BIM: A Strategic Tool for Construction Cost Estimating

Technology is increasingly critical in the construction industry and is directly tied to productivity levels and the ability to meet projected deadlines. More complex aspects of construction projects like cost estimation are particularly enhanced by the use of the right technology.

Although Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been in use for several decades, its use as a beneficial tool during design and construction has been increasing over the past several years. How does BIM work, and how does it benefit the construction industry? We’ll explore this cutting-edge technology below.

BIM Basics

BIM is 3D-modeling software that illustrates in digital format, what a building will look like before construction has even begun. Stakeholders are able to see every detail of the building far more accurately than they can with traditional 2-D blueprints. Design Teams can make changes to the model as requested by the client, and the results of those changes are available in real-time.
A model can be used to develop a very accurate cost estimate for a project. BIM software also includes document management and a common data environment (CDE). This data collection chronicles each design element that has been added to the model throughout the course of the project. This reduces the risk of duplication and increases collaboration between all involved parties.

BIM Process

The BIM process consists of four main steps:

  • Planning: Using real-world data and image capturing, the environment surrounding the building is replicated in the BIM software.
  • Designing: Architects and Engineers begin modeling the project, from simple concepts to gradually adding more details. This is also the stage where construction estimates and project schedules can be initiated.
  • Building: Using digital fabrication, the model shows what the completed building will look like with all the elements in place. You’ll also be able to see the structure’s impact on the surrounding environment over its lifetime.
  • Operating: The data from BIM remains relevant and useful even after a project is completed. Leveraged correctly, it can be used to manage the maintenance and capital improvements to a building.

How WCCI Uses BIM to Develop an Accurate Project Estimate

Not too long ago, construction project estimates relied solely on 2-D project plans and specifications. When working with today’s more sophisticated 3D Models, WCCI develops quantities and attributes directly. The software we use, iTwo costX integrates with the Building Information Model to determine the quantities and attributes of each element that is in the model. Instead of a manual calculation, this information is transmitted from the Model directly into the estimating software. Our estimators then use their experience to determine that the information is correct, address any elements that have not been fully designed, and then accurately apply cost to each line item in the estimate. This process greatly speeds up the actual take-off of the project and allows the estimators more time to assess important issues such as constructability, project logistics, coordination and the most efficient solutions in regards to the construction budget.

Other Advantages of BIM

In addition to calculating accurate construction takeoffs, BIM assists project owners in other crucial areas, such as:

More Efficient Project Schedules

In order to get the best return on your investment in a project, completing construction in a timely manner is essential. BIM can help you implement several time-saving strategies, like prefabricating certain elements. It can also help you plan clear agendas for workers, streamlining the building process.
Sometimes, construction work needs to be rescheduled due to unavoidable or unforeseen factors like inclement weather. Since everyone involved in the project will have access to the CDE, any changes made to the schedule can be communicated quickly. Absent this technology, last-minute schedule changes or failure to inform each worker can lead to frustration as well as construction delays.

Collaboration & Coordination

There’s nothing worse than a client being dissatisfied with the project after the majority of work has already been completed. 2-D blueprints can be very detailed, but they still don’t give you the most accurate picture of the structure. Traditional blueprints also might not reveal conflicts between building elements or building trades works, which may be time-consuming and expensive to fix later.
With BIM, everyone can work together to pinpoint these problems and fix them before too much physical construction is done. With better collaboration, the entire construction process is more efficient, which means less wasted time and materials.

Risk Management

While construction accidents have declined in recent years, it’s still a risky profession. Jobsite injuries are an unacceptable consequence of construction. All workers and their families deserve the safest work environment that can be provided. Injuries can also result in a significant loss of productivity, especially if they played a specialized role.

Thankfully, BIM software helps make the working environment as safe as possible. Virtual fly-thru’s of the project can reveal potential areas of risk, and allow the risk management professionals an opportunity to mitigate the risks.

How to get Accurate Cost Estimations with Willis Construction Estimating

There is no one-size-fits-all cost for each project, which is why it’s important to get the most accurate estimates. If you need a quote for your next project, contact us today.


Image credit: Piqsels @ Creative Commons

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