Thanks to the introduction of BIM, two-dimensional geometry is no longer sufficient for QSs

Adrian Malone

Flatland is a two-dimensional world inhabited by geometric figures created by Edwin A Abott in his 1884 satirical novel “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions”. The occupants of Flatland know nothing of three dimensions until the main protagonist, Square, is visited by a three-dimensional sphere from Spaceland. With his mind opened to three dimensions, Square starts thinking about the possibility of 4th, 5th, and 6th dimensions, which lands him in a whole lot of trouble with those who cannot accept anything beyond their current reality.

With the exception of limited use of 3D (usually for visualisation purposes) the construction industry has been largely bound to a 2D world to communicate project information. As we begin to adopt BIM we, like Square, may have our minds opened to many more dimensions.

4D (time) is becoming more common with contractors utilising BIM for planning and scheduling, 5D (cost) is generating debate about the role of the quantity surveyor: Does BIM mean the end of the QS? If not how is the role redefined? Should costs be integrated into the model? How can the QS working through BIM best add value across the whole asset lifecycle?

BIM is not the end of the QS, rather it is an opportunity for all in our industry

One thing that is clear is that BIM is providing both the opportunity and the imperative for richer and earlier engagement between the QS and other members of the project team. Working effectively through BIM requires cost-related information to be available within the model in a structure and form which allows the QS to work efficiently and in an integrated way within the project. This can only be achieved through early dialogue and when information protocols are agreed and effectively implemented by the project team as a whole. When working through BIM we all become more reliant on one another if we are to be individually effective in our roles.

Pre-BIM the QS would work with whatever was available, be that 2D CAD or even drawings in Adobe PDF format, using the geometry of the drawing to take-off measurements which were in turn used to generate bills of quantities and estimates. Working with BIM lifts the QS out of Flatland and 2D geometry is no longer sufficient.

Equally the QS has the opportunity through BIM to add value back into the design and construction process by providing timely and accurate estimates of different design options and construction methods. BIM can significantly reduce, and as we work towards Level 3 BIM may remove entirely, quantification time which in turn allows the QS to provide richer and more rapid feedback to the iterative design process. 

BIM is not the end of the QS, rather it is an opportunity for all in our industry – the QS included – to work in a better and more joined up way. BIM is the beginning of a new chapter for the quantity surveyor as a key member of a more integrated project team. Will it be a romance of many dimensions?

Adrian Malone is a director at Faithful+Gould with responsibility for BIM, knowledge management and commercial research