At some point in the not-too-distant future, all digital engineering models used for the planning, design and construction of buildings and infrastructure will also be used for their operation. For example, building facilities managers will be able to reorder a damaged carpet tile simply by going to a virtual version of the room it is in and clicking on the floor finish.
They will also be able to trace a faulty electrical relay through all building management systems and then interrogate information on the relay. It will be possible to undertake reactive, planned and lifecycle replacement works with a full understanding of the spaces affected and measures that need to be put in place to minimize disruption. Investigations on reactive calls will be done centrally, with engineers and operatives being provided with information rather than having to find it themselves on the ground.
Such ‘digital asset management’ will be driven by a new type of helpdesk that is technically adept at identifying and solving problems as well communicating information between facilities managers and maintenance engineers. The philosophy will be one of using predictive maintenance techniques and appropriate technologies, reducing the requirement for on-the-ground investigation and intrusive maintenance.
Clearly the value of a digital engineering model being used for operation cannot be underestimated. At present Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an invaluable tool for the design and construct phases of a project, but these phases typically last for just two to five years. The possibility of using BIM for 10, 20 or over 50 years during a building’s operation should provide a significant incentive for any organisation setting out on this journey. But while the benefits are potentially enormous, so are the technological challenges.
Laing O’Rourke’s digital engineering team is very close to overcoming them. Next year Laing O’Rourke will deliver the largest single Australian defence capital works project since the Second World War – and potentially one of the first globally to have a fully developed asset information management model. The AUD$870 million Moorebank Units Relocation project in southwest Sydney involves building new facilities for 17 military units at Holsworthy Barracks, some 3km from Moorebank. Digital engineering is being used through the design and delivery phases of the project. In 2013 Laing O’Rourke took this a step further by trialling the development of an asset model of the combined mess, gym and pool building at Holsworthy.
The first stage was to ‘uplift’ the existing digital engineering model so that systems were connected and information such as furniture, fixtures and equipment were included. This was then brought into the EcoDomus software, which has already successfully linked a number of building information models with facilities management systems in the USA. The final stage was to connect live building management system feeds and scheduled maintenance to the model using the defined data structure.
Laing O’Rourke developed the EcoDomus model at its own expense and without a brief from the client as it wanted to gain a better understanding of the status of the software and technology available in the marketplace. The initiative was supported by Laing O’Rourke’s Australia Hub Managing Director, Cathal O’Rourke. The Department of Defence is now sponsoring further stages of the trial. It has asked Arup to collaborate with Laing O’Rourke to investigate what data should be captured in future digital engineering models to maximize their asset management potential.