BIM for FM at UCSF

The end goal of Building Information Modeling (BIM) was always understood to be "building lifecycle management," and yet, even after nearly 20 years of the term BIM being formally introduced in the AEC industry, the application of BIM to FM—the operation and maintenance of a building—is all but non-existent. A few years ago, I reviewed the book, "BIM for Facility Managers" by Paul Teicholz, in which all the case studies of BIM-FM integration that were presented were more of a record of the difficulties and frustrations that accompanied these early efforts than a compilation of "success stories" per se. Given that the operating cost of a building is over 80% of its total cost, it is extremely puzzling as to why a more concerted effort has not been made to find a way to bring the many benefits of BIM to FM.

But perhaps, this is finally starting to change. A few months ago, the organization, IFMA (International Facility Management Association) presented a webinar on "Integrating BIM and FM: Status, Case Study and Opportunities" which included a case study of how BIM was integrated with FM on the new UCSF (University of California, San Francisco) Medical Center in Mission Bay. Unlike BIM for design and construction which are, by now, well established and understood in the AEC industry, there are no known strategies for implementing BIM for FM, so the UCSF-Mission Bay team had to start from scratch and figure it out. The effort has taken years, but it is finally ready and in use in the real-life operation and maintenance of the hospital. An overview of how the BIM-FM integration was done, as shared in the webinar, is presented in this article.

About the Project

The UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay is the newest addition to UCSF Health, and is San Francisco's first new hospital in 30 years. Located on a 15 acre site, it is a $1.5 billion, 878,000 sq. ft., 289-bed complex with specialty hospitals for children, women and cancer patients that was approved in 2008 and opened in 2015 (Figure 1). Developed as an IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) project, the team included well-known firms such as Stantec Architecture, Rutherford & Chekene, Arup, DPR Construction, and AECOM, which worked side by side with the owners in an integrated "big room," and used all the advanced technologies for design and construction that are now common on large projects, including BIM, analysis and simulation, design coordination, etc. By the time the project was completed and handed over, it came with a complete set of fully coordinated, multi-disciplinary BIM models of the complex (Figure 2).

A newer addition to the hospital that was completed earlier this year is the Precision Cancer Medicine Building(PCMB) for providing adult outpatient cancer care. It is connected to the main building via a shared lobby, and is a $275 million, six story, 170,000-square foot facility (Figure 3). The project was approved in 2015, and not only was it designed and constructed as an IPD project, it also had the benefit of a full BIM workflow right from the start. Additionally, the FM technology team of the UCSF Mission Bay hospital, which was well established by that time, had a chance to get involved in the design process from the beginning and could specify what exactly was needed in the model for FM. Thus, while the BIM for FM initiative was developed for the entire hospital, the PCMB building was built from the ground up with it in mind.

Integrating with Maximo

While the efficient operation and management of a facility is important for any building type, it is especially critical for a medical/hospital building, as it is literally a matter of life and death. If a space is not functional, for example, an operating theatre, it can have critical repercussions for the patients who are being treated there. This was the key factor driving the FM team at UCSF to look for greater operational efficiency, in addition to, of course, the costs savings that would result from a more efficient and responsive FM system.

The UCSF Health Facilities team, which is responsible for the operation and maintenance of all the four UCSF hospitals comprising almost 120 buildings in total, had been working with IBM Maximo for CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) for many years, making it the key application that had to be integrated in its  "BIM4FM" (BIM for FM) initiative. The process involved first identifying the information that was needed for FM from the detailed BIM model that was received as part of the project handover. This included information related to infrastructure, patient support, fire and life safety, environmental care, code and regulations, etc., which collectively constituted about 5-10% of all the information that the model contained. This FM-related information was then brought into Maximo through its BIM extension, which includes COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) import and a 3D viewer that allows the imported BIM data to be displayed in context (Figure 4). 

In the case of UCSF Health, Revit was the BIM application that was used for design and construction. Once the project was completed, the model was imported into Maximo using its BIM Extension, which used the COBie data from Revit to automatically populate the Maximo database of the facility with the relevant details of all the assets in it.  While Maximo's BIM Extension allows any developer to create a model viewer plug-in, the one that was used for the UCSF project was the Autodesk Forge Viewer. This allowed the FM personnel to view any asset in the facility in the context of its location, browse through its BIM properties, its CMMS properties such as work order history and repair history, and perform any FM tasks on it such as creating a work order, scheduling preventative maintenance, and so on (Figure 5).

The resulting BIM4FM model of the facility, with each element linked to its CMMS data in Maximo, provided the UCSF FM staff with a graphical interface for better management, detection, and resolution of maintenance issues. Additionally, by virtue of being part of the BIM model, each individual element was automatically organized into a relational hierarchy, making it much easier to find specific elements and troubleshoot issues. For example, a sudden break in a water line that happened one night caused flooding in the kitchen and cafeteria, threatening to make them inoperable the next day. Thanks to the BIM4FM model (Figure 6), the source of the leak was quickly detected and fixed within a few hours, allowing the kitchen and cafeteria to resume their normal operations the next day. Without the model, the FM team would have to rely on the traditional construction document set to detect the source of the leak, a process that would have taken much longer.

Use of VueOps

UCSF Health went further in their BIM4FM initiative by using a solution called VueOps to provide a more intuitive interface for navigating the FM models of their facilities. VueOps, which was incubated at DPR Construction (the contractor for UCSF-Mission Bay) and subsequently spun off as a separate company, integrates with both Revit and Maximo. A cloud-based solution, it provides a single portal for all the facilities managed by UCSF Health. It has used several APIs from Autodesk's Forge development platform to develop its viewing and data foundation; in particular, the 3D models are lightweight and quickly navigable, in addition to being visually pleasing (Figure 7).

While some of the functionality of VueOps overlaps with that of Maximo—such as the ability to search, view, and manage assets in a 3D model that was shown in Figure 5—VueOps provides an easier, more intuitive interface for FM personnel compared to the full-blown Maximo product. This is why UCSF Health has chosen to implement VueOps across all their facilities, and it is now the main application for their BIM4FM development (Figure 8). Being cloud-based, the facility data is accessible online on all devices through mobile apps, which is extremely helpful for field engineers as they go about their regular operation and maintenance tasks.

For projects where a full BIM implementation was done, such as the new PCMB building, the building data could be pulled into VueOps directly from the model. For older projects which did not use BIM fully, such as the Mission Bay hospital, or in projects done using CAD, such as UCSF's older hospitals, the building data had to be manually input to create the required BIM4FM data in VueOps (Figure 9). UCSF elected to do this for all its medical buildings and the manual entry process took about 13 months, requiring the use of consulting services, which were also provided by VueOps.  


Needless to say, there is much more to the BIM4FM initiative at UCSF Health than could be captured in a single webinar or a single article, and I hope to be able to follow up on the effort and get more details such as how changes to the building geometry, in the case of a renovation, are made (Is the Revit model updated?), what happens to the 90-95% of the data in the full design and construction model that is not needed for FM (Is it archived, and if so, how and where?), and so on.

For now, however, it is great to see such a comprehensive and well-thought-out effort to extend the benefits of BIM well beyond the design and construction phase. Now that BIM has matured—and given that a full-fledged BIM model is a prerequisite—the time to extend it to FM seems right. Just as there are many BIM applications with different approaches, there could, of course, be many ways to extend BIM to FM. But it is extremely helpful to see one that has worked so well.

About the Author

Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at


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