How BIM Could Be “Business” Information Modeling
Lisa Lance posted on December 17, 2015 |
Builder supply store shows how BIM that handles take-offs is really a business tool.

Between providing estimates from take-offs and creating quotes, storing and accounting for inventory and shipping out product on time, building material suppliers are constantly juggling multiple tasks on tight deadlines. But the right business tools can help you find efficiencies and save you time and money.


3D CAD model of house and its material list. Image courtesy of Cadsoft.
3D CAD model of house and its material list. Image courtesy of Cadsoft.

Traditionally, a builder might take printed plans to a lumberyard or supply center and manually estimate take-offs. The process seems straightforward, but the downside of this method is that simple plans don’t often include all the information needed to order components, such as specialized roof trusses, floor trusses, windows and doors.


But there’s a better, clearer system for estimating and passing on information from a builder to the lumberyard or building supply center.


The heyday of the calculator and scratch pad has gone. A new generation of building industry professionals rely heavily on computers. As the industry changes and evolves, builders and building supply centers are slowly adopting building information modeling (BIM) and 3D modeling technology. Companies such as Cadsoft have created material take-off and design software solutions that share information with other programs for seamless integration and greater efficiency.


The result? The entire process is quicker and more seamless.


Today, lumberyards are becoming one-stop shops for builders. They often encompass kitchen centers, flooring facilities and hubs where builders and homeowners can select options, finishes and upgrades, all in one place. This integrated approach is easier for all parties involved.


In the past, the builder’s plans would be sent to the estimator at a lumberyard, either digitally or on paper. Now, a 3D model can easily be shared between file formats so all parties in the process—even if they’re using different software—can take that model and do their own breakdown to determine the cost of the project.


Building Customer Trust


One such lumberyard is Bloedorn Lumber in North Platt, Nebraska. Todd Roe, a draftsman/engineer at Bloedorn says using BIM software strengthens their relationships with customers. “You show them 3D renderings, take them right into their kitchen, and stand them in front of their island, and they say ‘Ooh, ahh, neat.’ You form a bond with them. They trust you.”


Todd Roe of Bloedorn Lumber uses BIM tools with take-off capability.

Todd Roe of Bloedorn Lumber uses BIM tools with take-off capability.

And, he says, because of his experience and his ability to work directly with the contractor, they don’t question the building process, and if they do have concerns, he’s able to answer their questions on the spot. He feels the biggest advantage gained by using BIM tools is the ability to quickly communicate with customers. “They don’t have to wait,” he says. “Waiting for a bid or an estimate is the number one thing that makes people shop you.”


Better Communication for All Stakeholders


The right software can also make it easier for the designer, contractor and supplier to work together. “The CAD program I use, Envisioneer [by Cadsoft], allows me to give them information, such as square footage of a roof or wall, very quickly,” says Roe.


3D design and estimating software allows builders to take a design file to a lumberyard (or a PDF of a design can be imported into the program). The user can then trace and highlight over walls and other elements of the plan, and the software builds a 3D model in the background so the design will include intelligent objects. The design can be seen in different views and checked for accuracy, and the design can even be shared with a client during the sales process. If the builder wants to see a model, the design can be sent to a viewer such as Skechfab. Because it is a 3D model, data can be sent to other partners.


“We live in a society where you have to be efficient or you lose potential sales extremely quickly,” says Roe. Although he is based in Nebraska, he often works on homes built in Wyoming and Montana. He uses technology tools such as GoToMeeting and to communicate with contractors on site. “I can immediately go to CAD and bring out that section and send the detail to the contractor’s smartphone.”


Roe describes his role as value engineering. “I make sure we’re building the most efficient way possible,” he says. In the past, he points out, the contractor had to take time away from the job site to take the homeowners to the building site and the lumberyard. “The builders love it because I’m holding the homeowner’s hand while the contractor is able to stay in the field swinging the hammer, staying on the job.”


The Best Tool for Your Business


What should you look for when evaluating the best software for your business? Look for tools that are easy to use and emulate the way you traditionally work. The right technology should also tackle the big picture so you can save time and money across an entire project.


Estimating in 3D brings many benefits. For example, you can measure actual lengths, areas and volumes directly from the model and calculate accurate framing, joist and rafter layouts. Data such as cost, SKUs and other “metadata” can be included in the file. This information can be passed directly from the software to a point-of-sale system to easily include pricing.


In addition to easily generating material take-offs, 3D modeling programs can improve accuracy in other ways. Counts, lengths, areas and volumes from the project can be viewed and optimized. Items such as screws and nails can be associated with objects for an even more comprehensive quote.


“The truth is, there are a lot of great programs out there—Envisioneer being one of them,” says Roe. “It’s all about the efficiency of running the programs and doing it in a manner that gets the customer what they need.”


Lisa Lance is a writer and communications professional living in Baltimore, Maryland. She has been working in the AEC industry for the past six years and holds a Master of Arts in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.



Cadsoft Corporation has sponsored this post.  They have no editorial input into this post.  All opinions are mine.  Lisa Lance.

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