ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 3 - Issue: 9 - 02/28/2014

Expert Weighs the Costs and Benefits Associated with BIM

By Steve Rizer


How much does building information modeling (BIM) cost for a given construction project? There are, of course, several factors determining such a cost. Variables include, among other things, the purpose of the modeling effort, the phase of the project design, the level of detail of the model, and the number of updates to the model.


But despite so many factors, “I think that we’ve come to a rough rule of thumb” about the cost of BIM, Daniel Gonzales, corporate manager of virtual design and construction for Swinerton Inc., told professionals attending a WPL Publishing webinar entitled “Field BIM -- Using BIM to Improve Processes and Productivity,” a recording of which recently was added to the ConstructionPro Network ( Download Library free of charge for members.


Approximately “0.1-0.5 percent of the construction value of the project is what we’re looking at in terms of [the] costs of modeling,” according to Gonzales, who co-presented the webinar with Christian Garrido, BIM and scheduling engineer for Quality Planning Solutions LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Turner Construction Co. (see figure below). As far as an estimate for return on investment, “we’re looking at 3-5 percent, conservatively, as the construction value in terms of savings.”



In illustrating the financial benefits of BIM through reduced change orders, Gonzales pointed to a hotel project his company participated in that used the technology (see figure below). 



“What we found, by building the project virtually first, is that we were able to avoid about 450 … ‘RFI change orders’ through the modeling constructability review,” Gonzales explained. Given that the average change order cost $5,000-10,000 for the project, “if we just took half of that [amount], we would sort of see a savings of about a little over $2 million. Looking at the low-hanging fruit of virtual design and construction in MEP coordination, through shorter meeting times and reduced time from travel and everything else, we saw another savings that we documented of about $185,000. Now, the cost of modeling the project to us was about $285,000, so, you see, we’ve got a fairly significant return on investment.”


Gonzales then reported that his company studied the costs and benefits of 14 other projects and found that “change orders are actually averaging more in the $10,000-20,000 range, so, again, there would be more significant savings. Being conservative -- just say we caught half of those -- you can see that modeling can save a significant amount of money. Given the cost of producing models, it’s well worth doing.”


Later in the webinar, Garrido discussed how Turner has been using BIM to improve processes and productivity.


For immediate access to the complete webinar (full audio and visual) -- as well as three dozen other construction-related webinars that are available for download -- sign up to become a member of WPL Publishing’s ConstructionPro Network, a complete training, education, and development resource for the construction industry, at




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