Should Small Construction Companies Use BIM?

Is BIM worth the investment for small construction companies?

Architectural model
  By ​EduardThomas (Own work) [ CC BY-SA 4.0] ​via Wikimedia Commons

Construction companies who focus on small projects tend to be wary of Building Information Modeling (BIM), and rightly so. BIM calls for extensive training, costs a pretty penny, and it does not necessarily make you more profitable.

BIM, quite simply, is not best-suited for every project or every company. But because of the fear of high upfront costs, far too many construction companies are forgoing a great tool that could make their company thousands, if not millions in the long run.

How Much Does BIM Cost?

Got a couple thousand dollars to spend?

Autodesk, the AEC industry leader in 3D design and engineering software, is not cheap. Its two most popular products, Revit and Autodesk Building Design Suite Ultimate, cost $6,000 and $12,075, respectively.

Though they are not mentioned nearly as often, there are a great number of alternative products with just as many great features. ArchiCAD, for example, costs $4,250 and VectorWorks starts at $2,595—running about half the cost of Autodesk. There are also plenty of democratic and free BIM options, though with these quality has been historically questionable.

Price tag still too high? Tax credits can help offset the hefty cost. See what your local government offers as an incentive.

Is Training Expensive Too?

Training for Autodesk products can sometimes rival its initial cost. For example, formal training ranges from $300 to $1,800 (and averages to $800) for a two-month program. From there, there are a few advanced courses that can cost $4,600 or more. Some alternative companies, like CADD Microsystems, offer training for substantially less time and money.​

What’s My Return on Investment?​​

In the short run, buying into BIM is by no means a cheap proposition. That said, the thousands invested can turn into tens of thousands or even millions over time.

BIM helps streamline your entire project, from estimating to safety planning to implementation. In fact, BIM alone can boost your company’s efficiency by as much as 30%. The building system is designed to locate and resolve design issues before they happen, which prevents common sources of waste.​

BIM also lends itself to companies interested in pursuing government contracts. In fact, many federal government projects now require BIM for implementation (and will help pay for it to boot!). For firms looking to expand their horizon, this software solution will need to become a centerpiece for growth.

Finally, BIM can help construction firms land more jobs than they would with standard proposals. Tools like Revit paired with construction management software allows smaller firms to quickly draft a 3D model of what a proposed renovation or building would look like with exacted costs, as opposed to a rough sum. The model gives the firm with BIM an edge because clients can see exactly what they’re buying into.

Small companies considering BIM should only do so if they see growth in their horizon—BIM can easily pay for itself over the course of three to five years. Even for firms that largely work with smaller projects, BIM tends to be well worth the money.