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Commercial property operators depend on reliable data to run their assets efficiently, but often the data is uncontrolled and difficult to understand. How can digital technologies enhance building data and operational management? Architect Sara Alonso investigates.

A key part of good building operation is a preventative operation plan, which helps ensure a building operates smoothly. This requires collecting, coordinating and managing enormous amounts of information about how a building works from design through to operation and management.

Yet many property operators struggle to find the right data because it hasn’t been gathered, recorded, stored or analysed well enough: ultimately, uncontrolled and disorganised data can be costly, and in extreme circumstances, a liability.

Redefining operational management

The benefits of analysing, optimising and interpreting raw property information are great, from reducing operational expenditure over a property’s lifespan to anticipating and resolving problems before they happen and enhancing the longevity of key engineering systems.

According to the International Facility Management Association, a successful operational plan can save a company up to a 30 per cent of the facility management bill — so imagine what impact a detailed, data-driven property management plan could have on operational expenditure.

A single data model

Using the latest technology and methodologies ensures efficient data management, which creates valuable knowledge for property owners. Building information modeling (BIM) and augmented reality are good examples of smart process and technologies that are already changing how we define contemporary operational management.

More control and reduced costs

Until recently, building designs created by architects, engineers and designers contained information on a building’s spaces and dimensions. Through BIM — the process of integrating all design, construction and operational data into a single digital model — designers can create up-to-date designs that include not only geometry, but also highly valuable information such as costs, specifications and technical details of each component of a property, all within the one digital model. Integrating the information in this way gives property owners full control of their assets from design and construction through to operation and management, reducing costs and enhancing property value.

Improve operational management

BIM is more commonly known for its application during the planning and construction stages. But BIM also delivers added value during building operation — information on the operation and lifecycle of key building components can be added to the building model, making it possible to create a complete picture of the entire lifecycle of a building, improving both construction and operational effectiveness.

Through a single integrated building data model, operators can also extract, add and access vital information such as maintenance manuals and specifications of building components, leading to improved operational management.

Solve problems early

However, to truly exploit the power of BIM, you need to harness disruptive technologies, such as augmented reality. In essence, augmented reality allows operators to visualise property data and systems on site and in real time: imagine a walk-through survey of a property that, through the use of such technology, highlights any construction conflicts before construction starts, informs how to solve them and allows key decisions to be made in a live, visual environment.

Maximise performance

By using the latest technologies and data management methodologies, it is possible to create a facility management plan that allows property owners to make improved operational decisions, simply by doing the right things at the right time. This enhances property values by reducing total occupancy costs and capital expenditures, as well as enhances the longevity of key engineering systems. BIM and the power of data management are changing the way properties are designed and operated, maximsing technical and financial performance.