Home » BIM for FM: Lessons from Ireland’s ‘digital hospital’ megaproject

BIM for FM: Lessons from Ireland’s ‘digital hospital’ megaproject

by Sion Geschwindt
BIM for FM: Lessons from Ireland’s ‘digital hospital’ megaproject

We caught up with Kieran Beggan and George Harold, co-founders and co-CEOs at Fexillon, to find out how the firm is creating a single source of truth for Children’s Health Ireland, the operators of Ireland’s largest healthcare project

Buildings are getting smarter and so are the technologies used to design, build and manage them. The cornerstone of this digital transformation has been the development and adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM).

BIM is an integrated digital process providing coordinated, reliable, shareable data throughout all project phases from design through construction and into operation.

While we often think of BIM as a design and construction tool, it offers myriad benefits for facilities management (FM), especially during project handover.

The handover of building information to owners and operators in a digital format is central to attaining a golden thread of information that is accurate, accessible and up to date, as mandated by the Building Safety Act 2022.

However, the reality is that both new and existing buildings vary hugely in terms of the quality and consistency of information that is digitally recorded. This is particularly problematic for facilities managers who often lack the building information they need to make informed decisions.

When it comes to managing mission-critical infrastructure, overcoming these hurdles and achieving the golden thread is even more important, as missing or inaccurate building information can be life-threatening.

Nowhere is this more poignant than in the healthcare sector, where facilities need to be one hundred percent reliable and operationally dependent every moment of every day.

The FM challenge for hospitals

Traditionally, at the handover stage of new projects, all the operations and maintenance information about a building is delivered to the client by the contractor, usually in paper format along with a digital backup.

Individual paper manuals are typically stored in different locations, making it almost impossible to keep all copies in order and up to date.

Generally, handover information contains design and construction record data, an asset register, maintenance instructions, and product supplier and manufacturer information. Basically everything the facilities manager needs to know about the way the building was designed and constructed.

However, following project handover it is often discovered that operations and maintenance manuals are missing information, are inaccurate, or difficult to navigate and reference due to a lack of digitisation. This information gap limits an owners or operators’ ability to carry out proper FM.

“The owner operator is ultimately the person that’s going to have full responsibility, that manages all the risk, for the design, the construction, the maintenance of the facility,” said George Harold, CEO and co-founder of Fexillon, in an interview with Build in Digital. “Without giving them the power of the information, it becomes a big and daunting task.”

BIM for FM

BIM offers a solution to the FM challenge for hospitals. As hospital environments become ever more complex and more strictly regulated, the integration of BIM data and processes with simulation and analysis tools can enable better decision-making and support improved predictive asset planning and delivery.

With clients and FM operators struggling to find enough time and resources to maintain statutory compliance and manage technical data checking, it is something that ought to be automated and managed digitally.

As detailed in a paper published by BuildingSMART, these issues can be addressed through the specified adoption and use of digitised FM information, globally interoperable identification standards, industry recognised classification systems, the application of a standardised information management and OpenBIM delivery process.

However, as one recent study reveals, reported cases of BIM adoption to support FM and lifecycle management is still, in general, limited.

  fexillon children's health ireland new children's hospital BIM Facilities management
Kieran Beggan and George Harold, co-founders and co-CEOs at Fexillon (Credit: Fexillon)

But Irish firm Fexillon is working with CHI to change that.

Fexillon, founded by FM experts and good friends George Harold and Kieran Beggan, has developed a platform that helps streamline the management of building information across the lifecycle – from planning and design to operations and maintenance.

The duo, who met over 20 years ago as students studying building construction and maintenance in Dublin, say they experienced first-hand how manual, outdated approaches to information handover too often leave facilities managers in the dark.

“In many cases FM and operations teams are handed over the BIM Model files without being engaged earlier in the BIM process,” Kieran told Build in Digital.

“This puts the BIM delivery teams at risk of missing vital information required for FM and operations to utilise the BIM model at operational phase of the project,” he added.

The alternative, say the founders, is to involve operations teams at day one of a build – long before construction has even commenced.

In this way, project teams and facilities managers can work together on one shared platform, create a ‘single source of truth’ and ensure that a complete digital building record is available at handover – securing soft landings for owners and operators.

Fexillon’s platform has already been put to good use on several mission-critical projects across the UK & Ireland, Europe and most recently, North America.

Perhaps most notably was the firm’s appointment as digital construction handover management specialists for the new children’s hospital’ (NCH) in Dublin – the largest healthcare project ever undertaken in Ireland.

Birthing a ‘digital hospital’

The NCH project will serve 25% of Ireland’s population by bringing together the services currently provided at three children’s hospitals into a single modern, custom-designed, digital hospital at St James’ campus.

The hospital is being developed by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) for Children’s Health Ireland (CHI). CHI was established in 2019 when Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin, Temple Street Children’s University Hospital and paediatric services at Tallaght University Hospitals integrated into one organisation to deliver healthcare to Ireland’s children, in preparation for the opening of the NCH.

The 160,000 sq.m facility will feature over 6,000 rooms spread across seven storeys, 380 individual in-patient rooms, 60 critical care beds, 93 day beds and 22 operating theatres.

It will also feature four acres of outdoor space with 14 gardens and courtyards, a helipad and 1,000 underground parking spaces.

The hospital has also secured a BREEAM Excellent design stage certification. The NPHDB say this makes it “one of only a small number of hospitals in the world to have achieved this rating for sustainability.”

The NCH was designed to be ‘born’ as a digital hospital. The goal is to deliver high-quality patient-centric care in a cost-effective manner through innovative technology enablement.

In July 2022, the Irish Government agreed for the funding of a new Electronic Health Records (EHR) system at the NCH.

EHR is a longitudinal electronic record of patient health information generated by one or more encounters in any CHI care delivery setting. It is a comprehensive solution that supports the creation and sharing of key patient information. This is the largest deployment of EHR in Ireland’s healthcare to date.

Supporting this digital strategy, at the outset of the Project in 2014 the NPHDB also recognised the benefits of BIM in the operation of the NCH.

The NPHDB procured the design team, contractors and equipment vendors to provide a level 2 BIM environment inclusive of COBie throughout the design, construction, commissioning and handover stages of the project. This facilitates a comprehensive as-built asset rich model that is to be used in operation, and this is where Fexillon comes in.

Early engagement

Fexillon has put together a ‘digital project delivery team’ comprising BIM Specialists, a COBie certified professional, FM and operational readiness experts, data specialists and sustainability experts to enable CHI FM engage with design and construction teams early on the project.

Fexillon facilitates engagement and collaboration with industry experts through the soft landings and BIM process framework, which helps CHI FM understand how their building information is being compiled at an early stage of the build.

Rodney Dass, Fexillon Digital FM Lead/CHI FM Project Manager, explained: “The major concern for hospitals on-boarding FM and operations teams is that they were not engaged in the building information process right from the inception and design stage.

“This makes it challenging for them to understand what information will be eventually handed over to CHI FM and what can be successfully utilised by the onboarding FM teams at the operational stage.”

To ensure that CHI FM are provided with accurate, traceable building information at handover, Fexillon have deployed a number of digital tools and techniques aimed at early engagement between design, construction and FM teams.

It’s about bringing the process, technology and people together”

Tony O’Rourke, CHI FM Director of Estates and FM and Sustainability

Integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) is a software application that is utilised by FM and operations teams to optimise facilities management processes.

In order to successfully implement an IWMS Platform for the owner operator they need accurate information in a standardised interoperable format. Fexillon say they have engaged with the construction and design teams to ensure the information is fit for export to any CAFM/IWMS vendor that they chose, with the operator being the sole owner of the data.

This is done in line with the GS1 standard, which brings visibility, traceability and certainty to building and asset information for the construction and facilities management industries.

In partnership with GS1 and the main contractor and design team, global standards for asset identification and tracking and adoption of standardised data sharing practices have been implemented on the project.

Fexillon said that this single source of truth for the NCH helps the facilities manager ultimately drive efficiencies, make productivity gains and improve sustainability throughout the asset lifecycle.

Making the digital hospital a reality

The NCH project is a mammoth undertaking, which commenced construction in late 2017 and is scheduled to be substantially complete by the building contractor BAM in March 2024, and then handed over to CHI for a minimum six month period of operational commissioning. Once the hospital opens to the public its FM team will be responsible for operating the facility for decades to come.

What is clear is that early adoption of BIM with the engagement of the owner and operator in the design and construction phase is critical to achieving a golden thread of information.

What the NCH project demonstrates is that while digital technology is key, creating a single source of truth for a building is equally about people and partnerships. Working together and exchanging information in an open, collaborative way is undoubtably key to making buildings safer, more efficient and more sustainable.

Tony O’Rourke, CHI FM Director of Estates FM and Sustainability, concluded: “It’s about bringing the process, technology and people together, and knowing that our data is the right quantity, the right quality and fit for purpose for operationalising the building.”

Fexillon & CHI New Children’s Hospital Site Visit

Main image: The NCH under construction (credit: BAM Nuttall)

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