One thing that worked out quite nicely in terms of preparation was a set of questions I was emailed by an MSc student Candi Brown regarding a study into BIM and the Quantity Surveyor. Some of my thoughts below:
Update: Anybody that would like to help with this research please email:
Candi.Brown [at] uk.rlb.com
1. What still needs developing with BIM software in relation to QS tasks such as quantity take offs and automatic costing?
Quantity take off works well for the major materials such as concrete blocks or plasterboard. Automated costing is not as simple due to rules of measurement, for example a 4m-high x10m-wide brick walls cost less to construct than a 10m-high x4m-wide.
So there must be an intelligent interpretation of this data.
Also, costing is clearly much more than just the cost of construction in pounds and pence. It is also the environmental costs and these costs through the building's operation too.
In terms of meeting with QSs involved with BIM that we have talked to, I’d say:
a. The ability to automatically take off quantities as opposed to measuring from plans and elevations.
b. The ability to link in-house cost databases to the elements in the BIM. This allows cost estimations to be more rapidly developed.
c. Basic collaboration and sharing of information. Through BIM, the design team are forced to make design decisions earlier – the cost consultant can then receive this information in a very understandable format and then advise on the implications of these decisions.
3. What are the main threats/opportunities to the QS?
The threats, to any construction professional, are mainly from “staying still” for too long and not adapting to change. Are there any practices still using drawing boards and typewriters?
Another threat is potentially from overseas competition. The UK cannot afford to stay still in an increasingly competitive global market. Clearly this is an opportunity too.
4. Is there any room for the future for Quantity Surveyor to get involved in adapting the BIM model themselves, for value engineering etc., and that this may be a skill that will be required of the future QS?
The BIM software packages used on a project, whether dealing with geometry, specification or cost must allow for the work flow you describe. What is clearly important though is for each consultant to agree the process and for change management QA processes to be put in place. Clever software and well-structured data are crucial, but skilled people and a defined process are also required.
A QS has traditionally contributed in many ways to the specification process, so there is no reason why this should decrease in any way with the adoption of BIM.
5. Could the QS play a lead role as BIM Co-ordinator/Manager?
I’m interested as to how long the word “BIM” will continue to be used. 5 years? 10 years? Eventually BIM will simply be the way people work on construction projects. Like a CMS is used to manage the production of a magazine or a website. Could a QS play the lead coordinator/manager role on a construction project? Of course. In 10 years’ time, will there be a contract role that is the “BIM Manager”? I don’t think so.
6. Which stage of the construction process is there scope for the QS to gain the most benefit out of using BIM?
The biggest chance to influence financial or environmental impact cost is as early on in the project as possible when the desired outcomes, performance specifications and the budget is being set. Post construction, there is an amazing opportunity now to take the actual information in digital form – estimated costs, actual costs, project duration and then feed this back into in-house systems so that lessons are learned and the next project is even better.
7. Are there implications for QS fees as a result of BIM?
Consultants must be paid for the value they add to a project. If a construction project comes in for a lower price, if the yearly operation costs of a building are less, then the consultants must be rewarded accordingly. So fees should not reduce for those embracing BIM and bringing more to the table.
However, where standardisation is possible with repeat work of the same client, then fees may come down. But this will be “win for all” as everyone will benefit through increased profit margins.
8. What do you think are the key barrier(s) to the uptake of BIM for Quantity Surveyors?
Same reasons people didn’t want to change from typewriters and drawing boards in the 1980s. Fear of change. Reluctance to invest in training and technology.
Businesses evolve through leadership from the top and through encouraging staff to push ideas from within.
9. Are there any good QS case studies on BIM?
We have a number of industry-wide case studies on theNBS.com/BIM – a good cost consultant one is Dick Barker from Laing O’Rourke. We have another case study from John Lorimer (Manchester City Council – intelligent client) which will also be of interest.