Facility Management for the New Normal
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Facility Management for the New Normal

Steve Cline, Department of Energy Projects Director, Burns & McDonnell
Steve Cline, Department of Energy Projects Director, Burns & McDonnell

Steve Cline, Department of Energy Projects Director, Burns & McDonnell

In the current environment—with staffing reductions and remote work being performed at unprecedented levels—various facilities present the need to be managed from offsite locations by fewer employees. Using Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology could allow facility management work to be continued from off-site, thus reducing the potential for exposure to the new coronavirus.

The BIM process was originally developed as a tool to assist architects and engineers in creating 3D models for more efficient planning and design of facilities. Even in its infancy, BIM promised to be useful far into the operation of a facility, offering benefits beyond construction and design.

But only in the last five years have models begun to be used effectively in a facility management role. Now, by utilizing these models to build digital representations of the physical and functional aspects of a facility or digital twins, facility owners are finding opportunities to reap the benefits of continued operation, even in times of disruption. When combined with other technologies—and when considering the new reality—these tools provide a way forward.

"It may also be beneficial to combine BIM data with other information, such as lidar scans or photogrammetry gathered by unmanned aerial systems (UAS)"

Combining With Other Technologies

Using other technologies alongside BIM creates new opportunities. For example, by using augmented and virtual reality, RealWear headsets have the capability to feed a live video stream to various remote locations from a single user. Combining a facility management model, or digital twin, with this technology requires only a single worker to be onsite while other team members view the facility management model from off-site locations. In this way, information can be shared to assist in analysis, design, and various other facility needs.

It may also be beneficial to combine BIM data with other information, such as lidar scans or photogrammetry gathered by unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Such systems are particularly useful during times of social distancing, as sites can be evaluated remotely from the air. Data gathered in this way can be combined with BIM to layout new facilities remotely for those locations.

Reconfiguring Facilities

There are many opportunities for using digital twins as we slowly begin to reemerge from our home offices. Office spaces are seeing a shift as employees return to work – or in some cases move to a hybrid working situation splitting time between the office and home. Understanding how to reconfigure an office to manage the amount of space required for each employee to maintain social distancing can be accomplished using a digital twin to virtually shift and reorganize spaces. Adapting spaces quickly to meet changing needs would be imperative to minimizing business risk.

Readying Facilities for the New Reality

The loss of revenue during the pandemic has been a real issue for businesses; bringing people back together is easier said than done. Easing back into a new normal—while still allowing teams to work effectively— means understanding your facilities and spaces, and the capabilities of the technology available. BIM and facility management models, or digital twins, provide one solution for continued remote work and for reimagining existing spaces to prepare them for the new reality.  

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