RE: Is BIM Better?

In a previous post we raised the question “Is BIM Better?” and talked around the question from the point of view of someone who would disagree with most of the readers here. The post generated a number of responses.  One of them follows from an experienced BIM  Manager, Greg McDowell Jr:

I just read your post on and thought I’d add my $.02.

I don’t have access to the financials anymore (I was let go a few months ago) but I do have anecdotal evidence of the effect BIM has on costs/profits. For a particular building type/scope which we had familiarity, we cut the time/cost to complete, from design to bid, from 5 people over 14 months, to 3 people over 8 months, to a staggering 2 people over 5 months. That’s an 86% reduction in costs over several years of gradual improvements in our use of BIM. Assuming the fee was roughly the same on all 3 projects, that amounts to about 2.5 times the profit on the last project as compared to the first.
I believe that the reason people aren’t seeing a reduction in costs/time has to do with the fact that most of us are architects running a business rather than business people running an architecture firm.
There is always more to do on a project — more to detail, more to design, more to consider. Left to our own devices, without an outside influence, we’ll work for as long as is allowed by the clients’ schedule. At some point, you have to artificialize the constraints because there is no metric for when a project is complete. It’s complete when it goes out for bid, permit, or CofO.
I read a long time ago a white-paper that Autodesk had commissioned that found a 20% decrease in time to completion for a set of identical tasks between AutoCAD and, at the time, ADT I believe — definitely pre-Revit. I think what has happened is that 20% has been absorbed by the forces that push/pull the industry. Clients want their projects done sooner (the longer they can keep money in the bank the better for them). Contractors want more and more ink on paper (less liability for them means more money in the bank). Consultants are demanding a larger percentage of our fee (networking, a/v, security, etc. all have been added to their scope of work over the years). Combine this with how poorly Revit/BIM has been implemented (so many workarounds, so much drafting where modeling would be better, so much insistence on traditional hand-drafted processes) and it’s not hard to see how that 20% reduction we were promised has disappeared.
Of course. That’s just my opinion… I could be wrong.
Another response from Design Technologist, Stephen Register:
I liked your “Is BIM Better?” article. The problem with BIM is that designers use it. Design is never done and I would conjecture most designers don’t know when to stop. Throw in loose contracts that let the client run the design process and you never get to the end of that rainbow. BIM expanded the limits of design, but we just expanded our work to that limit without an equivalent expansion in benefits. Sometimes I definitely feel what you are saying.
In the role of leading and directing the design technology efforts in our firms, tracking metrics is a core component oft overlooked or avoided and it shouldn’t be. Well-managed design projects  surely show key, track-able indicators to the benefits of BIM. With these indicators in hand, driving the industry and our firms toward the “BIM ideal” might be more successful. But let’s not fool ourselves. The majority of the industry may well be using a BIM tool to simply document projects, missing opportunities to use project data in both micro and macro scales to consistently drive better design, greater automation, more fluid data exchange, and introduce new efficiency.
If you could have any BIM-related metric, what would it be?
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