BIM IS for small firms

Can Your [small] Office Benefit from BIM?

Ever since our involvement in helping firms move to BIM, we have been frustrated by the common belief that BIM is for large firms.

In fact, our belief is that it is the small firm that stands to gain the most from a proper BIM delivery.

Let’s look at the reasons for this.

BIM is Slow

BIM, by definition, takes advantage of a single file to maintain one version of the truth for all deliverables on a project. One of the most common challenges with such an approach and one of the complaints we hear most often is that models get slow and difficult to work with.  So, firms working on large projects go through all kinds of gymnastics to “speed up” the file, most of which compromise the elegance of the BIM approach in the first place.

Although our team believes that there are many ways to deal with such slow projects, we would also agree that there is a “sweet spot” for BIM usage and that is in the 10,000-100,000 sq. ft. size buildings such as schools, community centres, libraries, etc.  And who does the majority of these types of buildings? That is right: small to medium sized firms.

BIM is Expensive

Quite the Opposite!  BIM is an investment that will save you money – unequivocally.

Let us look at software cost – one of the things that scares people away from BIM when really it should be an incidental part of the equation.  Take the average cost of Revit, which is certainly the leading BIM “authoring” software, at least in this part of the world, say about $5,000.  That is a one time cost followed by a yearly expense of say $1,000 for maintenance.  Now take a common salary for a BIM user – not an entry level draftsperson, not even a technician, but those who gain the most form a BIM process – highly regarded staff doing things that do not make the best use of their time, like “red-lining”: drawings, providing site instructions too late into the process or spending time deciphering uncoordinated drawing sets – say a salary of $50,000, even $70, $80, or $100.  Why would a smart business operator balk at spending 1-2% of their staffs’ base salary (this does not take into account benefits and other staff costs) to make them 10, 20 or even 40% more productive.

Ask yourselves – Do you not want to put the best possible tools in the hands of your best people to make them more productive and produce better work?
BIM is not expensive – it is value, value that we have been waiting for since the dawn of CAD.

BIM is Complicated

It can be – if it is treated as an expensive CAD tool.  How can it be complicated to create a model of a building and have that model tell the story of the building – in drawings, renderings, schedules and all of the data required to manage that building well into its life-cycle?  How can it be expensive to make a change in one place and have that change reflected automatically in every single location it exists?  How can it be expensive to solve complex problems in the digital world instead of after the concrete has been poured, or the 1,000 windows have been manufactured – incorrectly, or after the duct has been lowered to clear the beam compromising the view in the auditorium?

Manufacturers have been doing it for ages.  They do not spend a nickel in the plant until they have created and analyzed a design digitally.  In construction, this should be even more important.  We only get one chance to build a building.  Why not give ourselves a second chance and make the first one digital.
It just makes sense!

BIM is about Data – we just want to Design

BIM is about delivering buildings – better buildings.  Who knows most about that building the day it is opened for business?  Yet, the architect typically turns his back on the project the day the keys are turned over to the owner.  By adding value to that building and remaining the expert, even after it is open, the architect will get even more chance to design because he/she will have satisfied clients who will come back with more work.  Even more astounding will be the fact that because the construction phase will be smoother, the design team will actually have more time to do what they want to do – Design!

BIM is about data, and data is what is needed to design, construct and manage great projects.

BIG Firms have the Budget for BIM Management

Large BIM Management teams are what bogs down the BIM process.  Large firms who spend large sums of money to create whole BIM departments are losing sight of the basic fact that a good plan and framework is all that is needed to make BIM work in a firm of any size.  Large firms have taken a very simple concept and found ways to make it so complicated that nobody can use it properly.  As mentioned above, software with a plan to implement effectively is not expensive – in the end it is a bargain!

We Cannot Compete

Actually, BIM is the ticket to enabling small firms to be MORE Competitive.  By providing more value to your clients as a result of BIM, you can take on projects that you would not have considered using traditional methods.  It has been proven – smaller firms are winning bigger projects because of their ability to provide more innovative solutions.

Everyone will benefit from the use of BIM, but the marginal gain for smaller firms doing medium-size projects is far greater than for large firms getting bogged down with BIM teams trying to organize large groups to work on large projects.  This is your chance to be better than your competition. Those who grab the opportunity will find those who don’t scrambling to catch up.

BIM is not size-dependent; in fact it provides an opportunity for small and medium-sized firms to accomplish things they never would have dreamt of in the past.

Additional reading:
A perspective from the UK: BIM from the point of view of a small practice (David Miller)

Bob Heyman

About

Bob Heyman is the President of Summit Technologies. With over 10 years of experience in architectural practice and over 22 years consulting and supporting design professionals, Bob has extensive experience in helping companies to optimize the design and construction process.

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