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Estimators Embrace BIM Technology for Digital Transformation

Estimator using computer and pen and paper

Gone are the days of relying on pencil and paper for project estimations. Over the past decade, Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology has revolutionized and made the process more efficient. Estimators have utilized the technology to improve their day-to-day workflows and significantly reduce project costs. What's more, BIM offers real, tangible returns on investment (ROI) that you can't get with traditional estimations. This is why so many countries are now legally mandating its use — it's an investment in the future of the industry and helps to ensure that estimators can provide the most accurate and reliable estimates for any project.

  • USA:  BIM is legally mandated for all public building service projects. Some states are even following suit — Already in 2010, Wisconsin became the first state to require all public projects with a budget of $5 million or more and all new construction with a budget of $2.5 million or more to use BIM.
  • UK: As one of the international leaders of BIM adoption, the UK requires all centrally-procured construction projects to achieve BIM Level 2.
  • Germany: Although there isn’t a significant legal push for adoption, one study found that 90 percent of project owners often or always require BIM.
  • Scandinavia: Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden were some of the earliest adopters of BIM technology. Denmark has mandated its state clients to adopt BIM practices. In Sweden, while there are no legal requirements, companies utilize BIM technology at a high rate — making it 2nd only to the U.S. in BIM-focused academic papers.

Using Building Information Modeling (BIM) is quickly becoming an invaluable asset for estimators within the construction industry. Through 3D integration, estimators can cost a project more effectively and accurately while improving communication and collaboration with clients and colleagues. In particular, model-based estimation and virtual reality allow estimators to better evaluate and forecast the potential of the project in order to create a realistic and detailed estimation. This is especially helpful when dealing with complex projects and demanding clients. Ultimately, BIM has revolutionized the estimation process, providing estimators with an invaluable tool for cost forecasting.

The value of 3D modeling for estimators

Model-based estimation is an invaluable tool for preconstruction, as it allows estimators to quickly and accurately analyze project data. Integrating a 3D modeling program to create conceptual drawings from existing software is an easy way to access this data, resulting in faster, more accurate building cost estimates.

With 3D modeling, estimators can visualize the project parameters and add more detail to the data, giving them an edge in producing an accurate bid. This valuable tool also offers additional practical payoffs, such as better decision-making based on a more thorough understanding of the project and more informed budget planning. With 3D modeling, estimators can gain an in-depth insight into the project and make sound decisions to ensure the project runs smoothly.

  • Data interactivity — With the ability to manipulate 3D models within a virtual environment, estimators can interact with data in new, intuitive ways.
  • Increased production — With only one model to work from, as an estimator, your productivity is increased. Say goodbye to looking through several models of different viewpoints.
  • Reduce project cost — Reduce operational costs by decreasing time and resources through improving job site efficiency.
  • Communication — Pictures speak a thousand words. With the help of visualization technology, estimators can easily communicate complex ideas to clients, and other workers, who might lack technical understanding of the estimation process.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) completed the Mitchell Project,  a project aimed at the larger 94 North-South Freeway Project intended to improve the design of interchanges and roads. They have estimated that using 3D modeling during the planning stages could have saved them approximately $9.5 million. Now, WisDOT has recently implemented 3D modeling into their Zoo Interchange Project, a roadway construction project for a freeway interchange on the west side of Milwaukee. 3D modeling can reduce WisDOT construction costs during excavation, earth moving, and compacting and finishing to drainage, bridges, and other features.

Virtual Reality has revolutionized the construction industry

Virtual, augmented, and mixed-reality applications are dominating the construction industry. This technology blurs the line between virtual and physical workflows, and its mounting popularity is evidence of its growing utility on-site.

Incorporating VR technology into the construction industry has revolutionized project management by allowing estimators to obtain a detailed insight into the logistics of the construction process before commencing the project. This innovation has proven to be a game-changer as it empowers estimators to understand the structural data better, leading to a more comprehensive and holistic perspective.

The application of mixed reality construction modeling is a perfect example of how technology can bring ideas to life by superimposing them onto the real world. By geo-referencing assets, estimators can visualize the final construction design, evaluate the constructability, and address any issues beforehand, thereby saving time and cost.

The Mortenson Construction firm utilized VR technology to construct the University of Pennsylvania’s new rock climbing facility. They utilized VR in the initial client consultation throughout the entire project workflow. By using VR, they could primarily focus on the client’s objectives and amend the design quickly in real-time. The project was so successful that the client requested to use VR for their projects moving forward.

The utility of virtual reality on the job site is evolving as quickly as the hardware itself. Estimators should recognize VR as the industry game changer it is, and not disregard it as a passing fad.

BIM ROI and estimator perspective

As an estimator, monitoring project costs and maintaining project efficiency is essential. It's a task that requires skill, dedication, and, most importantly, an innovative mindset.

The third dimension is where all the magic happens for estimators, and embracing BIM technology can take the profession to new heights. BIM technology is a game-changer and provides an intelligent way to achieve precision in estimations.

The benefits of BIM are twofold. Firstly, BIM offers better quality information that ensures we do the job correctly. Secondly, BIM helps establish project bids efficiently, which could completely transform our profession.

With BIM technology, estimators can bring the estimates to life in a virtual space, giving a crystal-clear perspective of the project's scope and costs. This approach guarantees they remain laser-focused on the task and uncover hidden ways to save costs while enhancing project efficiency.

In summary, embracing BIM technology is crucial in the estimators' quest to strike the perfect balance between cost control and project efficiency. 

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