By Vicky Borchers, NCARB, LEED AP, and Steve Cline, P.E., LEED AP, M.SAME   

Developed by the U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, the Builder Sustainment Management System (SMS) is a web-based software application to help civil engineers, technicians and managers decide when, where and how to best maintain building infrastructure.

Building Information Modeling (BIM), meanwhile, provides a 3D digital representation of the physical and functional aspects of facilities and infrastructure, and has been defined as a “shared knowledge resource for information.”

As use of the Builder SMS grows, efforts are underway to enhance BIM as a tool to manage data and extract it in a way that is beneficial for the management of government facilities. Using enhanced BIM models connected to a database, information from the models can populate the Builder SMS facility condition assessment database. This saves time in the initial data capture process for newer facilities, with the added benefit of creating a change management tool for future government agency use.


A team from Burns & McDonnell recently helped a federal manufacturing client create a campus model from over 40 BIM models, develop a workflow to maintain the models over time, populate the client’s Builder SMS asset inventories, and produce valuable system shutdown maps. Without the model, the client would have been required to evaluate every room and every piece of equipment in the facility and enter the information into a database.

By using the digital clone, more than 350,000 assets, spanning 1.5-million-ft2, were loaded into Builder SMS in a matter of weeks. The model enabled the client to know, automatically, where everything was located (crucial given the sensitive nature of the facility), and to retain all the data in one place using a streamlined approach.

For the model to be most effective, the team established the digital clone using Revit, a BIM authoring tool, in combination with a robust data storage platform, such as SQL Server. Having an external database reduced the amount of data required in the digital clone, thereby limiting the type of data stored in the BIM model to what is essential for managing the facility maps.

With the right setup, mobile tools allow facility managers instant access to data about their facilities and equipment, including access to BIM models. PHOTOS COURTSEY BURNS & MCDONNELL

To create the model, the team worked to find the right balance and proportion of information to include, such as room data, space data, mechanical system data, electrical system data, capital equipment data and construction data.

It was critical to weigh the proportions with regard for the cost/benefit relationship. Too much or too detailed data in the model, and the cost to maintain becomes difficult. At the same time, with too little data, the model could be limited to the point where it would not be valuable. Through adding a few key pieces of data (such as area, space type, space assignment, and occupancy load), the models allowed for new uses of the digital clone. Then once it was determined how assets were grouped or sectioned in the Builder SMS catalog, the information was integrated into the BIM tool as well as the external database link.


To see that data would be in the correct format for other forms of distribution, the team created an intermediate database to connect with Builder SMS. The intermediate database was the central hub bringing all the information together. The dashboard connects to Builder SMS through a Builder Remote Entry Database—managing and exporting the data in an environment that allows information from the digital clone to be uploaded into BuilderSMS. By using the hub to manage data from multiple sources, the assets could be viewed independently across buildings and sections to see that it was cataloged consistently, providing a valuable tool for quality control.

System maintenance checklists are interactive, allowing maintenance staff to scan equipment codes to access the necessary forms and manuals.

Using Revit as a graphical database, views or schedules specific to Builder SMS then were created. With these Excel-like views, missing information could be entered in the BIM authoring tool when new content was added to the model. Incorporating parameters in Revit that manage the Builder SMS data meant that changes in the model would be instantly updated within the parameters associated with Builder SMS. Any data gaps would be highlighted within the Revit schedule views and quickly completed.

The advantage of these tools was that selection of assets requiring change could be done in either a data view or in a graphic view. This allows users to select large quantities of similar items with a single click.


As important as it was to build the system, the workflow was just as important. For the client, the process of managing more than 200 projects a year creates an environment of constant change. To address this demand, the project team trained facilities personnel to maintain the data in a timely fashion, updating the assets quarterly in Builder SMS. When a change is required within the facility, small projects are initiated using the digital clone as a basis. Because not all projects are completed, the workflow references the digital clone to provide background and context for the redesign. Designers only bring in elements that will change or be impacted by the new project. After construction, changes are incorporated back into the digital clone.

With detailed data in consistent platforms all brought together by a dashboard, the client can plan appropriately for the future—and has easy access to simple maps illustrating departmental, functional, or other breakdowns of their spaces.


An owner’s representative that understands the end goals of the facilities management system can steer design and construction teams toward coordinated data collection that eliminates reworking information.

Such a structured approach will organize BIM models, submittals, and operations and maintenance content-critical steps towards enabling an ongoing seamless flow of data into Builder SMS.

Vicky Borchers, NCARB, LEED AP, is Associate Architect/Design Manager, and Steve Cline, P.E., LEED AP, M.SAME, is Senior Project Manager, Burns & McDonnell. They can be reached at; and

[This article first printed in the September-October 2018 issue of The Military Engineer]