How to Leverage BIM From Cost Estimation and Beyond

In the world of construction, Building Information Modeling (BIM) helps provide accurate cost estimations and other important information — but only when used correctly. As a standalone tool, BIM has many limitations. After all, it’s only a tool. Relying exclusively on technology without the benefit of analysis and insight by industry experts can lead to a host of oversights, missed opportunities, and difficulties in translating data to real-world applications.

For this reason, while BIM is a strong asset for any complex construction project, owners and developers should always use it in conjunction with on-the-ground experts who both understand BIM software and have the requisite trade experience within the construction industry.

When you combine expert guidance with BIM, you’re getting the best of both worlds. Here are some efficient ways to leverage BIM advantages, from construction cost estimation to 3D building models and beyond.

Cost Estimation

First, let’s consider one of the foremost benefits of BIM: construction cost estimation.
Absent expert input, BIM doesn’t always give the clearest, most precise estimate for more complex construction projects. However, when coupled with the insight of experienced building trades specialists, the technology can be informed with more realistic data that will produce far more accurate results.
This is the primary goal of BIM: to give it enough information to perform at peak efficiency, which requires expert guidance, troubleshooting, and analysis.

Though you may spend additional time and resources tweaking BIM, it’s still more efficient and cost-effective than creating estimates from scratch. In every project, but particularly for those that are more complex and nuanced, you want the most accurate cost estimate based on the most accurate data, and BIM allows you to meet this threshold.

Building Alternatives

BIM technology provides a cost estimation based on the most common materials (or suggested materials) and standard construction techniques. However, the software can only render results based on the data available to it; in other words, BIM can’t predict market fluctuations that might make a traditionally inexpensive material suddenly far more costly, or anticipate the potential difficulties of putting two types of materials side by side.

A consultation with a construction expert can help pinpoint potential problems with the more common materials used in the algorithm or even highlight alternatives that may reduce costs or provide other benefits.
Once you have this information from a trusted construction expert, you can use BIM to play out various design and construction scenarios. At this point, developers can make the most informed choices using all the tools at their disposal.

Real-World Data

Some estimating models rely on paper blueprints without real-world data influencing the overall design. This leads to inaccurate measurements, outdated design elements, and potentially larger problems when the construction phase begins.

When using BIM technology, real-world data is absolutely critical. While it may be tempting to skip this step, gathering reliable data helps prevent costly, inefficient errors down the road. This is especially important for bigger, more complex projects such as a sports complex or theme park.

If you work with a construction expert, they can use a combination of the latest technologies and practical knowledge to gather data and inform the BIM software. With that information, BIM can create the most accurate 3D model possible, which helps streamline the project and makes each step of the process that much simpler.

Resolve Issues Before They Start

One of the greatest strengths of BIM is its ability to map out various scenarios before work begins at the actual construction site.

When changes occur — which is unavoidable in any project — an updated BIM can help predict potential problems. One small shift can lead to major issues with the installation of electrical or plumbing systems. And a minor error could lead to much larger problems down the road.
At the Jobsite, these issues can quickly stall progress and even require major rework, which could cost significant time and resources for owners and project developers.

If, however, you regularly update your BIM with data supplied via expert insight, you are much more likely to catch these issues before they become significant problems. If caught early enough, it often takes only a small shift to prevent a costly mistake.

Save Energy

More and more organizations are pivoting towards an energy-efficient building model for both environmental impact and cost-efficiency.

When used along with expert advice, BIM can help you create a variety of scenarios that reduce a structure’s overall energy consumption. Because the technology also shows data about the expected lifespan of key construction elements, BIM can also help you make a maintenance schedule that will keep a building working at maximum efficiency for years to come.

The benefits of this can’t be overstated. Energy consumption is a key consideration for most owners and land developers, and when experts work in concert with BIM, they can analyze the possibilities and select the design that provides the most long-term benefits.

Project Scope

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, BIM technology provides the most accurate view of a project. The software is comprehensive and provides intricate details so you can visualize the full scope, including a timeline or roadmap from ideation and detailed design through active construction.
During your construction consultation, an expert can guide you through the roadmap and help pinpoint factors that may affect your timeline, mitigating risks and capitalizing on opportunities to streamline processes without compromising quality.

Final Thoughts

While there are certain limitations to Building Information Modeling as a stand-alone piece of technology, the advantages of this construction tool are many. However, project managers must note these limitations and work with a construction expert to ensure that their use of BIM is comprehensive, efficient, and accurate. Partnering with experts who have on-the-ground experience can help avert disastrous scenarios that halt construction and exponentially increase your timeline and/or costs.

Willis Construction Consulting has a team of industry professionals who offer keen insights, expert opinions, and ongoing feedback throughout the construction process. Contact us for more information about our construction consulting services.


Image Credit: Piqsels @ Creative Commons

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