As cost consultants and contractors increasingly recognise the benefits of using software to replace time-consuming and error prone manual estimating processes, it is clear that technology is rapidly changing the construction industry. This is something that we see in all of the countries where we operate, and we can expect a rapid acceleration of this trend as Building Information Modelling (BIM) becomes more integral to the construction process.
In the context of BIM, it is important that software developers support the NRM1 standard in order to enable their customers to gain maximum advantage, as is explained in more detail below.
Cost estimating is clearly essential for budgeting and tendering of any construction project, reflecting as it does the inherent risks and the direct costs of a project - including materials, labour and professional services. It is therefore little wonder that contractors and cost consultants spend a significant amount of time (and therefore money) performing detailed measurement works.
Traditionally this has involved taking manual measurements from a series of printed or CAD drawings and then transferring this data manually to an estimating system. This makes it extremely challenging and time-consuming for the quantity surveyor to prepare accurate cost estimates from large amounts of manually produced design information – not least because it is subject to frequent revision.
Nevertheless, many contractors and cost consultants are still dependent on such manual, time- and resource-intensive processes, potentially compromising the accuracy of their cost advice and putting themselves at a commercial disadvantage to their more tech-savvy competitors.
By switching to electronic take-off and estimating software applications, construction professionals are able to streamline their traditional processes while also creating more accurate and timely information.
Electronic take-off software, for example, uses information from either PDF drawings or, even better, CAD-produced drawings to enable all elements of the project to be accurately measured and then integrated with an estimating application. This allows the data to flow directly into the cost estimates for pricing. The end result is a significant time-saving over traditional methods.
Integrating BIM into QS processes
The same principles apply to working with BIM and taking advantage of the potential to estimate the cost of a project with considerably more detail and accuracy, while also reducing time and costs. However, currently there have been very few implementations of BIM for cost estimating. This is perhaps because estimators require between one and two months of training with BIM software before they are able to deliver significant time and cost savings.
In this respect it is important to recognise that NRM1 is going to be the standard to govern the information and rules of cost estimating and planning processes in the UK. Thus, considering the low maturity level of BIM implementation within QS practices, many software providers have looked into ways of improving the current issues in BIM-based estimating, and have realised that supporting the NRM1 format through BIM is the way forward. This is because NRM1 resolves issues relating to the quality of BIMs and variation in design detail.
This is certainly the case for Causeway, where we have recognised that the efficiency and accuracy of QS functions will be significantly improved by undermining BIM-based cost estimating and planning processes within NRM1. For these reasons Causeway continues to work closely with its cost consultant and contractor customers in developing solutions that will underpin optimum efficiency and accuracy while also helping to drive down costs.