The price of BIM

Whenever we’re discussing with our clients about our next BIM project, normally the same questions come up: how much does the BIM cost? or how much your hourly rate is? or the famous how much by square feet? – Let’s see the different ways we can approach this topic…

As we may know, defining a price for this kind of services is not like a simple equation where all members are known as in 2+2=4. First of all, each project has its own scale and complexity but in the other hand, there is a big variety of scopes and tasks that we, as consultants, can perform within the project, as well as -luckily- be on charge of a whole one.

Within design and preconstruction phases we can mention several scopes like 3D modeling, trades coordination and report, 2D documentation, structural and building energy analysis, among many others.

We can also work on as-built modeling production, either from site markups or point clouds and, why not? perform model upgrades for facility management, fabrication, quantity take-offs as well as, model audits, BIM implementations, training, and visual programming, besides a lot of others.

As stated at the beginning of this post, although some organizations have their own metrics based on their expertise, there is no universal method to define or estimate the previous scopes. Nevertheless, some ways to address this subject might be using square feet metrics, % of construction costs, splitting the quote by level, by deliverable, by phase, by trade, and so on…

Furthermore, in an ideal world, we can have the whole project information at hand before starting the quotation process. If the client is a new one, let’s not forget to speed up the NDA! This will allow us to have all the required documentation to properly understand the complexity of the project.

Unfortunately, if the scope is small, it’s pretty common to only have a single sketch of the project for reference. Even worse, sometimes there is no time and we have to send rough numbers by risking our utility when pricing on a rush or, worst case scenario, losing the opportunity if we don’t do it on time. Rush estimations, both by email or phone, will not allow us to properly specify assumptions either discuss the project constraints.

That being said, it is important to discover, describe and bring on the table as many attributes we can to evaluate how they will be impacting in our numbers and this is what here we’ll call: It’s not the same.

It’s not the same

  • Time is a fundamental constraint. It’s not the same to deliver the first floor in one week or three, like it’s not the same if we have to pay overtime to our team to deliver the model on time. Let’s be cautious and clarify these conditions with our clients and discuss how the schedule will be impacting the project cost.


  • Scope. There are some tasks that can be estimated in an hourly basis, a good sample would be the 2D production, where we can approach by evaluating how much time each sheet will take. The same way we can easily determine (as long as we have proper information) how much time the team will need to model one level of a cold-water piping layout.
    If we are yet talking about coordination, we can definitely use some % of the modeling efforts. The goal at this point is to make sure that the RFP -request for proposal- is clear enough to ensure all the needed job and only the needed job is included in our proposals. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request clarifications.


  • Added value. There are some tasks that shouldn’t be estimated by considering the time they need to be completed. Let’s think about Revit quantities: 10 Revit schedules can be created in one hour. How much does it worth to have the shopping list of all project items and assets? Let’s put it in another way: how much does it take to only run Navisworks clash detective? What matters here is the expertise and technical knowledge of our specialists who can pick up the critical clashes, group them and propose the best solutions. In other words, we’re not talking about time but added value.


  • Use of BIM. The purpose of BIM will definitely drive us to define the LOD -level of detail/development- that our model will require. It’s very common that this LOD is requested by the client while sometimes it has to be part of our recommendations.
    It’s not the same to have an LOD 200 concrete model for rough quantification, or one LOD 300 architectural model with different wall types, thicknesses, and materials. Also, it’s not the same an LOD 400 fabrication model where we’ll specify how ducts should be cut for installation purposes. Let’s make sure the client expectations are clear enough so we can suggest a reasonable LOD to make him save money and time.


  • Project type. It’s not the same to estimate the modeling efforts for an office building with huge empty spaces than doing it for a housing project, a hospital, a treatment plant, an airport or a commercial mall. The type of project will help us to understand the complexity of the model: It’s not the same to coordinate a 3 equal layout story office building than a single level mechanical room. Sometimes is not about square footish but building usage. As previously stated, it’s a must to clarify the scope as needed, since this will help us to make the quote as accurate as possible.


  • Type of contract: It’s not the same to have a lump sum contract than a time and material one. Who will be absorbing the cost of rework in case new revisions come up?


  • Availability of information. As mentioned earlier on, it’s not the same to quote one fully documented project where we have every detail than estimating one where we’ve barely seen a picture or render. This point is about uncertainty, since we won’t be able to come up with a tight proposal. Our suggestion is to add some margins, this way we’ll be covered when the contingencies come up. We can polish our numbers with the customer afterward, once the information arrives.


  • Quality. Consider the quality as a “non-negotiable” variable. A good model quality with consistent data will let our customers take the maximum advantage of each BIM tool and model. At our end, it will help us to deliver better results. Let’s not underestimate the quality, it’s a must to have some QA/QC % in our project’s budget.


  • Finally, our costs. Beside all fixed cost, do we need to invest in special hardware or software? Remember the licenses are expensive and we may need to include them in our quotes.

Long story short, these points are the main aspects that may impact our project’s budget, but each project and client can take us to include several additional variables. If we are lucky and we have all the project documentation, is essential to take the necessary time to fully understand the project in order to suggest the best strategies. This will make the client save money as well as increase his trust in us.

A deep understanding of the project along with our knowledge of BIM processes will give us the ability to recommend to our clients some new possibilities and visualize new opportunities by leveraging their BIM models. In other words, promoting a consultative sale by taking advantage of each BIM tool. A good example of this would be taking the coordination model we’ve produced to extract the amount of materials and programming its arrival to the site.

For clients which are starting to include BIM technologies in their processes, it looks like BIM is a detrimental and magic tool that is going to solve all their problems, although they don’t know where to start from. It’s right there, where our capability as consultants comes to play: designing a solution for their problems by developing strategies according to their needs as well as making them understand that the price of our services doesn’t only have to do with deliverables or amount of working hours. The contribution and added value we are giving to each project, based on our good practices and lessons learned, is what really care!

Let’s make our client choose us for the quality of our work, responsiveness, commitment, and our accountability to accomplish our promises besides the price of our services!



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