Using BIM shouldn’t add cost to a project. Here’s how to optimise the costs


Recently Building magazine published the results of a survey they had undertaken on BIM. Perhaps unsurprisingly the responses ranged from those fully engaged to those yet to begin. My experiences reflect those industry survey outcomes.

There are some BIM experienced consultants offering discounted fees by one third or offering more added value work for the same fee because they use BIM to design more efficiently, using less resources and are fully committed to its use, not because of any government mandate but as it’s a business efficiency decision. I could similarly cite many supply chain members who have adopted the same strategy.

Sometimes it is a tell-tale sign of the lack of BIM experience when a consultant asks how much more is the client willing to pay for them to do work in BIM. Did they charge clients extra when they switched from drawing board to CAD in the early eighties?

Sometimes it is a tell-tale sign of the lack of BIM experience when a consultant asks how much more is the client willing to pay for them to do work in BIM

Of course there are some consultants, contractors and others who are refusing to do it at all. That’s their choice.

Some design practices have many offices and many teams it takes time for a new system to pervade the business, especially if it is left to local leadership to implement changes. Not all of their staff has the same capability overnight.

Many non-BIM literate supply chain members when asked in tender documents for their work to be submitted in BIM, their tender package comes back with an extra £25k-40k added for the BIM factor.

It is impossible to give a set figure for how much BIM may add or save because not only is there a vast band width of ability but also the scope of service might differ substantially depending upon the size and type of project as well as the particular set of employers requirements.

If you want to optimise costs however, I would suggest these four steps:

  1. There is also a need for standardisation and simplification. The British construction industry has a great capacity to provide an intellectual rigour to devising processes and standards yet it has a propensity to overcomplicate what needs to be done. The BIM4Clients group and UKMCG recognises the need to provide guidance on how to draft EIRs. The rule of thumb with any tender documentation is the shorter and simpler it is, the lower the bid.
  2. The technology should not drive you, but your search for business improvement will help drive efficiencies help you have an open mind for some new techniques. Take time to understand how BIM can help you.
  3. Carefully select only the digital tools you need to help solve the project specific problems you face and/or to meet the contractual requirements. Benefits are possible on a £4m school and a £500m nuclear project, but the tools and focus employed may be different to meet the respective specific project risks. (By the way I know of no project team capturing asset data if the client doesn’t want it).
  4. Ensure the key designers undertake their work in appropriate manner. It’s more difficult to lever the benefits if the design has not been undertaken in BIM in the first place.

Whilst we may feel the pressure of the government mandate looming large and driving change, imagine for a moment that the mandate disappeared tomorrow. Would we all give up?

I suspect that there would be a few parties thrown by those uncertain about the investment they need to make, and those worried about how to provide COBie data. However I imagine there will be those who will not relinquish BIM as they are already enjoying the benefits, even if they are relatively modest in the grand scheme of things.

In the ever demanding commercial world we live in, most of us are looking for an edge over the competition and ways innovate to save money and time, if the government dropped its demands for BIM tomorrow I suspect there are many who have ‘got it’ and don’t wouldn’t want to look back and to return to inefficient processes and slower ways of doing business.

As the field is almost level at the moment BIM may not a substantial differentiator yet, but some will rise to the surface by continuing to adopt the right tools and processes to offer more for less, better and quicker solutions with clients recognising they are buying a better service and selecting those who can demonstrate they are offering real value. (And there may even be those asset managers who do want the data too.)

Peter Trebilcock chairs Balfour Beatty’s UK-wide design community of practice and its UK BIM Steering Group

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