CMD Group is a ConstructConnect™ company. Learn more

Cost Estimators Winning Work With BIM

07/17/2009 by Brent Pilgrim

Share

Project awards are the lifeblood of a company’s survivability, particularly in times of economic recession. Veteran members of architecture and construction firms strive to cultivate trust and the kind of relationships with their clients that usurps competition and all but guarantees the next business opportunity. However, with issues such as the economy, shareholder satisfaction, and the fear of losing the “competitive edge” a relationship built on trust and repetitive successes can still easily fall prey to the hunt. In this industry it is common that project awards are made based on a combination of factors, where relationships carry only a portion of weight. Traditional project awards are made on the basis of factors such as contract price, schedule, proposed team members, fee, etc. Therefore, assembling the right team players, executing a flawless interview, and developing competitive RFP responses are crucial to winning a job. The Project Manager and glossy collateral often are responsible for, and credited with, “the win”, but today’s technology may be enabling a new team member, the Cost Estimator, to shine and assist in bringing home the coveted project award.

In a traditional project pursuit the Cost Estimator may not play the largest part of winning a job, although the quality and accuracy his/her efforts is a key component. The Cost Estimator’s role is to develop a competitive and defendable cost estimate for the project. His/her role is important in that a competitive cost estimate can open and close doors for the rest of the team, but the cost estimate by itself is not enough to win a project. This is because in its most honest form, the estimate is truly a numerical reflection of the architectural design, leaving little “control” to the estimator. Also, project cost remains only one component of a multi-part scoring system for evaluating teams, particularly in a large GMP style effort.

The effort spent in developing the cost estimate is rarely given the spotlight. Little credit or attention is given to how much actual design work occurs on the part of the Estimator, in order to generate a complete conceptual cost estimate. In some arenas, such as design/build where the design hasn’t fully evolved yet, the cost estimate is based on little more than an ink smeared, napkin sketch. And what the eyes don’t see, the estimator must account for. Ultimately, of all those painfully extracted details, the client is seeking one number….the grand total.

In an interview setting, after a brief but passionate attempt by the Cost Estimator to intelligently discuss the derivation of the cost of the project, the client moves on to other qualifiers such as project experience, construction sequencing or schedule, and of course, fees. If the price isn’t right then the team must hope that enough credit is given to other factors so as not to get dropped from the short list. Regardless, the Cost Estimator is usually the poor soul bearing the bad news that a budget that has been blown, or indicating that architectural features may have to be eliminated from the design to get the scope into budget. Therefore, how much real opportunity does a Cost Estimator have in winning the client and securing a project?

BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a buzzword that is permeating the industry at an astonishing rate, and for good reason. It is being proven in case studies worldwide to provide a better way of doing business, and it is providing architects and contractors a more accurate way of designing and constructing buildings. This type of technology gives clarity to design and construction and is enabling a more effective virtual design and construction process to take shape. However, it is also causing many people to re-evaluate many aspects of their traditional means & methods, such as how project design teams are selected, the design life-cycle itself, construction scheduling, and estimating.

What is not as easily understood is how organizations are making their platform selections. What qualities or features about a product increase its chances for adoption by any given organization? There are many different BIM applications on the market and most do different things. BIM applications fall first into one of two major categories, macro or micro. The categories are fairly self explanatory in that the application’s functionality and intended use defines their subsequent category. This factor alone can help an organization quickly determine which application is best suited for their needs. There are many technologies available to develop micro data sets such as design development documents, construction documents, clash detection models, energy analysis, and detailed 4D scheduling simulations. There are also several technologies that enable macro data sets such as space planning, conceptual design, and conceptual cost estimating. How teams utilize these tools and data sets is entirely up to the user and because of its infancy in adoption, creativity often gets good marks.

Creativity in a proposal will help an organization get a leg up on the competition and the BIM process is an enabler. Whether it is through the use of imagery, animation, or showcasing technical know-how, BIM is providing a platform for teams to communicate extraordinary amounts of data to clients in a rather short amount of time. It is for these reasons that incorporating BIM into the traditional project pursuit is being heralded as an innovative way to compete for projects. Now is the time for Cost Estimators to join this group.

Creativity and Cost Estimator may feel like paradoxical companions in most offices, but behind the straight-forward, no nonsense façade of many cost estimators, lies a certain design flare that only gets exercised in limited venues. As mentioned earlier, the cost estimator must be creative in order to fully develop the design concept in his/her mind so that it can be completely costed. Additionally, value engineering exercises require a degree of creativity to effectively reduce cost without sacrificing quality. There is a new breed of Cost Estimators that are exercising their creativity and are getting richly rewarded for their efforts. Several Estimators have incorporated a specific type of macro BIM, known as conceptual cost modeling, into their proposals and are winning work as a result!

A conceptual, 3-dimensional cost model can be created easily, with little information to begin with, and can communicate volumes of information to the client. A conceptual cost modeling software melds itself well with conceptual cost estimators because they already think in these terms of high-level pricing. Ask any Cost Estimator what an average price “per/SF” for slab on grade or concrete tilt-wall panel and your bound to get an answer. More than likely answers among different cost estimators are going to be generally in the same range as well. Many Cost Estimators are trained to look at buildings as high level componentized systems which lends itself well to conceptual cost estimating, also known as Uniformat. Some examples of high level components would be Foundation System, Superstructure, Exterior Skin System, Interiors, Services (MEP), etc.

The graphical, or CAD based side of conceptual cost modeling is also easy to use and the skills required to do so can be easily acquired. Due to its conceptual nature, modeling 3D geometry in a macro BIM tool is often not at all a detailed or laborious process. Additionally, concepts such as blended materials (one piece of cladding material representing a blend, or percentage of dissimilar materials such as punched openings and brick) can aid in creating even further efficiency in a modeling effort. At this level of detail the goal is not to define the colors of paint and carpet, or to show the flashing detail at the parapet, but rather to capture accurately, the size, shape, height, number of floors, etc.

Combining estimators and macro BIM is a perfect vehicle for introducing technology into a project pursuit. This type of technology gives the Cost Estimator a tool to communicate the cost of a project at the conceptual level in a very visual manner. Finally, as we all know, we unfortunately bear the burden of initial missteps throughout the life of a project. Therefore a macro BIM such as this gives the team a tool more appropriate with the stage of design to make smarter and better decisions.

About the Writer Brent Pilgrim joined The Beck Group in 2001 to work with their integrated services group. He has worked on multiple projects in varying capacities from construction project management and estimating, to architectural design development, construction document production, and construction administration. In 2006, he began working with Beck Technology as a practitioner of the company’s software and now manages a consulting group offering cost modeling services using DProfiler. He has participated in numerous projects and a worked with a variety of clients both private and public. Brent graduated from Texas A&M University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Environmental Design and in 2001 with a Masters degree in Construction Science.

Recent Comments




Article Archive

Date Article
11/17/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in the U.S. - October 2014
11/14/14 Non-residential Construction Starts Rose Gently in October
07/10/14 The Importance of Matching Volume to Contractor Capacity in JOC Procurement Strategy
07/10/14 Consider a Seed Project as Part of Your JOC Procurement Strategy
07/10/14 The Best Unit Price Book for Your Job Order Contract
07/02/14 ECONOMIC NUGGETS – July 1, 2014
10/23/14 Twenty major upcoming Water Treatment Plants and Manufacturing & Warehousing construction projects - U.S. - October 2014
10/23/14 Twenty major upcoming Alberta and British Columbia construction projects - Canada - October 2014
10/15/14 Trend lines of construction starts in Canada - September 2014
10/15/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in Canada - September 2014
09/17/14 Twenty major upcoming midwest and northwest construction projects - U.S. - September 2014
09/17/14 Twenty major upcoming medical and educational construction projects - Canada - September 2014
09/17/14 Trend lines of construction starts in Canada - August 2014
09/17/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in Canada - August 2014
08/15/14 Twenty major upcoming medical and educational construction projects - U.S. - August 2014
08/15/14 Twenty major upcoming industrial and water treatment construction projects - Canada - July 2014
08/15/14 Trend lines of construction starts in Canada - July 2014
08/15/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in Canada - July 2014
07/24/14 Twenty major upcoming entertainment facility and stadium/arena construction projects - U.S. - July 2014
07/24/14 Twenty major upcoming Ontario and Quebec construction projects - Canada - July 2014
07/24/14 Trend lines of construction starts in Canada - June 2014
07/24/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in Canada - June 2014
07/16/14
07/14/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in the U.S. - June 2014
02/03/14 Infographic: Where Can You Use Project Leads in the Construction Process?
07/25/13 The Canadian Economy’s Two Great Blessings
02/15/13 Construction Economic Notes – February, 2013
11/05/12 Recycled-Content Tile
10/05/12 Fiber-Cement Siding
09/18/12 Return on Your Green Home Improvement Investment
08/09/12 Green Building Solutions to Stormwater Runoff
08/07/12 An “Aha” Moment Solves Challenge of Cost Estimating Local Circus Roof
07/19/12 Estimate Types
06/20/12 Ground-Source Heat Pump
05/14/12 Universal Design for Outdoor Living
04/23/12 What Is Universal Design?
04/09/12 Natural Landscaping
03/14/12 Green Material Alternatives for Plumbing Fixtures
03/02/12 Budgeting & Financing Green Construction
02/22/12 Greening Your Firm
02/10/12 Roofing Defects
02/06/12 Roofs: energy efficiency strategies
01/18/12 Commercial Real Estate and Green Construction
12/14/11 Renewable Energy & Distributed Generation Technologies
11/04/11 Tubular Skylights
10/04/11 Are Online Ads An Endangered Species?
09/27/11 Performance Bonds Guarantee Clients Receive Exceptional Service
09/15/11 Deconstruction for Green and Economic Benefit
09/01/11 4 Ways for Businesses to Create a Good First Impression on Twitter
08/11/11 Building Information Modeling (BIM) for Green Building
07/21/11 Green Alternatives for Concrete
07/12/11 Evaluating Products Over Their Life Cycle
06/30/11 Low-Cost Green Strategies
06/28/11 Bricks are from Venus, Clicks are from Mars
06/17/11 Zombie Avoidance Techniques for Building Product Manufacturers
06/08/11 Blogs & Websites: The 5 Signs of Website Wellness
06/06/11 Building Product Manufacturers & Green Products
06/01/11 Is Fear of Sharing Information Costing Your Company Sales?
05/26/11 What Are Green Products?
05/20/11 The Building Envelope
05/16/11 Blogging: Website Heal Thyself
05/03/11 Metals Compared to Wood for Sustainable Construction
04/12/11 Storm Water Collection & Infiltration
03/23/11 Commissioning the Green Building
02/23/11 Building Program for Green Design
01/21/11 Building Deconstruction Process
05/02/11 Why Building Product Manufacturers and Social Media Are a Marriage Made in Heaven
05/06/11 Building Product Manufacturers: How Understanding Architects Can Help Your Business
10/21/09 Distributors & Manufacturer Representatives
07/15/10 Estimating Doors: Tips from the Experts
07/06/10 How to Handle Construction Materials to Prevent Mold
06/21/10 How to Maximize the Benefits of Exterior Security Lighting
06/04/10 SmartBuilding Index
06/01/10 Regional Housing Construction Tracking and Forecast Information
05/28/10 How to Find Regional Construction Tracking and Forecast Information
05/24/10 Building Product Manufacturers
05/18/10 Practicing the Art of Sustainability - Why Atlanta's Current Building Codes Need Updating Now
02/23/10 Learning to use EE
01/11/10 Earn AIA CEU Credit Attending RCD Webcasts
07/17/09 Cost Estimators Winning Work With BIM
07/16/09 Becoming an Invited Bidder - More Tips
07/16/09 Becoming an Invited Bidder - Tips
07/16/09 Becoming an Invited Bidder
07/16/09 SmartBIM Object Modeling Guidelines for Revit
07/15/09 Interference Check and BIM
06/26/09 A Look at Contractor Failure: Part 2
06/19/09 RicciGreene Associates
06/19/09 Doug Thornton AIA, LEED A.P. of AERC, PLLC
06/18/09 A Look at Contractor Failure: Part 1
06/12/09 Owners and SmartBIM Objects – What You Need To Do
06/10/09 Dealing with the IRS
06/05/09 Getting Paid on Construction Contracts
06/02/09 BIM Coordination and Collaboration
05/28/09 Marketing Your Construction Firm on the Cheap
05/20/09 Little Habits with Big Payoffs for Contractors
05/12/09 SmartBIM Spaces
05/07/09 AIA Show Recap as Seen by the SmartBIM Solutions Team
04/27/09 Business Case Study - Survey Of Spending Patterns In Educational Facilities
04/23/09 Taking Advantage of the Recession: Hiring the Right People
04/20/09 Cork as a Green Flooring Option
04/08/09 Owners - It's Time to Substantially Increase Your Architect's and Engineer's Fees
03/05/09 There's a Solution to Performing Time Consuming Quantity Take-Offs
02/20/09 SmartBIM Library is Half-Off for a Limited Time Only
02/09/09 You are Wasting Your Money
01/20/09 Obama: 'Dramatic Action' On Economy Needed
01/14/09 Use of BIM Jumps Dramatically Over Last 12 Months
12/10/08 Minimizing the Size of Family Files (Revit Objects)
11/11/08 Maximize Online Advertising Dollars
11/07/08 Architects and Engineers, WE NEED YOU
10/29/08 Why Do You Need SmartBIM Objects
10/28/08 Why Building Information Modeling?
10/29/08 10 Questions To Ask About BIM Objects
10/08/08 The Object Mess
10/07/08 Implementing BIM to Your Office
10/06/08 Meeting the Needs for Governmental BIM Compliance while Avoiding Current Liability Obstacles
09/15/08 The BIM Transformation is Manageable with the NEW SmartBIM Library v3
09/14/08 KOLBE Windows and Doors vs. Building Information Modeling
09/12/08 The Evolution of Building Information Modeling: BIM 1-2-3
08/11/08 BIM 101 Overview - From Hand Drawings, CAD and now BIM
08/12/08 Draper, Inc. on BIM Object Developments
07/08/08 IFD Library Partners work to establish standards for creators of BIM software
06/23/08 Architectural Education
06/17/08 Parametric Revit Objects – Part I - Fundamentals
06/17/08 Window Glazing Coefficients
06/01/08 Frequently Asked Questions About Building Codes
06/05/08 Calling All Current and Prospective Revit Users - This Blog Is For You
05/06/08 System Requirements for SmartBIM Library
05/06/08 SmartBIM Library 2.0 Release Notes
05/05/08 Building Information Modeling Moves into AEC Mainstream, Adding Value to Project Delivery Process
04/08/08 Flooring: Cost Considerations
02/08/10 General Contractors & Trade Contractors
01/24/08 Building Element Models (BEM)
12/21/07 LEED Certification Primer
12/13/07 Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)
09/24/07 Mixed-mode Building Design Combines Old and New Ideas
10/15/07 Checklists Identify Potential Envelope Design Improvements
10/24/07 Greenroofs as High Performance Design
10/21/07 What Makes a Building Product Green
10/24/07 Lighting Considerations in Green Building
10/24/07 Water Conservation in Green Buildings
10/24/07 Rainwater Collection Systems
10/24/07 Efficient Cooling Methods for Green Buildings
10/24/07 Controlling Heat Transfer in Green Buildings
10/24/07 Limiting Heat Loss Through Windows
10/23/07 Formaldehyde Use in Building Construction
10/23/07 Using Plants to Improve Indoor Air Quality
11/05/07 Greening Healthcare
10/19/07 Daylighting Controls
10/19/07 Use of Windows, Skylights and Light Pipes in Daylighting
10/19/07 An Overview of Daylighting
10/19/07 An Overview of Solar Ventilation Air Heating
10/19/07 Types of Collectors for Solar Water Heating
10/19/07 An Overview of Solar Water Heating
10/19/07 Cooling Load Advoidance
10/19/07 Components of Passive Solar Heating Designs
10/19/07 An Overview of Passive Solar Heating
10/23/07 Improving Indoor Air Quality
10/19/07 An Overview of The LEED Rating System
10/19/07 Cost Considerations in Building Deconstruction
10/17/07 Building Deconstruction
10/25/07 Roofing Considerations in Green Building
10/19/07 Green Site Selection and Development
10/24/07 Reducing Energy Use in Buildings
10/17/07 Green Demolition
10/18/07 Integrating Solar Power Generation into Buildings using Thin Film PV
09/10/07 Compost Company Promotes Green Environment
03/31/06 Green Roof Sets An Example For Minneapolis Sustainable Design

CMD Group- construction industry news-image” title=