What’s the true ROI on BIM?

September 07, 2012 |
Rob Cassidy

Our article “BIM finally starting to pay off for AEC firms” (July) and the accompanying Giants 300 rankings of the Top Architecture, Engineering, and Construction firms by BIM revenue drew some skeptical responses from readers. As one commentator said, “Would like to see some hard figures on ROI.”

We knew going in that there would be problems with this question.

For one thing, defining exactly what is meant by a “BIM project” left the door wide open for interpretation. If a firm merely did some preliminary visualization models for presentation purposes and never used the model to complete the project, would that count as a “BIM project”? Or did the whole project have to be modeled from start to finish to qualify?

We left the decision of what constituted BIM-related revenue up to each firm. For general contractor, CM at risk, and design-build firms, this was pretty straightforward since theoretically all the money for their projects flows through their books.

But some architecture and engineering firms took our instructions to mean the “total construction cost of projects” in which they used BIM, rather than their fees, so the amount was greatly inflated. We did our best to correct these inconsistencies in the Giants 300 BIM charts.

Finally, many firms left the question blank, which raised the question as to how pervasively BIM is being used by even the 300 or so “gigantic” AEC firms in our Giants rankings.

Some firms may have assumed the question was optional, or just didn’t want to go through all the calculations to determine their revenues that could be attributed to BIM projects. We’re not the IRS: We can’t force people to answer.

In our article, we took at face value firms’ assertions that their investment in BIM was indeed paying off, even though some firms admitted that implementing BIM was not easy to implement - which we can assume meant that, for awhile at least, it was not paying off.

The closest we got to any hardcore data was a statement by Brad Perkins, CEO of Perkins Eastman, to the effect that an in-house analysis showed his firm’s project labor costs to be “more favorable” for BIM projects than for CAD projects. Since this analysis was proprietary, we could not report any further details.

A more wide-reaching critique of our article came in a post from Ron E. Allen, Co-chair of  the Orlando (Fla.) Revit Uses Group. “I would like to know to what extent these firms are using BIM,” he wrote. “Too many times I have seen firms use Revit, ADT, Bentley, or ArchiCAD for plans and (occasionally) elevations and sections and mistake this as BIM.

“It isn’t the tool that makes BIM, it is the information attached to the model and how it is assessed,” said Allen. He called BIM a misnomer: “What clients are asking for from [the] ‘benefits of BIM’ [is] actually derived from VDC”—virtual design and construction. Allen concluded by saying that it’s “time to dig into the data.”

We couldn’t agree more. But there also needs to be an appreciation that disruptive technologies like BIM/VDC take a lot longer to fully implement than people think. CAD just didn’t pop up full-blown in the 1980s: It took years for even the “giant” AEC firms to fully integrate it into their work flow.

The same process seems to be happening with BIM/VDC. Some firms are forging full speed ahead, others are experimenting cautiously, and many are sticking with what they know. +

Rob Cassidy | Building Team Blog

Rob Cassidy (“ClimateGrouch”) is editorial director of Building Design+Construction. A city planner, he is the author of several books, including “Livable Cities,” and was a co-founder of the Friends of the Chicago River.

Related Blogs

The High Line effect: Placemaking as an economic development engine

Eight years into the transformation of an elevated section of New York Central Railroad’s West Side Line into a public park, the $273 million project is being hailed as a resounding win for the city. Photo: Beyond My Ken via Wikimedia Commons

March 02, 2015 | Cultural Facilities | Building Team Blog

As big money and eager tourists flock to Chelsea, cities across the globe are starting to take notice. Chic...

read more
Photo: Infrogmation via Wikimedia Commons

The National Institute of Building Sciences estimates the retrofit market for small commercial buildings at $35.6 billion. Photo: Infrogmation via Wikimedia Commons

January 28, 2015 | Office Building Design | Building Team Blog

The real opportunity for shrinking the nation’s energy footprint lies in the mundane world of small commerc...

read more

This past October, 78 young AEC professionals gathered in New York City for leadership development and networking during BD+C's Under 40 Leadership Summit.

January 21, 2015 | Building Team Blog
Many AEC firms focus on training for the hard skills of the profession, not so much for business prowess,...
read more

Photo: Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons

December 22, 2014 | Building Team Blog

Commercial and residential construction can be as different as night and day. But as one who covered the ho...

read more

American Standard's SaTo sanitary toilet pans (shown here installed in a latrine in Haiti) seal off pit latrines from flies to prevent the spread of pathogens.

December 08, 2014 | Building Team Blog

When we see the incredible technology being produced by global plumbing manufacturers, it’s hard to conceiv...

read more

Prajakti "PJ" Glasco, AIA, ACHA, LEED AP BD+C, Senior VP/Senior Project Planner, FKP Architects (Class of 2014 40 Under 40 winner)

November 21, 2014 | Building Team Blog

Are you an AEC superstar? The 2015 "40 Under 40" competition is now open for entries. Here are some helpful...

read more
November 17, 2014 | Building Team Blog

It’s been almost two years since 20 first-graders were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in N...

read more

Photo: Nightscream via Wikimedia Commons

September 25, 2014 | Building Team Blog

Precedents and patterns may not tell you all that much about future spending or demand.

Illustration: ratch0013 via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

September 03, 2014 | Building Team Blog

Architecture, engineering, and (presumably) construction firms will face difficulties with management succe...

read more

Qianhai Development - Goettsch Partners, August 2014

August 29, 2014 | Building Team Blog

U.S. architecture and engineering firms like Goettsch Partners have been enjoying full employment in China....

read more
 

Add new comment

Your Information
Your Comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
Overlay Init