- It must enable providers to better serve clients.
- It must present clients with better solutions earlier in the process-a real value proposition that clients will be willing to pay.
The Case for Change
We at The Beck Group believe that many of the changes we are seeing within the industry result from owners' changing demands. Demand for higher quality and more complex projects, delivered at lower costs and in shorter amounts of time, has caused a proliferation of changes within our own AEC industry. Many architecture firms in the U.S. have tried to outsource or are outsourcing the production work once performed by architects within their firms to lower-priced labor pools, such as India and China. All of these changes are themselves commoditizing the traditional roles and responsibilities within the AEC industry and leading to tremendous changes in the fee structures of AEC participants.
Our industry has not experienced the major process and technological transformations seen in other industries like manufacturing and telecommunications. Within our industry, "design, bid, build" is still the most common delivery model. This delivery model requires the owner to make huge financial commitments based on guesses as to the project scope, design, cost, and construction schedule. After obtaining funding and hiring the A/E and GC, the project team spends a long period of time designing and documenting the project before it is bid by the subcontractor community, where the true project costs are realized. Obviously this process is flawed, and many believe that BIM has the potential to offer more effective strategies for practitioners in terms of designing and constructing buildings.
The Micro View
There are some tremendous BIM products on the market today, such as Autodesk's Revit, Bentley's Microstation, Graphisoft's Archicad, and Gehry Technologies' Digital Project. These products enable practitioners to answer some fundamental questions-namely, "What is the design of the project, and how can we create a coordinated set of documents to convey the design so that it can be constructed?" To date, many architectural firms are in the process of adopting BIM, and those that are using BIM are starting to see tremendous productivity gains in the production of construction documents and improvements in the quality of these deliverables. It makes sense that architecture firms would purchase such technology since this is where they spend 60-70% of their fees. One wonders, however, how long it will take owners to figure out that the architectural costs of production have dramatically been reduced and start to pay less for architectural services. If BIM is simply a tool to improve documentation and productivity, the role of the architect will become further commoditized.
The Macro View
A helpful analogy to the macro view is to consider the book-writing process. When an author writes a book, he or she does not start with the detail; an outline is the starting point. The same is true of macro-model use of BIM. The macro model serves as an outline for looking at the project holistically, including the concept, the scope, the hard costs, and the overall projected costs, including financing with a pro forma. The macro model allows the project parameters to be established with very little effort, enabling multiple concepts to be evaluated, drawing as little detail as possible to get as much data as possible associated with the project. The macro model affords owners the luxury of a decision to proceed to the design phase if the project fits within financial expectations. BIM, as defined by Beck Technology, at the macro level provides AEC firms and owners with simple images, geo-referenced models, a cost estimate, design criteria, numerical analysis, and a project pro forma. Value engineering occurs where it has the greatest opportunity to impact cost: early in the process before the project leaves the conceptual phase.
The Beck Group became involved in the development of BIM technology a decade ago. At the heart has been the goal of creating the technical foundation of Beck's dedication to innovation and increased efficiencies. We have developed a tool designed to create the full story of real-time cost analysis combined with 3-D visualization. This tool is called DProfiler, and it can graphically describe a building project from which project quantities and costs are simultaneously derived. DProfiler is a simple-to-use BIM tool which integrates real-time cost estimating into the rapid evaluation of multiple building and site alternatives.