Estimator’s Use of BIM


This is a view of BIM from our Planning + Cost Engineering department.

The construction industry is in the midst of a design revolution more far-reaching than the previous transition from hand-drawn plans to computer-aided design. This revolution is BIM and although it has already changed the way architects design and contractors prepare coordination documents, it has just barely worked its way into the cost engineering side of the industry. I started at Tocci a year ago, knowing of their investment and implementation of BIM, and eagerly anticipating my opportunity to get involved from an estimating perspective.

The wealth of information available from a properly designed model can aid contractors, architects, and owners during the design process in establishing budgets. Obviously, an initial material quantity survey can be done in a fraction of the time for some major building components such as foundations, envelopes, windows, roofing, interior partitions, interior finishes, and some structural components. I am sure as more design disciplines begin utilizing modeling, that list will continue to grow.

In addition, the fluid design and costing process will be accelerated allowing for alternate conceptual costing exercises.  Like any process in its infancy, there is a transitional period where processes need to be established between the involved parties and trust established regarding the content. In my short exposure to modeling, I have seen different levels of completeness and detail, from a massing exercise to a near-complete design. The nature of these design programs sometimes conflicts with both the designer’s structure and the contractor’s estimating format, which would require some adaptation of both parts to make a workable model (from a costing perspective). Also, a factor in this is the designer’s intent for the model, be it for massing studies or complete design.

Understanding the perspective of each other is crucial. If the contractor and designer can work together at the beginning of the design process, a workable model can be achieved with little effort. This rewards the project all the way through the pre-construction process. Knowing what information a contractor needs to extract in order to properly itemize costs is a key factor in this.

Using the expertise Tocci has developed in modeling over the years, I am eager to continue exploring the use of BIM from an estimating standpoint.

Have you had a similar experience within your firm? We would love to hear about it! You can comment on this post or tweet at us here!