Creating the Perfect BIM—Can You Afford the Time and Money?

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December 20, 2014 by Dennis Lerdahl

So, can you? Or do you need to answer the question from my last post first: “Should estimators be making 3D models?” I’m not sure which question comes first, but both questions need to be asked.

Personally, I lean towards estimators creating the BIMs. If I had to pick (and I’m glad I don’t), I would advocate training estimators on the use of BIM authoring platforms like Autodesk’s Revit. Not that some BIMsters wouldn’t make good estimators, it just seems easier to train someone on the use of new software rather than introduce them to all the areas of construction you must know to be an effective estimator.

This highlights the cost and time needed to either train estimators to build models for use in putting together an estimate, or to hire tech savvy BIMsters to build the models for estimators. Both options are very expensive! The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average median pay for cost estimators at $58,860 per year, and we all know that figure is low.

A BIM Engineer with two years of experience commands a salary of $85,000+ in Houston. Factor in cost plus burden and you are adding $125K+ to your preconstruction department each year. Turnover is high because of the demand and the start and stop costs could be even higher due to turnover. In addition, we don’t have a lot of estimators sitting around doing nothing right now. All preconstruction departments are busy and generally looking to hire.

However, the award of more work can offset the cost. Where is that fine line? Can you see it? Are your clients asking you to derive costs from the model, or do they want you to be on time and under budget at the end of the project? Do they care how you get there? Should they care? If so, will they pay you for the perfect model(s): utopia?

Don’t get me wrong, BIM will play a role in estimating, but I don’t think the way we are approaching the use of BIM now is the right path for success.

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