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“BIM Doesn’t Affect Me.” The Truth about BIM and Estimating

There’s a lot of hype in the marketplace about BIM, especially since Level 2 is now mandated by certain countries on public projects. Having a 3D model is often portrayed and perceived by some to be a BIM solution. Some CAD system suppliers will even say that being able to provide a 3D model means you’ve adopted BIM— but this isn’t the case at all.

BIM and the MEP Estimator

A 3D model is one way to express BIM, and in countries where BIM levels are mandated, you will see Level 2 interpreted as designs that need to be in 3D and sharing a common file format. A 3D model without the sharing is definitely not BIM!

If this were BIM, it is not going to affect an MEP estimator, is it?  So, should estimators just forget BIM? The trouble is, this isn’t the whole story.

For BIM-mandated countries, Level 2 requires clash detection and a Cobie output, and 3D design is one solution.

Secondly, for everyone using BIM, it should be considered a philosophy or methodology (depending on your personal leanings) for improving working practices and sharing information. The overall aim is to improve the way the industry works, and ultimately, cut costs.

The goal is to create an environment where all project information is shared, (and at each stage in the operational process) is improved, ambiguity removed, and more detailed content added.

How can BIM help Estimators?

So the question is really, how can BIM help estimators cost a project more effectively and accurately, and how can they improve the information they pass on both to the client and to colleagues?

This will mean different things based on the sophistication of your supply chain and the type of work you are involved in, but your ability to use BIM information within your own business will be key.

Those involved in government contracts of any size in the UK are already required to ‘use BIM,’ and over time, more and more projects and governments will echo this requirement.

Either way, understanding and being prepared to deliver a ‘BIM’ job, if requested by a client, will be an asset for your business.  

So what does BIM truly mean to an MEP estimator?

To an MEP Estimator, BIM should do the following:

  • Improve the quality of information received to base the estimate on
  • It becomes the estimator’s responsibility to use, enhance, and add to this, making the ‘picture’ of the building more and more detailed
  • The client should understand much better what is being provided
  • The estimated costs should be much more accurate and the level of detail available to engineering on winning a contract should be valuable and usable
  • The quality of detail passed on for the management of the installed building should be better,
  • To meet level 2 requirements, the detail needs to be in Cobie (aka a spreadsheet formatted correctly with the relevant information)

But, no need to panic.

Will BIM cost estimators time and money?

A big worry for many MEP contractors is that BIM will add time and cost. However, this is where estimators come in as the first in-house users of the BIM design information.

Look at how you can use this digital design information. Can you use it as a base for the estimate and supplier/subcontractor RFQs/RFPs?  Naturally, the quality and content received will impact this, but does a materials list exist from the design that you could import into your estimate?  Can you share your refined content for use in subsequent processes such as procurement and contract management, and can you produce that Cobie data easily (if needed) from the information you have?  

The answer?

Start small. Grow with BIM. And don’t let people frighten you.

Imagine this, a world where each stage of the supply chain does not reinvent the wheel, but can actually use the information it is passed and pass it on to a better state.  

Now, that’s what BIM is really all about.