The average construction cost of a building has been estimated to be about 10% of the life cycle cost. A lot of these costs could be reduced by integrating feedback and monitoring systems — accessible by both the users and the facility manager. Most of the technological improvements in the building industry are geared towards the design and delivery processes — stopping short of the post-occupancy stage.

Recall what makes a building smart.

The most basic difference between a conventional building and a smart building is an underlying IT Infrastructure.

It has been posited in earlier write-ups that the Structural and the Technological Components of a Smart Building cannot operate in isolation of each other.

Using a hardware-software analogy to compare sister industries — PC and Smartphones — this entails the use of an Operating System as highlighted in an earlier write-up. In other words, a smart building is a digital facility, and it would take an operating system to monitor and integrate the diverse systems it’s comprised of.

In the last few write-ups, we have approached the design of a smart building as a data-creation process.

In this write-up, we will see why it would take the 7th Dimension of BIM to leverage the data created during design for the optimal operation of a Smart Building. In this write-up also, we will explore the different modules/facets that make up an ideal Facility Management Solution for Smart Buildings:

  • Building Management;
  • Facility Management; and
  • Customer Support.


When the building industry progressed from CAD to BIM, the attention was initially on the Modeling Facet of BIM. Thus, 3D visualization seemed like the most obvious benefit. As BIM matured over time, the industry realized so many benefits could be reaped from the Information Facet. This brought about time simulation of the delivery process (4D BIM). Cost estimation from the model (5D BIM). Diverse analyses for sustainable designs (6D BIM)…

Quite recently too, more attention is being given the Building Facet — through such innovations as Prefabrication and Digital Fabrication. All of these though; is focused on the design and delivery phases of the building life cycle.

What happens after delivery?

Since most of the life cycle costs of a building are during the maintenance stage, a huge benefit of deploying BIM on a project is reaped at this stage. The entire information generated during the design and delivery processes are captured in a Record Model — a digital version of the delivered building. Every component of the building has its properties captured in the Record Model, with accurate Specifications and Keynotes. This forms the database of the Facility Management System, FMS.

As mentioned in an earlier write-up, every Technology System in a Smart Building has a Database. Leveraging Structured Query Language (SQL) and Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), these systems exchange information. For example, the Lighting System queries the FMS for the spatial distribution of the lighting loads — with their respective manufacturers, wattage etc.

It is thus obvious, the importance of accurate Information Exchanges during delivery.

Without an accurate Record Model, the potentials of the 7D BIM will not be maximized.


The past four previous write-ups had explored the various aspects of a Smart Building delivery — Planning, Design, Value Chain, and Assembly — employing an Integrated Project Delivery. A theme of the whole discussion is that the clients/end users are always part of the delivery processes. Notwithstanding, there is still the need for an extensive handover process, walking the end users through the various systems of the building.

The handover process involves Handover Documentation and End-user Training.

The documentation is mostly for the Facility Manager. This includes Specification Write-ups from the various consultants, Manufacturers’ Spec Sheets, User Guides and Manuals, and any other reference material that would be of use over the building life cycle. These supplement the Record Model; and are all accessed from the FMS.

The End-user Training involves hands-on training through the various Technology Systems of the Smart Building — especially the Control System. A crucial part of this process is creating the user profiles and credentials, and getting the users acquainted with the various User Interface.

If there’s biometric access control, for instance, the users’ profiles are created with their respective details. The necessary apps are installed and login details verified — including that of the FMS.

An important part of the handover process is feedback from the client/users. This includes confirming the needs outlined at the programming phase of the project; as well as the ease of use of the various technology systems. Therefore, the outcome could warrant some adjustments or even replacement. However, these are minimized if the users had been fully part of the delivery journey.


In the commercial space, Facility Management has gained its place as a specialty. Facility Managers are expected to have a background in construction practices, local regulations, purchasing, project management, account management, human resources, building systems, and operations. There are even international associations — such as IFMA and BOMA — dedicated to educating Facility Managers.

How about the residential space?

The role of a Facility Manager in the residential space might not be as stringent as in the commercial space — depending on the size of the Facility.

Imagine a standalone tiny country house, of three or four bedrooms. Notwithstanding, smart homes can also be a network of facilities — a Smart Estate — sharing common utilities and spaces. This might be referred to as a commercial residence, but it is still in the residential space. Putting all these in perspective, therefore, whoever is in charge of managing the Smart Home after delivery would be referred to as the Facility Manager. This could be the end user, it could be the “home-keeper” or it could be a dedicated company.

Just like in the commercial space, the facility manager should be part of the delivery process, up to handover for obvious reasons. In other words, the facility manager should be part of the decision making process. This is because the maintenance of the various systems is his/her sole responsibility long after delivery.

In summary, a facility manager should have a thorough understanding of the structural systems, technology systems, operating system etc. found in the Smart Building.


As highlighted in an earlier write-up, the BOSS (Building Operating System Services) uses a SCADA Architecture (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition). This places all the technology systems on a lower layer; while the operating system queries and integrates them via a common language. When perfected, this would entail using Artificial Intelligence to continuously monitor every system in the Smart Building for optimum performance.

Building Management is the core function of the Building Operating System.
Presently, there are lots of ad-hoc solutions in the market. Many of which are not compatible with each other.

While the leading tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon are releasing great gadgets and solutions, it would still take an overarching control system to unify all these solutions. 
Through its set of distributed services, it monitors every technology (and structural) systems in the smart building.
For example, the sensors in the HVAC ducts report the temperature, humidity levels; the occupancy sensors in the lighting system report the occupancy state of the spaces etc. 
The Operating System takes informed decisions based on these reports — to optimize comfort, energy usage etc. The combined reports are then presented on its dashboard — accessible via the dedicated app.
In summary, Building Management is a local function. Thus, it uses the Local Area Network in the Building. This ensures the operations are behind the firewall. It also ensures smooth operation of the facility, even without internet access.


We live in an era of Big Data — The Cloud.

The emergence of BIM in the AECO sector has made it one of biggest creators of data. The entire information exchanged during design, the Record Model, and every other document mentioned so far — including the data coming from the Building Management System. These all have to be stored in a cloud-based Facility Management System — for easy access to information and decision-making.

A very great tool for this is YouBIM.

Whereas the Building Management System, BMS is a building-level function, the Facility Management System, FMS is an enterprise-level function.

The BMS uses the Ethernet communication protocol (LAN), while the FMS uses the Internet communication protocol (WAN). 
The bridge between the two systems is The Firewall — typically the function of the router in the Smart Home. 
The primary reason behind this communication topology is security.
The BMS takes care of the inbound activities of the smart building, while the FMS takes care of the outbound activities. Thus, the security of the information beyond the firewall is entrusted to the Facility Management Company.
This brings us again to the place of the Facility Manager in the residential space. In an ideal world, this would be a function of a dedicated Facility Management Company, that serves as a service provider…
Whereas the BMS focuses on the operational functions of the smart building, the FMS focuses on the business processes. 
These processes include parts replacement, maintenance scheduling, inventory management, service/works orders etc.
Therefore, the FMS relies on the BMS for up-to-date information; and thus, accurate decisions.
The FMS is accessible by the Facility Manager — and sometimes the homeowner too.


The idea of using a BMS and an FMS bridged by the firewall is to reduce security challenges — not eliminate it. In the end, there is no perfect technology. Automobiles fail, Smartphones fail — every technology does. In other words, there is nothing like a bulletproof technology. New technology emerges and replaces older ones. Hardware upgrade; software update — firmware too.Thus, the essence of customer support is to ensure everything is intact and up-to-date.

Every technology has within it, potential sources of failure — and end users are aware of that. What makes the difference is the explicit assurance of maintenance and support. This typically comes in the form of a Maintenance Contract between the Smart AEC Firm and the Building Owner(s). In the contract is specified the frequency of scheduled maintenance by the company. This, in turn, is typically outsourced to the Facility Management Company.

For example, every three months, the company will physically inspect the Smart Building and identify any anomaly that might not be so obvious from the online dashboard. This could also help identify components that are due for upgrade or replacement.

This, on one hand, is a Recurring Revenue Business Model for the Smart AEC Firm; and on the other hand, ensures peace of mind to the end users.

Another important aspect of the maintenance packages is insurance policies. The level of damage covered by insurance and/or the AEC firm is stated in the maintenance contract.

In summary, even after the delivery of the smart building, end-user support is a continuous service that ensures peace of mind to the end users and generates revenue for the delivery company. This also serves as a Post-occupancy evaluation — for the satisfaction level of the end-users and feedback.

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***Adapted from Blaze Monthly Digest – October 2018.

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