Interview with Kath Fontana, BAM

Kath is a Chartered FM Surveyor with over 20 years’ experience of delivering Facilities Management with blue chip companies such as Serco, Aspire Defence Services, Interserve and most recently BAM FM Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of BAM Construct UK.

She has extensive experience of managing complex programmes and service delivery at senior level across a range of public sector organisations and within various contracting arrangements, including PFI. Kath has particular experience of managing the interface between construction and FM having worked on many high profile PFI projects. As a result she is passionate about innovation, integration and the whole life management of buildings. Most recently she has been instrumental in developing BAM’s integrated construction/FM strategy for BIM and Soft Landings. She is also a member of the RICS Professional Group Board for Facilities Management and of the recently formed BIM4FM Group.


BIM Crunch: Interview with…

Name: Kath Fontana

Company & role: Managing Director, BAM FM Ltd (FM Division of BAM Construct UK)

Employee numbers: 800



Were you involved in the decision-making stage when your company chose to implement BIM?

No, I joined just last year – way, way after BAM Construct started using BIM. But I did take a strategic decision to drive the uptake of BIM in my own business unit.


How did your company make the transition in adopting BIM practices – have you had to change any internal processes or culture?

For my bit of the business (FM) we have had to learn about BIM very fast, just to get up to speed with our construction colleagues. Initially I think my team may have been quite concerned about the technical side, but actually as time has gone on we’ve come to understand that our expertise lies in the data and not in model authoring, and we are now comfortable in our own space. And the culture of BAM is a perfect fit for BIM – collaborative, innovative, and efficient – so it was quite easy to slot into the BIM teams and processes. It really has been a case of ‘come on in, join the party’.


Can you identify some key projects the business has executed with BIM so far?

FM is just beginning its journey on the practical application of BIM in our field. But we are mega excited about the FM interface role we are just starting to deliver on the Google project, and also the UCL Academy project, where we are using BIM processes on one of our existing PFI buildings.


What benefits are coming out of using BIM on these projects?

Its early days but I would be very surprised if we did not see significant improvements in operability and in maintenance efficiency Part of the UCL Academy project is to baseline and then track the costs/performance of BIM enabled FM versus traditional methods. We hope to report back on this in 12 months or so.


Who do you think should be the primary driver in the BIM implementation process?

I think it should be the end users really. They will be the stewards and beneficiaries of the model in the long term, so it’s in their interest to make sure it is right from the start. But I do worry about technical competency so it is up to the experts to translate the processes into simple, easy to understand concepts. I think the Governments ‘plain language’ questions will assist greatly with this– these will be especially valuable for client side teams (private or public sector).


What do you feel are the critical factors in successful implementation of BIM?

From my end of the telescope the most important factors are people related: collaboration, understanding of and respect for everyone’s contribution and (toughest of all) a non-contractual approach. Of course you need great modeling skills, but unless everyone prepared to collaborate I fear that BIM will be miss its full potential to transform the way the industry actually works. It has to be said that the FM discipline is still a bit sceptical about BIM but I’m encouraged that the BIM4FM group has been formed to articulate the benefits and maximize BIM take up in my field.


Has the adoption of BIM changed the design process and, if so, in what way?

In all of my 20+ years in the industry I have never heard so many designers talking about engaging FM and end users! I hope we can capitalise on this energy to make sure that this emerging philosophy sticks.


Have you any future trend predictions for BIM?

We are already seeing lots of clients asking us what to do with the model post construction, so I think within 3-5 years it will be the industry standard way of transferring data throughout the whole building lifecycle. My dream would be that one day it will replace the whole dysfunctional O&M process!


Biggest BIM-related challenge to date?

Getting our heads around all the jargon! NWD, IFC, Uniclass, COBie etc., etc…I could do with a BIM dictionary. Or maybe someone could set up a course – ‘Teaching BIM as a Foreign Language’ perhaps?


Biggest business lesson learned to date?

Delegating well has always been something I have had to work on. But done right, it always pays off. I try and remember this quote: ‘When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’’ (Lao Tzu)


Your house is on fire – which three material items do you grab?

I’m glad to have a chance to answer this again because I was caught on the hoof at BIM Show Live with this question and I think I gave a rubbish answer… so this time, I would save my old photo albums, my jewellery box and my Dad’s miners lamp. A much better answer I hope.


Where do you see BIM in ten years’ time?

Hard to say, the rate of software development is so rapid that I think BIM will have moved on so much that it will be unrecognizable compared to today. I have a vision of us all using screens like Tom Cruise in minority report…


In another life, which career path would you have pursued?

Another question I answered at BIM Show Live, but no change to the answer this time! I would have loved to have either been a barrister, or in musical theatre. Both of which would have satisfied my innate desire to be a show off.