Building information modelling should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat, according to RICS director of built environment Alan Muse.
- Level 3 marks step up for the QS
- QS must guide clients through BIM
- No need for BIM to increase fees
- Cost becoming less of a barrier?
BIM might sound like a major threat to quantity surveyors. If cost estimates can be generated from BIM models then will clients need QSs to the same extent in future?
Their professional body, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, is not worried. BIM will eventually change the way QSs work, but it is more of an opportunity than a threat, according to RICS director of built environment Alan Muse.
Life won’t change much for QSs at Level 2 BIM, as each profession works from its own model and a federated version is only used for facilities management, he explains.
Level 3 marks step up for the QS
But Level 3, where all the professions work from a single model and some of the gathering of data is more automated, will make a difference to the role of the QS.
For example, if all professions work off a single model then they will have to work far more closely, particularly at the design stage. “The architects will change something and it will become an obvious change in cost and time,” Mr Muse says.
“Computers allowed the profession to concentrate on giving professional judgements and advising the client, and I think similar things will happen with BIM”
Alan Muse, RICS
“The impact of changes will be seen immediately, rather than waiting for the architect to do their job before QSs can do their job.
“It will be more interactive because design teams will work together and there could be a co-location environment in large projects.”
Because the impact of changes can be seen far more quickly in a shared model, teams will be able to test out more options in BIM, he adds.
In addition, BIM will make more lifecycle data available at an earlier stage, influencing the choice of materials and build and also changing the costs.
“You can optimise the solution before you build it,” he says. This is one reason why the QS will have to do more work earlier in a project than is currently the case.
QS must guide clients through BIM
But while Level 3 will take some of the ‘mechanical drudgery’ out of the job because quantity generation will be more mechanised, Mr Muse says QSs will have to distil the information into a form that allows clients to make judgements.
Additionally, they will get larger amounts of data and be able to do more analysis of it than at present.
“If we are providing good value in terms of advice to the client, and they are seeing that, then there is no reason why fees cannot remain the same or increase”
Alan Muse, RICS
The change is a bit like the introduction of computers and spreadsheet software in the 1980s, he adds. “It affected the profession but did not usurp it.
“If anything, it allowed the profession to concentrate more on giving their professional judgements and advising the client, and I think similar things will happen with BIM.”
Far from being edged out by BIM, Mr Muse says there is an opportunity for QSs to pitch themselves as the ideal people to manage the models as well as the flow and quality of data.
“The QS is the natural professional to take that on board because of its interests in data and the IT associated with it.”
That is why RICS has established a BIM manager qualification, Mr Muse explains. But QSs on projects will doubtless be up against other professions who also think they are ideally positioned for this role.
No need for BIM to increase fees
Even if BIM does not spell the end of the QS, some fear it might cut the amount they can charge for their work. Mr Muse says this need not be the case.
While the BIM model might take over some of the more mechanical calculations, this will simply give the QS time to provide more analysis and advice.
“The value of the work won’t diminish,” he predicts. “If we are providing good value in terms of advice to the client, and they are seeing that, then there is no reason why fees cannot remain the same or increase, particularly if the industry becomes more efficient.”
However, the days of BIM being the norm at any level – let alone Level 3 – seem to be some way off, according to the findings of RICS’s latest survey.
Just over half the audience (54 per cent) at the RICS conference in February said they had worked on a project that used BIM in the past 12 months, which was a small improvement on the 47 per cent at the previous year’s conference.
The top three barriers to uptake of BIM both this year and last were minimal client demand, lack of standards and IT or technology.
The biggest issue facing people trying to implement BIM in their workplace remained culture change followed by training and effective collaboration.
Cost becoming less of a barrier?
Cost is now seen as less of an obstacle to workplace introduction; it was only cited by 5 per cent of respondents this year, down from 13 per cent a year earlier.
However, cost is still viewed as a problem for wider uptake of BIM.
Furthermore, 72 per cent of those surveyed said it was imperative to invest in BIM in the next 12 months, which suggests there could be sharp rise in the number of people who have used BIM in a year or two’s time.
Mr Muse can see the rationale behind the poll responses. Companies might not have been keen – or able – to invest in BIM during the recession, he says, which might explain why there has been little change in the proportion of delegates who had worked on a project using BIM.
But he says it makes sense that a large percentage thought it would be good to invest in the technology over the next year.
He points out that the economy is improving and companies only made relatively small reductions in their workforce in the downturn, so are looking for ways to become more efficient.
“Perhaps companies are more able to invest now,” he says. “There is a groundswell of opinion, certainly in London, that now is a good time to invest to improve the efficiency of the practice going forward.”