Northwestern Medicine (NM) is an academic medical center based in the Chicago area, and is the primary clinical affiliate of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Ranked 6th nationally by U.S. News & World Report in 2013, NM strives to utilize technology wherever possible to improve operational efficiency. As part of that effort, in 2011 NM mandated the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology on all construction projects moving forward.
The first ground-up project where NM could fully utilize the standards they had established for BIM was a new 3-story, 60,000 square foot medical office building in Grayslake, Illinois. The project had separate contracts established with the Architect (Anderson Mikos Architects) and Construction Manager (Pepper Construction Company), and the contracts included addendums that specifically outlined the BIM requirements for each party throughout the process.
NM knew from previous experience that the transfer of asset data (such as components of the HVAC, plumbing or electrical systems) from construction to building operations was a highly imperfect process. This was in large part because after receipt of the data, NM would be required to manually re-enter it into their computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) in order to operate the building properly. This re-entry was a problem because it was:
Therefore, one of the key goals embedded within their BIM mandate was to eliminate the need to re-enter asset data into CMMS. This same requirement was broadened to mean that the data must be generally portable, in case NM ever had a need to make a system or software change.
In addition to this, NM wanted to be prepared for the future when BIM technology would be used directly by Facilities personnel to execute their jobs. To ensure this could be done, they established a requirement that asset data and documentation must be retrievable through a model.
NM also wanted to ensure that after turnover the asset data would be easy to manage during ongoing operations. If their facilities team was to have confidence in the technology, it needed to be simple to reference the data and keep it current as future renovation and tenant improvement projects were undertaken.
With these requirements in mind, NM set out to identify a solution that would meet their needs. They discovered that there was nothing available in the market that would suffice, so they engaged StratusVue to develop the tools and functionality they required. Through a collaborative effort between StratusVue, NM, and Pepper Construction, the BIMfx toolset was developed, enhanced, and employed on the Grayslake project.
With BIMfx, operating assets worth tracking for Facilities Maintenance needs are first assigned a unique “Technical ID” that can be used to identify each piece of equipment. BIMfx then generates a dynamic web link (URL) for each Technical ID that references any data or documentation that has been collected during construction and assigned to that asset. Building owners can use these URLs in multiple ways depending upon their needs, and they can also port the BIMfx data directly into a CMMS or other operational software.
But the team knew that any solution had to address the process of collecting the data as well, because great technology isn't useful without the right information to work with. From years of working with contractors, StratusVue knew that the key was to keep the steps as simple as possible. As a result, BIMfx offers Construction Managers a straightforward tool to manage and report on the collection process, and it gives subcontractors the ability to provide the data required in spreadsheets they already know how to use. This focus on simplicity makes it easier to collect the data during construction, rather than waiting until closeout or even after construction is complete.
BIMfx met all the requirements that NM established as part of their BIM mandate for the Grayslake project. To begin with, the data for all the building's serviceable assets was ported directly into their CMMS before the building was even officially turned over. The data migration process took approximately an hour, rather than the weeks and months NM had become accustomed to. No manual re-entry of data was required, and NM estimates that even on such a modestly sized building this saved them about $100,000 in avoided cost.
In addition, by using BIMfx to aggregate and associate the relevant construction data and documentation to key assets, Pepper Construction was able to provide a more complete data set before the building was even officially turned over to NM. The tool made it transparent what data elements were missing, and made it easy to connect submittal documentation with relevant assets to help facilitate this speedy completion.