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What to Look for When Buying Building Information Modeling (BIM) Software

As building information modeling (BIM) gradually becomes an industry norm, more construction companies will find themselves in the market to procure their own solution in order to remain competitive.

But just as no two construction companies are alike, neither are BIM solutions. As with any major purchase or investment, the most expensive option may not always be the best, and the cheapest may wind up costing you more in the long run. While cost is certainly an important factor in deciding which BIM solution to invest in, it shouldn’t be the only one. Asking the following questions can help. 

  • What challenges do you hope BIM will solve? 

Many construction companies face the same challenges, which can be amplified and have greater consequences in large-scale projects. Your challenges might involve imprecise cost estimates and lack of real-time access to the latest documents and changes, making communication and collaboration less productive. An inability to identify design errors and necessary changes early enough to avoid ROI- and schedule-impacting rework can also be a problem. Building information modeling offers the potential to turn these and other challenges into noticeable, measurable efficiencies.

  • Will it play nicely with other software you have, whether it’s third-party industry software or your own? 

It’s not uncommon for project teams to work with documents in a variety of file formats. This should come as no surprise given the different kinds of software used by architects, designers, engineers and vendors. But if your chosen BIM solution is unable to read files that have been sent to you for editing, reviewing or approving, it can Interrupt your workflows, hampering your efficiency. It could also potentially cause you to lose critical information during import/export.

There are a few workarounds to this interoperability obstacle. Perhaps the best option is to make sure you’re using software based on Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) standards. IFC is a vendor-agnostic, open, international standard for information-sharing in the industry. Another is to install a plugin that can translate file extensions for your particular software.

  • Is the BIM software able to handle the size and complexity of the types of projects you do, displaying different portions of the build in detail?

Having BIM software that can render in extreme detail and incorporate a seemingly endless amount of data could be a game-changer for some projects. Let’s say you want to show the owner a high level of detail (LOD) that zeroes in on parts of the project that may present some design challenges or flaws. Or maybe you simply want to present design options and corresponding costs. Delivering this LOD can provide not only considerable transparency into the project, but it can save money and a world of headache with far fewer change orders and costly corrective alterations down the road. Of course, hardware requirements (discussed below) will play a role in this.

  • What licensing model will work best for your company: permanent or subscription?

Maybe you want to make a larger investment in a permanent license that delivers ROI over time. Or, you might want some flexibility in your licensing with a subscription option. Leasing allows you to scale based on your project load. Something to note with subscriptions is that they sometimes include other software that you may or may not need. Find out if either option allows you to share use of the license with vendors and others involved in your projects.

  • Does the BIM provider offer the level of tech support (training sessions and materials) you may need, when you need it?

Support options are something to think about if your team is unfamiliar with BIM software, just ramping up with the technology, or the software is so comprehensive as to have a high learning curve. Some licensing options may come with training in how to get the most out of your software, although you may not need this if you’re upgrading or replacing an older BIM solution. Also look at whether software maintenance options are already included or a separate line item purchase. Find out if support is offered 24/7 or during certain days and times because you want to make sure an expert is available when your team most needs them, especially if you work on projects that are done during evenings and weekends.

These considerations will help you narrow down your list to those solutions that are worthy of trying out to ensure they meet your needs. Ask for a demo of the software to experience what it’s like to navigate and use. See how well it aligns with what you learned during the evaluation phase above. One thing to keep in mind when making your decision: Invest with an eye to the future. Certainly, buy what you need now, but also think of how your company is evolving, the types of projects you want to take on, and the level of detail required for them.

Chances are, with the more substantial projects you work on, adopting building information modeling is going to be a wise decision. While not currently required in construction projects in the United States, it is often required in other countries. So, it may be only a matter of time before you’ll be compelled to jump on board. But if using it can put you ahead of the competition, why not proactively add BIM to your projects now?

One option to consider is InEight’s Model with its ability to help you easily link and navigate all of your model’s details and illuminate visualizations that show progress or a specific phase. Schedule a demo to see how it can work for you.

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