t been widely regarded as the go-to method for managing those assets once built. It’s as if BIM’s value ends at turnover; but it has a lot more to offer beyond that.
With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) signed in November of 2021, there’s plenty of opportunity to use BIM as a holistic, life cycle process and technology. Managing infrastructure assets using BIM delivers three primary benefits for asset managers and project owners.
Asset visualization and exploration for insights into better construction
Given the inferior state of much of U.S. infrastructure, having insights into how assets should be built and maintained can go a long way toward preserving their value and functionality for the long term.
That’s where BIM comes in. Its 3D modeling capabilities provide context to understanding the form and functions of not just the equipment and systems within the asset but the asset as a whole, which can help validate the design and secure approvals from project owners.
It plays a risk-mitigating role by delivering a clear view deep inside a virtual built structure — with more detail than could be obtained at an on-site visit. This provides a prime opportunity to ask questions that couldn’t have been answered without BIM:
- Are there design mistakes that can be addressed before becoming change orders or rework expenditures that could dip into the infrastructure budget?
- Are there structural clashes that have to be reconfigured before construction begins?
- How does it look within the planned surrounding environment? What modifications can or should be made to eliminate obstructions? What existing systems — plumbing, irrigation, electrical, etc. — do you have to work around? Could anything in the existing surroundings, such as a sloping roadway or a flood risk, infringe upon the integrity or functioning of the proposed asset?
BIM’s interactive nature lets you manipulate elements to assess their impact. Here, the questions can become more strategic:
- If less expensive materials are recommended to conserve infrastructure costs, how does it affect the longevity and integrity of the structure?
- With the move toward green and sustainable construction, are there material alternatives that could make the asset safer for its occupants and the environment?
BIM also can depict what future alterations to an existing structure may look like, how it blends into the surrounding environment and what projected costs may be.
- Given the materials used in its construction, how is the structure projected to hold up in 10, 20 or 50 years?
- How will climate change affect the integrity of the materials and the overall structural stability?
- How can an existing enclosed structure be made more handicap-accessible?
- How does each what-if scenario change the project budget?
Data centralization for informed decisions and construction
BIM serves as a centralized data repository for all infrastructure asset-related information. This repository — the common data environment (CDE) — makes it easier for asset managers, facilities management teams, project owners and other stakeholders to access accurate, current asset information, including 3D models, linked material and equipment details, all maintenance schedules, specifications and performance data.
Like most capital projects, infrastructure assets can have a very long construction period. During that time, countless team members, managers, contractors and community stakeholders can come into and out of the project. Still, all rely on the CDE’s information for construction and regulatory compliance decisions.
Given how long infrastructure assets are meant to last once built, it’s just as important that future contractors and their teams must be able to locate vital structural, materials and system information. Being able to count on BIM’s CDE to inform how they perform retrofitting work, renovations, upgrades or demolitions ensures they can work on an existing infrastructure asset as safely and cost-effectively as possible to further extend its functional life.
Life cycle management for proactive maintenance and cost control
The operational phase is where all those strategic design and materials choices made in the planning stage will have the most impact — not just on the physical asset itself but on maintenance costs. With infrastructure assets providing the services essential to the development and functioning of society and the economy, their continued optimal performance depends on them.
BIM’s CDE holds valuable, actionable information about the infrastructure asset’s materials, equipment and systems — for example, the repair history, recommended maintenance schedule and performance data mentioned above. Facilities management teams operate from the same informational reference point or baseline against which to track the health and performance of the asset over time. These nuggets of detail can be used to proactively plan for maintenance rather than make costly, urgent repairs. Heading off breakdowns and minimizing associated downtime and material and labor costs can translate into major cost savings.
Collectively, these benefits support more efficient and cost-effective infrastructure asset management. BIM provides a holistic approach that leverages technology, process and data to enhance asset understanding, provide information access and maximize the value and longevity of those assets. Find out how InEight can help you manage the entire lifecycle of your infrastructure projects by arranging to talk with us.