Does BIM cost your design practice more? How does BIM impact your fee proposals? How does BIM impact your business? These were some of the questions I was recently asked to address in a presentation at the Revit Technology Conference held in Auckland.
Partially as a result of my previous blog posts Architecture and Interior Design is a business, isn’t it? And The art (or is that science?) of architecture and interior design fees, I was invited to address the topic of the economic and financial impacts of BIM on a design consultancy – I think due to being among the relatively small group of industry professionals who understand both BIM and the business of design. I convinced another such individual Rodd Perey – committee member of RTC Australasia who had invited me to do this talk – as well as Principal and Group Design Technology Manager at Architectus, to join me in discussion of this topic.
One of the most interesting things about preparing the talk, was that whilst Rodd and I come from very different practice and BIM backgrounds, much of the time we agreed on the issues affecting a design practice who are using BIM by themselves and for their own benefit. We termed this Lone BIM – as opposed to the benefits of using BIM as part of a larger project process in conjunction with clients, sub-consultants and contractors. This Lone BIM, the efficiencies and impacts on practice, and its opportunities for reducing project risks, were the focus of our talk.
I have attached the slide deck to this blog via Slide Share.
As you will see from the slides, one of the repeated messages was that practice directors, principals and anyone costing or managing design projects need to firstly understand what BIM is actually being used and produced in their office and secondly what BIM outputs will be delivered to the client. How can you calculate your fees if you don’t understand your deliverables?
Right now in the industry and even within individual practices BIM can mean different things to different people. It’s important to understand which BIM deliverables and processes are additional services outside traditional services, and which ones can help you improve your efficiency in providing traditional services. To model every part if a building at 1:1 with full operational and facilities data will certainly cost you more than traditional documentation, but is that what the client has actually contracted you to deliver?
We felt that there were a number of key aspects to using Revit (or other BIM software) within your practice that improve your “BIM-onomics”. Aside from understanding what BIM you deliver, you need to leverage the information and automation aspects of the BIM – for example scheduling, keynoting and proper use of materials which allow consistency and automation across the project. Directors and principals need to have some understanding of these concepts so they can question the outputs. However its not all about BIM either – continuous improvement, ongoing training and debriefs are necessary to capture and spread the learnings across your organisation. This needs leadership.
Then we get to really the key thing – BIM impacts all areas of your business delivery model. BIM impacts upon your project workflows, your resources, your programs and your QA. Are these things you are just going to leave to drafters or modellers? You can’t leave your practice to the “revit robots” nor can you buy in the revit “A team” to solve your BIM implementation problems (though it will help). Economically successful BIM relies on the knowledge of your team, the mix of knowledge between software, design, construction and business. Everyone is part of the BIM team. The senior architects and managers may not be on the tools, but need to be able to speak a common language and communicate with someone who can understand both the BIM and the business. Someone needs to direct the BIM process to ensure that over modelling and over servicing is not occurring, a common reason for cost overruns on BIM projects. But one that is more typically related to management practices than the BIM software itself.
BIM will change your project programs. As Rodd pointed out though, that most overused of conference graphics the MacLeamy curve is wrong – what consultant in their right mind would sign up for a process that makes you do the same amount of work earlier in the process, when the client is still most unsure? Both of us agree, that whilst BIM does put some of the workload forward, it will be overall less work – and the project examples we used demonstrated this (the graphs come up later in the slide deck).
Your quality checking procedures also have to change – again this isn’t one for the junior revit modeller in your office is it? But it is another opportunity to leverage your information – you can use BIM to check your BIM. Examples shown include using auotmated drawings to check precast panel details and smoke/fire compartments. The more uses you can find within the BIM itself the more valuable the BIM becomes. The BIM becomes also a risk reduction tool – you get in right during design and spend less time on site, you think things through and solve problems in the design phase. But again senior and experienced project staff need to be part of this process – they need to know what is possible with the BIM, and then they should be asking for it in their own offices.
Both Rodd and I presented a set of comparison projects with an analysis of an AutoCAD project versus a Revit project. Unfortunately it is impossible to ever directly compare 2 projects as every design project has different factors, but we both selected the most similar projects we were able to find. In Rodd’s case, 2 hotel redevelopment projects on the same site for the same client, and in my case 2 office fitouts of a similar size for similar client types. As you can see on the slides Rodd and I examined slightly different project metrics based upon the information we had available. The one metric in common though was the percentage difference between the number of hours and the number of drawing sheets. We both proved the Revit project to be significantly more efficient based on this metric, and amazingly we came up with figures within 5% of each other!
A question from the audience worth repeating here, was how long had the teams been using Revit? For both Revit examples it was between 2-5 years, and it was certainly not a case of having a super BIM team and a crappy AutoCAD team – both myself and Rodd considered the teams also to be comparable. To get a good return on investment isn’t going to be an overnight process.
BIM is a process you need to manage the whole way through your projects – right from fee proposal stage. Its pretty straight forward really…define what you are providing, what others are providing (such as point clouds, parts of models/existing models, BIM standards) and understand what you are costing. If you as the person costing a job don’t understand all the technical aspects, talk to someone in your office who does. Build the understanding between the technical people and the business people – or find people who are able to do so and bridge the gap, becoming the translator and teaching at both ends of the equation.
In conclusion – does the BIM-onomics stack up? If you manage the process, manage the risk and are delivering the same it should cost you less.
Do your BIM-onomics stack up? Do you know by comparing projects? If your BIM is not yet economic, what are the challenges and issues you see as stopping it? If you are a practice director or principal do you know your BIM? If you don’t, do you have someone who can translate for you? Have we missed any factors you consider critical to the economic success of BIM in your practice? Do any of my slides not make sense to you? (if so comment)
You can find my other RTC presentations – What’s in a Room and InforMeDesign on Slideshare.
Hi Ceilidh, firstly I would like to thank you for writing this blog, it is really interesting reading. Even after 13 years in this industry I find your blog exceptionally interesting – especially those dealing with business and technical side of our business. I fully agree that BIM has become a standard in architecture and related disciplines and those too lazy to learn something new and are still struggling with 2D AutoCAD are gonna find themselves too far behind their competitors. And now my question – I was surprised by the amount of hours fort that office project you put in your presentation – I know it is difficult to compare projects without knowing all details, but for example in our office we do similar size projects in less than half the time (total time spent). I work for a small design company and we just cannot afford to spent nor quote that amount of hours – why are there such a big differences in time spent on a project in different companies? Sorry for asking this question which has not much to do with BIM topic but I am really curious and thank you for your response in advance! Peter
Thanks, I’m glad you enjoy the blog and for your question. One of my reasons for starting this blog and writing on the kinds of topics I do, is that I think there needs to be more discussion of the business side of architecture and interior design.
As you say, and I mentioned in my post, every project is different with different details. I think in these 2 project examples there were a couple of factors.
Firstly both included construction stage services not just design and documentation.
Secondly was the client type. In my experience government clients fall into 2 categories, those with design standards and those without – but who want design standards. These clients fell into the second bucket. There was a lot of stakeholder involvement and many detailed client review points. The client was involved in every piece of furniture, finish and reviewing 1:20 drawings of every joinery piece as well as many meetings and emails. A huge part of my time was taken up in client dealings. This can be quite typical for these types of clients.
For me it is the hardest part of preparing the fee proposal if I don’t know the client. It can be impossible to tell if they will be calling you 10 times a day (I had one that did) or if they will be the opposite, with you always calling them, trying to get them to look at the design and approve something to proceed!
Thanks for your answer, it looks like I have been a bit more lucky with our clients – especially government projects here in WA were mostly super quick and never had any troubles so far – touch wood:). Anyway, once again thanks for doing this blog and I am looking forward to reading another great part!
I have done a fair bit of work in WA and would say that generally the fees there have been higher than for comparable projects here on the east coast. Although I do know the market there did start to tighten up last year. I wonder if it is just a coincidence, but the projects I worked on over in WA did have less involved clients than these examples! Although I was shocked at the number of hard copy sets the BMW government project managers wanted – I thought everyone was e tendering by now.
Thanks again for your question – it’s actually given me the inspiration for next weeks post.
I’ve done a fair bit of work in WA and my experience was that fees there were higher than for comparable projects over in the eastern states. This may have changed more recently as I know the market has been getting tighter over there. I wonder if its coincidence, but the fitout projects I did over there had much less client involvement. Although I was shocked at the number of hard copies the government BMW project managers wanted for tender, I thought everyone used e-tendering by now. Thanks anyway for your question – its actually inspired some further thoughts for next weeks post!
Ceilidh, great post. I too believe Revit is more efficient and generates less error prone documents.
Rodd and your project comparisons are very pertinent. But there are some conclusions that could be made that require further exploration.
Firstly while it is true the cost per sheet is lower with Revit, but why does a Revit project use more sheets? Is it that using AutoCAD makes for more succinct documentation? Or is the Revit project actually producing more useful information?
Secondly on the projects you compared, there were no graduates or students, which accounted for the lower overall hours. Rodd didn’t break his comparison down, but it would be interesting to see if his situation was the same. Does this mean there is no place for low skilled staff on Revit projects?
Is it because the work they would normally be used to do is no longer necessary with a Revit project? Or is it because students and graduates aren’t exposed to Revit (or BIM) and so don’t have any useful skills?
Is it a problem of academia or do offices need to develop methods to engage learners in BIM projects rather than just rely on highly skilled staff?
As always, considered analysis doesn’t just provide answers, it also raises important questions.
Thanks for your comments. I will respond to your questions – where I can – as you say sometimes this can raise more questions!
I think that Revit makes for more succinct documentation as well as providing more information. The additional drawing sheets would often include schedules (which in the past may have been separate documents or part of the specification), 3d views or more sections/elevations to show more parts of the building. I also tend to separate more information – eg I use separate sheets for floor and wall finishes whereas in AutoCAD I may have included this on the same drawing. I think this provides the right information to the right people whilst making the drawing clearer. Particularly as less and less people are looking at A1 prints these days but looking at smaller prints or on screen.
In relation to students and graduates, I believe that using Revit does require more time from more highly skilled staff – and I have seen other presenters agree with this at previous RTCs. It is not that there is no work for students or graduates anymore, it is just that the large teams of ‘grunt’ work are no longer necessary on a Revit project. I have had a number of students who are great at Revit and I would have no hesitation using these people on projects, rather than a more senior person with no Revit.
I think universities have long been behind when it comes to teaching any technology – when I was at uni 15 years ago, we all did a class at the tafe in order to learn AutoCAD properly – there was only 1 introduction course available at the uni. However, I would say that learning these days is not all about learning a specific package, its important to learn to teach yourself to use and develop any package you need as they are going to continue to change. For this reason we also need to teach in the workplace as well, not just for the students coming out, but for the many professionals who still need to learn or advance their Revit skills. My view is everyone is always learning – try something new on every project!
Pingback: I'm a designer and I job share with an AI | Opportunities Online Market