The price of BIM

When we’re discussing with our client about our next BIM project, normally the same questions come up: how much does the BIM cost? -for newbies- and how much the hourly is? / how much by square feet? -for those more experienced-. Let’s see the different ways we can approach on this matter…

The equation 2+2=4 doesn’t work at the time of defining a price for this type of services. First of all, each project has each own scale and complexity, but, in the other hand, there are a big variety of scopes and task that we, as consultants, can do within the project, as well as -luckily- be on charge of the whole project.
About these task it’s possible to mention the 3D modeling, trades coordination, preparation of interference reports, construction programming, 2D production as the best known, but there are other as well, like models and 2D update according to site pictures, hand drafts, point clouds, model upgrade for operation and maintenance, quantities extraction, structural and energetic analysis, as-built documents production, models auditory, BIM implementation and training, beside a lot others.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is no universal method to define the BIM price. There are some ways to estimate the previous tasks: hourly, by square feet, by level, by deliverable, by phase, and other several ways we can imagine.

Furthermore, in the ideal world we can have the whole information about the project but is not the reality in most cases. If the client is a new one, we must sign an NDA -no disclosure agreement- to be able to have and review all the documentation and understand the complexity of the project. Even worse, and very common in the construction world, usually there is no time to sign this agreement, and we need to set a price at the moment or by the phone, risking our utility establishing a price not knowing the properties of the project, or worst case scenario, loosing the opportunity if we don’t do it at time.

That’s why is very important to put on the table as many of conditionants we can before close our proposal, that is what here we’ll call: Is not the same!

  • The time is a fundamental variable. Is not the same to deliver the model of the first level in one or in three weeks, like is not the same if we have to pay for extra hours to our production team. Let’s be cautious and clarify these conditions with our client.
  • The scope. There are some tasks that can be estimated hourly like the 2D production, where we can presuppose how much time the work will take us. Is not the same with the extraction of information for quantification: an experienced guy can create 10 schedules per hour, but the result has much more value for the client than the same hour applied to the 2D production we mentioned in the first case. Finally, is not the same a report of design problems, where even if it comes from an automatic interference report that Navisworks can do in one minute, we’ll need a technical specialist who knows how to pick out the critical problems from those less important and how to propose the best solutions. In this last case we’re not referring a mater of time, but added value.
  • The use of BIM. The purpose of BIM for the project will take us to define unavoidably the LOD -Level of detail- that our model will have. Its very common that this LOD is defined by the cliente, while sometimes, with clientes beginners in the BIM world, it has to be part of our suggestions. Is not the same, for instance, a LOD 200 model for quantification, where we can model the elements in a generic way to get the general amount of materials as concrete and steel, than one model with a LOD 300 or more, where we will have to specify the layers and thickness of materials that are part of the walls. For more information about LOD visit
  • The type of Project. Is not the same an office building with a free plan than a housing building, a hospital, a treatment plant, or a commercial mall. The type of projects will help us to understand the complexity of the model. Is not the same a 10 equal layout story building than a 4 story one with different layout per level.
  • The information we have. As we mention previously we can’t estimate the same way one fully documented project where we have even the last detail, than those projects where we’ve just seen a picture or render. When we handle high level of uncertainty it’s no possible to break down our tasks to define clearly the time that the work is going to take us, therefore we will not be able to prepare a tight proposal. In this case, we will need to add some percents that can give us a margin to cover this uncertainty.
  • The quality of our work. Although we consider the quality is essential, is not the same a work done by a junior modeler with a few experience in the job, than the one done by a specialist. A good quality of the information that our models contain will let us take the maximum advantage of the benefits of each BIM tool and deliver better results.
  • Finally, our costs have to be in mind as well at the time to estimate the price of a project. Is not the same a client with a long time relation -who can call us and entrust a work by phone-, than those new ones where we need to invert our money on trips, travel expenses and marketing. The last thing, don’t forget our fixed cost, like the hourly of our team, either modelers, coordinators and quality checkers, either licences and hardware costs, and bank taxes specially when we are working internationally.

The previous points are the main conditionants, but each project and client can take us to ponder a lot more of variables. If we are luckily and we have all the project documentation is essential to take the necessary time to fully understand it in order to propose the best strategies to approach the project, based on our knowledge and expertise.

The project understanding along with our knowledge of BIM Proccess will give us the ability to recommend to our client some new possibilities and opportunities based on the work requested. In other words, to suggest them new tasks we can perform with the same model or work we’ve already done, promoting a consultive sale taking advantage of the power of each BIM tool. For instance: “Let’s take and use the coordination model we’ve produced to extract the amount of materials and programming its arrival to the construction site”.

For clients beginners in the subject, BIM seems to be that detrimental and magic object that is going to solve all their problems, although they don’t know how to start. There, is the point where our profile as consultants comes to play: designing a solution for their problems, by performing and proposing strategies according to their needs and making them understand that the price of our services doesn’t have to do only with deliverables, but with the contribution and added value we are placing in a complex project based on our expertise and good practices.

Let’s make our client choose us for the quality of our job, the fastness of our answers, our commitment with the project and the accomplishment of our promises and not only for the price of our services!


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