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    What is the price of BIM?

    Whenever we are discussing with a client the next BIM project, the same questions usually come up: “how much does the BIM cost?” Or “what are your hourly rates?” Or the famous “how much by square feet?” I assume, the same may also happen within in-house BIM teams, for an A/E firm or a Contractor to budget the BIM component of a job to be performed internally.

    Let’s see the different ways we can approach this topic…

    As we may know, defining a price for BIM services is not like a simple equation where all members are known, as in 2+2=4. First of all, each project has its own scale and complexity. However, there is a big variety of scopes and tasks that we, as consultants, can perform within the project, as well as -luckily- be in charge of a whole one.

    Within design and construction phases, we can mention several scopes of work like BIM Modeling and trade coordination, Shop Drawings, Spooling, Scanning and Scan to BIM, Structural modeling and Detailing for Fabrication, BIM Management, As-Builts, among many others.

    Although some organizations have their own metrics based on their expertise, there is no universal method to define or estimate all previous scopes. Nevertheless, there are some ways to address this subject, at least to give a rough order of magnitude. For instance using square feet metrics, % of construction costs, linear feet of piping, splitting the quote by level, by deliverable, by phase, by trade, and so on…

    Many a time, if the project is at bidding stage, it is pretty common to only have a single project sketch for reference. To make things worse, sometimes there is not much time and we have to send rough numbers by risking potential profits, or losing money, or even outpricing ourselves, when pricing a rush request.

    That being said, it is important to discover, describe and bring on the table as many attributes as possible in order to evaluate how they will be impacting in our numbers and this is what we will call: It’s not the same.

    It’s not the same

    • Time is a fundamental constraint. It’s not the same to deliver the first floor in one week than three, like it’s not the same if we have to pay overtime to our team to deliver the model on time. Let’s be cautious and clarify these conditions with our clients and discuss how the schedule will be impacting on the project cost.
    • Scope. There are some tasks that can be estimated on an hourly basis. A good example would be 2D production, where we can approach by evaluating how much time each sheet will take. In the same way, we can easily determine (as long as we have proper information) how much time the team will need to model one level of a cold-water piping layout.
      If we are talking about coordination, we can definitely use some % of the modeling efforts, and building complexity. The goal at this point is to make sure that the RFP -request for proposal or budgeting request- is clear enough to ensure all the needed work and only the needed work is included in our proposals. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request clarifications.
    • Use of BIM. The purpose of BIM will definitely drive us to define the LOD -level of detail/development- that our model will require. It is very common that this LOD is requested by the client, while, sometimes, it has to be part of our recommendations.
      It’s not the same to have a LOD 200 concrete model for rough quantification, or one LOD 300 architectural model with different wall types, thicknesses, and materials. In the same way, it’s not the same a LOD 400 fabrication model where we will specify how ducts should be cut for installation purposes. Let’s make sure the client expectations are clear enough so we can suggest a reasonable LOD to make him save money and time.
    • Project type. It’s not the same to estimate the modeling efforts for an office building with large empty spaces than doing it for a healthcare project or an industrial facility. The type of project will help us understand the complexity of the model: It’s not the same to coordinate a 3 equal layout story office building than a single level mechanical room. Sometimes is not about square footage but building usage. As previously stated, it’s a must to clarify the scope, since this will help us make the quote as accurate as possible.
    • Type of contract: It’s not the same to have a lump sum contract than a time and material. Who will be absorbing the cost of rework in case revisions/redesigns come up? Who will absorb the cost of a poor design? Many times Lump Sum ends up been more expensive for the Client because, when estimating, the service provider had to estimate for potential issues that may never happen
    • Availability of information. As mentioned earlier on, it’s not the same to quote one fully documented project, where we have every detail, rather than estimating one where we have barely seen a floor plan or sketch. This point is about uncertainty, since we won’t be able to come up with a tailored proposal. Our suggestion would be to provide ranges. We can polish our numbers afterward, once the information is fully available.
    • Consider Quality as a “non-negotiable” variable. A good quality model with consistent data will let our customers take the maximum advantage of BIM. At our end, it will help us deliver better results. Let’s not underestimate quality, it’s a must to have some QA/QC % in our project’s budget.
    • Finally, our costs. Beside all fixed cost, do we need to constantly reinvest in hardware or software?

    Long story short, these points are the main aspects that may impact our project’s budget, but each project and client can take us to include several additional variables. If we are lucky and we have all the project documentation, it is essential to take the necessary time to fully understand the project in order to suggest the best strategy and approach. It will make the client save money, not to mention increasing his trust in us.

    A deep understanding of the project, along with knowledge of BIM processes, and Construction practices will give us the ability to recommend to our clients some new possibilities and visualize new opportunities by leveraging their BIM models, and so when you unleash the possibilities, the actual price of BIM becomes irrelevant!.

    BIM cost

    Mariana Jimenez

    Director of Laser Scanning & Scan to BIM


    Call us: (949) 340-6924

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