Three years ago, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare (NMHC) established a mandate that all new facilities projects would utilize building information modeling (BIM)—not just to aid in the building process, but to support ongoing facility management.

Kenneth Kaiser, manager facility renovation, NMHC, and Shrimant Jaruhar, BIM manager, NMHC, were on hand at the ASHE Annual Conference in Atlanta to share the process Northwestern has gone through to establish parameters and expectations for its design and construction partners to ensure that what they set out to do is accomplished, during the session “An Owner-Driven BIM to FM Strategy: ‘Begin with the End in Mind.’”

The health system first turned to BIM to solve common issues that creep up on any capital improvement project, such as questionable communication between team members, difficult visualization of end results, and false user expectations. And then they added to that the desire to solve problems that arise when buildings are turned over to owners.

Kaiser quipped that at the end of projects, he’d have a storage room full of more than a hundred banker’s boxes full of data, all of it potentially incomplete in nature and inconsistent in format. “That’s all but inaccessible,” he said. “The BIM technology allows us to create a place where you can attach data to points in space,” he added, referring to all of the links that can exist in a 3-D model that takes the user right to where information is virtually stored.

As part of the process of getting all project team members on board, the system had to develop the infrastructure, tools, and procedures necessary to make it work—all with the goal in mind of having the ability to generate information to both visualize a space when necessary or have access to data when necessary. “What do you want to manage? You’re not going to build the building over again; that’s not the intent,” Kaiser said.

Teams started out signing consensus documents that included both expectations for how BIM would be used as well as deliverables and processes. And while NMHC uses separate contracts for architecture/engineering and construction, all team members also sign a BIM addendum that outlines an agreed upon BIM execution plan (BEP). Also in place are BIM guidelines and standards that Northwestern has created.

In assessing compliance with the BEP, the health system turns to items like the number of conflicts/clashes, number of RFIs, RFI response and resolution times, and schedule and budget variances. It’s also worked to heavily involve ownership and facilities staff in the overall design and construction process, providing input, responding to models, and even seeing handover of data earlier.

So far, lessons at NMHC include the need to detail deliverables in the BIM guidelines, BEP, and contracts—“It needs to have that push to fully realize it,” Juruhar said. Other tips included undergoing an analysis of legacy vendors to ensure they’re on board with the process, both in terms of capability and in interest. And finally, the team said to verify internal resources, too, including management commitment and internal communication processes to ensure a seamless integration.

For more on NMHC’s BIM adoption, see the Construction column in the December issue of Healthcare Design.