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What is 6D BIM?

What is 6D BIM and how can it add value to projects delivered through a building information modelling (BIM) environment? Fred Mills, Co-Founder of The B1M, explains the terminology and potential benefits for both the delivery and operational phases of a built asset’s lifecycle. 

For those coming into the topic cold, Fred starts with a quick re-cap on what BIM itself actually means. In simple terms, he describes it as the process of creating information models or data sets formed of graphical and non-graphical information in a shared digital space known as a Common Data Environment (CDE). The information builds in richness as the project stages progress until the complete data set is handed over to the client at completion.

As you create an information model, you can add scheduling data to different components, generating accurate programme data for your project; a process known as 4D BIM. The next step is to produce accurate cost estimates from the components and it’s this process that is known as 5D BIM. Taking it a step further, 6D BIM is the linking of attribute data to support Facilities Management (FM).


"6D BIM is the linking of attribute data to support Facilities Management and built asset operation" 

That data could include details about the components manufacturer, when it was installed, the necessary maintenance that it requires and when, how to operate it at its optimum level to enhance performance or conserve energy, and its expected lifespan. “Once linked into the information model, 6D data can support decision making during the design process and the operation of the built asset once it’s in use” explains Fred.


At delivery phase, it enables design teams to consider their impact of their proposals over a built asset’s lifecycle, simulating outcomes and anticipated costs. But the ultimate value, lies in the use of that data to support the operational phase.

At handover, project teams can pass their complete data set (known as an Asset Information Model or AIM from that point) over to the end-user. The digital model offers them a more controlled, accessible and easily navigable way of managing their information. “It’s much more practical than the bundles of lever arch folders that are handed over traditionally” says Fred.

With this data on maintenance, lifespans and energy performance to hand, operators can determine the costs of those activities and create spend profiles over a built asset’s life, pre-planning maintenance activities years in advance. It helps them adopt a completely planned and pro-active approach to FM and operation as opposed to a reactive one when unexpected events and costs can crop up at any moment.

Where maintenance does occur, or where an asset is extended, refurbished or re-modelled, operators can update the information model with the relevant points about that event.

For the significant value 6D can bring to the operational phase, Fred describes the availability of that data when designing future buildings as “construction’s Holy Grail”, enabling design teams to hone their proposals based on real in-use data.

"In construction terms, that's the Holy Grail" 

He ends by suggesting that those outside of the industry looking in would be stunned by the widespread – though not unanimous – focus on capital costs. Fred believes this is a symptom of procurement and tendering practices that reward the price for capital delivery as opposed to long term, whole life value. “If that sounds shocking and total madness in the context of what I’ve just explained in this video… well you’re right” he says.

In the United Kingdom (UK), the British Standards Institution’s PAS 1192-3: 2013 covers the process of managing a built asset in the operational phase using BIM. You can watch PAS 1192-3 in 4 Minutes on The B1M.

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