What’s Included in the BIM Price? BIM Cost.
BIM is a sophisticated technology that works in many different ways. Understandably so, a lot of companies think that the price of BIM is relatively high. However, this topic is not as easy as it might seem, especially without understanding how to price it or knowing the cost-saving benefits associated with a BIM program.
The basics of BIM costs
First of all, BIM pricing can’t be determined by your regular second-grade equation (2+2=4 or similar). The scale of the project using BIM plays a big role in the amount of effort necessary, as well as the overall complexity of the project at hand. All of that dramatically affects the total BIM price, and that’s just the beginning.
There are many different scopes and tasks that may or may not be involved, and each one of those might change the total BIM price in unexpected ways. Some of the more common scopes of work include, but are not limited to:
- BIM management;
- Shop drawings;
- Scanning for BIM;
- Structural modeling;
- Trade coordination;
- Detailing for fabrication, and so on.
Some organizations also have unique methods and metrics they use to estimate total BIM costs. However, there’s still no dedicated method to define and/or estimate the entirety of work that needs to be done (and, subsequently, the total BIM price). Fortunately enough, there are some specific methods to address this problem. For example, at least a rough order of magnitude can be given by using estimates like square feet metrics, linear feet of piping, splitting the quote by several different parameters (by level, by phase, by deliverable, etc.), and more.
Another problem with defining BIM costs is the lack of information in general if there’s an estimate needed at the bidding stage. It’s not uncommon for projects to have nothing but a single sketch as a reference. The time gates are also often limited, applying pressure on BIM service providers to send in rough numbers and risking losing money / outpricing themselves.
Three parts to successfully and accurately estimate your BIM cost
There are three simple parts that you’ll need to take into consideration when trying to figure out your BIM pricing:
- What kind of service do I need?
- Can I do the job in-house?
- What parts are included in my BIM cost estimations?
The first question is all about determining the exact service or services that you need. Since BIM is a complicated mechanic that applies to many different parts of the project, there are different variations and categories when it comes to BIM services, including:
- BIM consulting;
- BIM for preconstruction;
- BIM modeling;
- BIM project management;
- BIM facility management.
Combinations of these options are possible but figuring out specific needs is essential to understand before proceeding.
The second question is more applicable to larger companies that require partial BIM services – figuring out if it’ll be easier for them to do their own BIM functions in-house. This required creating an entirely new department of your company or at least hiring temporary staff for your own BIM department.
The reason why this topic would have different answers depending on the context of the company asking the question is simple: the price of a BIM solution. For example, as a popular BIM platform, Revit’s public pricing is $2,805 per year. This would not be a big deal for a middle-sized or large company, but it is a massive price for a small company or startup. This is why this particular question can have completely different answers.
The costs might be too high for smaller companies but at the same time – any BIM service provider generally offers some of these parts that are paramount for any of the services above, such as BIM managers, BIM coordinators, and so on. Due to that, it might be more profitable to establish a temporary BIM department within your own company as opposed to outsourcing it.
Our third question is much more sophisticated than the other two and includes different attributes and cost estimates, but is equally as important.
BIM cost attributes
While it’s difficult to account for absolutely everything, it’s still possible to discover the majority of different attributes that may or may not influence the BIM costs, and discuss the effects that each of these attributes might have on the final BIM price. Below you’ll find examples of these attributes, including but not limited to:
- Time. It is one of the most significant parameters when it comes to any project, and it is not an exception with BIM. There’s a lot of different possibilities when it comes to time with BIM projects, such as the time when the first floor is supposed to be completed, or the amount of overtime work needed to complete the specific model in a set amount of days. Clarifying different possibilities with a client is fundamental for both proper scheduling and understanding the concrete BIM price at the end of the project itself.
- Contract type. There are two main contract types that most BIM service providers are working with – “lump sum” and “time and material”. Each of these contract types has a different approach to both responsibilities and delegations. These cases might include who is paying for a rework in the case of redesigns or revisions, or who will pay for a poor design that wasn’t good enough for the project to be created in the first place? It’s not uncommon for the “lump sum” contract type to cost more because a contractor is including the costs for a potential issue that may not happen.
- BIM usage. Specifically, LOD requirements. LOD stands for “level of detail” and this number varies depending on the overall complexity of the project, as well as the project type. For example, there’s a big difference between LOD 200 concrete model and LOD 300 architectural model with variable wall thickness, different materials, and so on. Setting up proper expectations and meeting them is instrumental in getting the right balance between project quality and price.
- Project/building type. The amount of details in the project is also important. The level of effort required to create a standard 3-story office building is not even close to the request of creating a healthcare lab with specific parameters and requirements. Clarification is incredibly important for clients to get a correct estimate for their BIM pricing.
- Scope. Speaking of building differences, the scope of the project, in general, is far more important than it might seem. The BIM provider needs to have as much information about the project as possible to provide the closest estimates of both the cost and the time required to complete the necessary amount of work. Once again, clarifying questions are not just a recommendation but a requirement.
- Quality. When it comes to BIM, it’s expected to provide the highest quality level possible for a project model so that the actual contractors and the BIM team, in general, would have an easier time working on the project, up to post-construction.
There are other attributes that can be added in more specific cases, but these are always prevalent in any project type. It’s important to remember that the more information a BIM company has – the easier it is for them to give the most accurate BIM pricing estimate for your specific needs. This also applies to newer opportunities and different methods – to be able to offer them to you, your BIM service provider would have to know a lot of different information, so clarification is the key here.
In addition, different companies may have different approaches to calculating their BIM cost, such as per square foot, per project, per hour, or even based on the expected delivery time. It is also common for companies to combine different calculation methods. For example, a combination of a flat service fee and a per-square-foot fee is a normal mix of BIM cost calculation methods.
The average cost of service per square foot depends on how detailed the model needs to be. A “white” model with a bare minimum in terms of details would cost $0.3 per square foot, while a full BIM model goes as high as $0.9 per square foot. Alternatively, a BIM cost calculation based on the time spent is mostly used by various BIM consultants, not entire companies or services. The average cost of an hour of time for a BIM consultant is about $39, while the top earners of the industry can charge up to about $43.
Turnaround time is another pricing model, most commonly used for various documents. Creating a BIM model out of a 2D sketch, for example, is easy to see how a shorter turnaround time would have a higher price per document. A single document that is ready in 3 days would cost about $350, while a waiting time of 4 to 6 weeks lowers the price to about $140.
The price of BIM as a service tends to vary depending on a massive number of factors, and being knowledgeable about them is one of the easier ways to ensure that you get a fair price for a service.
BIM cost estimating, or 5D BIM
On the topic of cost estimates and BIM, we would like to discuss another related topic – BIM cost estimating. However, we have a different definition for the term “BIM cost estimating” this time around. While it is true that estimating the cost of purchasing BIM as a service for your company can be referred to as a “BIM cost estimate,” there is also a completely different definition for that same term – an estimation of the entire project’s costs using the power of BIM as a platform.
4D BIM and 5D BIM
One of the more common processes in BIM is to “add information” to every single detail in a project’s model, creating a “BIM model”. If the information about different details of a BIM model covers every single project phase, this is what experts refer to as 3D BIM. However, this is not the limit of what BIM can do.
There are quite a lot of “dimensions” that may appear in some form or another in a BIM solution (up to 10D), but most of them are still few and far between – and they are also not popularized enough to be used on a regular basis. However, there are two “dimensions” that BIM is already working with that are popular enough to mention – the 4D and the 5D, or “scheduling” and “cost estimates”, respectively.
Since this article focuses more on costs and cost estimates, we are not going to delve too deep into what 4D BIM is, aside from its definition. 4D BIM represents the process of combining the existing 3D model of a project with various scheduling or time-related information, such as logistic models, to virtually reconstruct the entire construction process beforehand.
5D BIM, on the other hand, is the process of generating project estimates and construction costs using a BIM model. It is a logical continuation of BIM’s original nature as a 3D model with additional information about every single detail in the said model. Being able to calculate the cost estimate of the entire project, as well as its specific parts, is what defines a 5D BIM solution.
The benefits of BIM for cost estimation tasks
Cost estimating as a process has a relatively high chance of error, mostly due to the traditional measurement procedures that have been used in the industry for many years. However, 5D BIM can solve most of these problems with a single solution. One of the biggest examples of this is the fact that general project measurements, on which the calculations are based, are far less prone to error since they are taken from an existing BIM model and can be referred to or referenced at any point in time.
The nature of BIM as an approach also makes it possible to automatically recalculate all of the cost estimate results every time there is a change in a BIM model, removing the previously arduous and time-consuming process of manually recalculating everything from scratch. Additionally, a BIM system can calculate all of the necessary cost estimates much faster than manual work.
It’s worth noting that 5D BIM is not the first software to perform cost estimates automatically, but the scale of benefits that BIM provides in this field is on a level previously unachievable, mostly due to age-old issues such as human errors, conflicting information, and lack of communication between departments.
The current state of the BIM software market can make it somewhat challenging to perform such tasks using different solutions. However, the widely accepted IFC format supports all kinds of information within a BIM model, including information related to BIM cost estimates.
That being said, implementing 5D BIM cost estimates has the same potential roadblocks as any other BIM variant. Everyone involved in the project creation must be on board with BIM implementation and must use it to convey project information for this concept to work. Additionally, the BIM solution in question must support 5D BIM cost estimate operations for these operations to be effective.
BIM cost estimation benefits
Now that we have an overview of what BIM cost estimation actually is, we can form a list of main benefits that the implementation of BIM into your cost estimation processes can bring:
- Better cost control as a whole, which is a significant benefit for all contractors and clients
- Realistic budgeting and accurate cost estimating
- The ability to formulate cost estimates based on the 3D model with little to no errors or miscommunications
- Automatic cost estimate updates after every BIM model change relevant to the subject, making cost estimating relevant at all times
- The existence of the IFC model makes it possible to communicate even with users that are not interacting or not connected to the existing BIM platform, improving collaboration and cooperation across the board
It is worth noting that BIM as a whole was reported to save from 15 to 20% of construction costs in the UK from 2009 to 2015 – an equivalent of almost $1 billion. It is fairly easy to see how that could happen, with this many benefits that different segments of BIM are capable of providing.
BIM as a service can be quite costly, primarily due to the many benefits it can provide and the difficulty of implementing it at times. This article covers various parameters that may or may not contribute to the overall BIM costs and offers advice on how to simplify the cost estimation process.
One of the many advantages of BIM is easier cost estimating for the entire project or specific parts of it. BIM can perform all calculations automatically and update them every time the BIM model changes. Additionally, all calculations are based on a single centralized 3D BIM model, making it virtually impossible for calculation errors to occur.
These are just some of the benefits that BIM can provide to a company and a project, and every investment in BIM as a service or solution is well worth its price in the long run.