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5 Reasons to Use a Fully Integrated Estimating Solution

As an estimator or quantity surveyor, your day might begin with a swim through the masses of printed drawings every morning just to fish out the plans you need. Thereafter, preparation for the traditional ritual starts with sharpening pencils, placing multiple rulers at arm’s length and then trying to fit […]

5 Reasons to Use a Fully Integrated Estimating Solution

As an estimator or quantity surveyor, your day might begin with a swim through the masses of printed drawings every morning just to fish out the plans you need. Thereafter, preparation for the traditional ritual starts with sharpening pencils, placing multiple rulers at arm’s length and then trying to fit a calculator onto what’s left of your desk. A quick glance at the clock indicates lunch time and your determination to obtain quantities inadvertently tilts to finding a decent feed.

Back from lunch and your determination to complete the BOQ is burning stronger than the sun. But then four hours in, you realise an error necessitating you to manually adjust everything has turned up- the last straw. You ask yourself- why are you trying to start a fire with stick and stones when everyone else is using a lighter? If this sounds like you, today’s post is a must-read- where we will discuss 5 (critical) reasons why you need to start using a fully integrated estimating solution.

Productivity
The principal advantage of using a full-function estimating system is productivity. With the right program, you can leverage intuitive technology to reduce human error. Streamline 2D and 3D/BIM takeoffs with live-linked quantities, and have multiple users in the same office or different regions working on the same estimate simultaneously. Save time, win more work. Ultimately, speed and productivity will be the differentiating factor for a profitable business.

Accuracy
In the construction industry, productivity alone is meaningless without accuracy. You need to have a system which understands the intelligence in 2D drawings. Utilise the freedom of manipulating Excel®-like formulas and functions for precise calculations. Most importantly, you want to rely on a comprehensive audit trail: revision logs, undo button, comparison reports, and quantity sourcing to limit your risks when it counts. Using computer-aided estimates where takeoff data is extracted and linked directly into the estimating process is not only more accurate, but also saves you the time and possible errors that come with having to re-enter information.

Consistency
Standardise your estimating process by enhancing cohesiveness. Working within the realm of an estimating software administers consistency throughout your business. This promotes a more centralised business model enhancing communication while greatly diminishing disputes amongst colleagues. Leverage standard pricing structures, templates, and databases so you’re on the same page throughout your business. Apply previous projects or prebuilt models as benchmarks for current bids to reduce overlap and increase consistency. Set the standard on how to win projects across the company.

Presentation
Most notably, deliver concise presentations. In today’s technology driven environment, companies are leveraging software to deliver a higher level of professionalism. Deploy estimating software in your business for crisp graphical reporting which can comprise of subcontractor comparison, model revisioning, and sourcing criteria. Display 3D BIM models integrated with their associated 2D sheets and show alterations in real time. Have confidence at crunch time and execute!

Future-Proof
With BIM becoming more and more prevalent in the industry, it is crucial that you ensure your business is future-proofed with BIM-compatible software. With the power of BIM, you can extend your capabilities like never before. Make sure your estimating program is constantly developing their systems to ensure that you’ll always be up to date with the latest industry technology. If you choose a solution that allows you to do BIM & 2D takeoff in the same program, this will also mean your staff can make the switchover at an optimal pace- able to support BIM models when received, but still able to supplement with 2D drawings where required.

It is no secret that the QS and estimating profession has experienced a paradigm shift where estimating the cost only accounts for a fraction of the work. Former Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (AIQS) CEO Michael Manikas stressed that advancing technologies has freed up Quantity Surveyors to add more value, becoming an integral part of the management of projects- with the leading QS firms becoming more of a business advisor than their traditional counterparts. Furthermore, David Mitchell, board member of BuildingSMART Australia, notes that to succeed in today’s competitive environment, practitioners need to be comfortable and leverage working with a broad range of software, ultimately aligning your business model with technological advancement.

To find out more on how an estimating software such as CostX can help transform your business, just call or email us here and schedule for a free web demonstration with one of our Product Specialists today.

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My Favourite CostX® Feature: BIM Import Template

Each month we will ask a Product Specialist at Exactal what their favourite feature of CostX® is, and how it can be used. This month, we are speaking to our Hong Kong-based Product Specialist Clarence Mak. I would say my favourite CostX® feature is our BIM Import Template. In short, […]

My Favourite CostX® Feature: BIM Import Template

Each month we will ask a Product Specialist at Exactal what their favourite feature of CostX® is, and how it can be used. This month, we are speaking to our Hong Kong-based Product Specialist Clarence Mak.

I would say my favourite CostX® feature is our BIM Import Template. In short, it is a one click process that will import the BIM dimensions leaving you with a set of organised quantities.

As a Product Specialist, one of my job duties is to demonstrate CostX® features to our prospects. When discussing CostX®’s BIM functionalities in front of a room full of QS’s, the most frequently asked question by the attendees would have to be “Is there an automatic measurement button?”. So it is clear that as an industry, we are not particularly interested in spending time measuring areas and counting different fixtures, but would rather spend time on analysing the quantities themselves. BIM presents the opportunity to reduce time spent on tedious measurement tasks, and the BIM Import Template feature is one way to make it happen.

 CostX BIM Import Template

The idea of the BIM Import Template process is to provide a way to automatically and systematically create Dimension Groups and folders and import quantities into them from multiple drawing objects, all with minimal input. BIM Import Templates are special macro / script files written by Exactal for use with CostX® and have a .XSLT file extension. These files are installed with CostX® software and can be used straight out of the box.

 CostX BIM Import Template

They are used to automatically import object property data from a BIM Model in accordance with a set of rules which determine how the Dimension Groups and Dimension Group Folders will be configured and which object property values will be imported. So, when dimensions are imported using a BIM Template the Dimension Group Folders and Dimension Groups are automatically created based on the hierarchal grouping descriptions within the BIM Model, and the dimensions are automatically imported into them based on the most appropriate of the available dimensional values.

costx-dimension-groups-and-folders

Another advantage is that the BIM Import routine only works for the objects which are visible in the drawing window when the import is performed, therefore, the template may be used to import dimensions for a single object, one or more object groups, or the entire drawing.

As such, usually prior to importing dimensions using a BIM Template the displayed drawing objects are adjusted either by showing all objects (to import dimensions for the entire drawing) or filtered as required. The Model tab can be used to view the BIM Model hierarchy which will indicate how the Dimension Groups will be configured.

CostX-BIM-Model-hierarchy

More importantly, the speed with which preliminary quantities are generated using the BIM templates allows QSs to give cost advice early in the design stage. Cost estimates will be produced fast enough and early enough for architect to alter the design, making QSs service more valuable overall.

Times have changed and BIM is a powerful agent for change, which is why I feel the BIM Import template, and indeed the BIM features of CostX as a whole, are invaluable for any company’s future growth and expansion if they wish to remain relevant in the industry.

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Upskill Higher Education with 5D BIM

We are in the midst of an astronomical revolution that one may call the digital age. Technology has accrued to become an indispensable component of our very existence and will continue to evolve, for the betterment of the construction industry. At Exactal, we understand technology will inevitably transform the way […]

Upskill Higher Education with 5D BIM

We are in the midst of an astronomical revolution that one may call the digital age. Technology has accrued to become an indispensable component of our very existence and will continue to evolve, for the betterment of the construction industry. At Exactal, we understand technology will inevitably transform the way we build; however, it is important to note that technology itself is merely the vehicle, with students as our drivers.

Allied Market Research- BIM users growth

A recent report conducted by the Allied Market Research claims that the worldwide market for Building Information modelling (BIM) will grow over 20% to reach $11.7 billion by 2022. The emergence of this manifestation is primarily attributed to numerous legislative mandates on using BIM. So, what does this mean for Quantity Surveyors? A survey of 12,000 quantity surveyors revealed that 58% of the respondents believe that their profession is endangered and will likely be made redundant due to software packages. Yet, RICS argues that “BIM estimating” not only aids greater automation of quantity surveying functions, but also increases the relevance of the profession rather than belittles it.

As technology advances, we are obligated to advance with it or risk the peril of being left behind. With the likes of BIM, RICS notes the responsibilities of Quantity Surveyors are starting to shift – allowing the contemporary Quantity Surveyor to partake in multiple facets of the project life cycle. Hence, it is essential for Quantity Surveyors to adopt BIM in their practices, as with it their job nature is not made redundant, but empowered.

Han and Bedrick, 2015 claims that BIM adoption will suffer without early integration in the academic scene. Additionally, a report by NATSPEC, 2013 encourages and advises higher educational institutes to incorporate BIM into their programmes with the support from government and industry. This will ensure the production of BIM-ready graduates for the construction industry which is highly sought out by major firms such as Gleeds and Turner & Townsend.

Firms are now calling upon young surveyors, new to the industry, to take the lead on these exciting developments and pave the future pathways which BIM and other digital technologies now make possible. As BIM workflows become established within the construction industry, students will require the ability to know how to deal with these models and how estimating from the model fits in with the BIM supply chain. CostX® has a range of BIM compatible features, including support for IFCs and DWF files from Revit and many other applications, ability to automatically extract quantities or manually measure from the model, ability to link 2D drawings to the BIM models and more. To actively contribute to the upskilling of the global construction industry, Exactal offers this state-of-the-art digital take-off software for BIM & 2D with an amazing price tag of $0.00 – exclusively for educational institutes and students. Free University Licences allow all tertiary institutions to access and offer world-leading estimating software as part of their curriculum, while Free Student Licences allow students to install CostX® onto their computers at home to assist with coursework, even if they attend an institute which doesn’t already teach CostX®. It is for this reason, and of course it’s prominence within companies both large and small internationally, that many universities and tertiary institutions have already started teaching CostX® in various locations throughout the world.

Worldwide users- University

So, why should you start using CostX®?
thumb_up Industry recognized software
Empower your students with hands on experience with industry recognized 5D BIM construction estimation software, in turn greatly alleviating their transition into the workforce with improved employability.

loyalty Stress free License liaising
With no contract or paperwork needed, enjoy a stress-free liaison and have your licenses issued as promptly as you request them!

redeem 100% Free
Get access to the latest industry technology for free! Our Educational Program is completely free as part of our commitment to educational institutions in equipping students with world-leading technology.

swap_horiz Flexibility
With our various licensing configurations, whether you’re looking to deploy CostX® for a single computer lab or throughout your entire institute, we have a setup which will work perfectly for you.

perm_phone_msg Technical Support
Along with the free licenses, we also provide free 24-hour technical support. What’s more, we even have a dedicated Student Forum which acts a resource bank for students with a CostX® serial.

perm_phone_msg Training Support
Academic staff are provided with free training material that comes with various practical exercises plus drawing files. These can then be repurposed for their teaching. The training materials are updated accordingly with each release of CostX®. In addition, numerous free online resources such as our regularly updated webinars can be accessed from our website.

perm_media File Interoperability / Compatibility
CostX® is compatible with most major industry recognized files, including DWFTM, DWFx, IFC, SKP, DWGTM (2D CAD), PDFs, JPEG, BMP, TIFF etc.

5D BIM Immersion & Competition
Further to Exactal’s commitment to ensuring students are able to learn about 5D BIM and how it can be applied, we also recently sponsored the 5D BIM Immersion & Competition hosted by the University of Melbourne. Held from the 5th-9th December, this was a 5-day event with an aim to aid participants’ understanding and application of trending digital concepts. The competition facilitates the education of construction students and helps make them BIM literate, ultimately ensuring they are workforce ready while increasing the global uptake of BIM as a whole.

The 2016 competition sought to increase participants’ from University of Melbourne, Deakin University and the National University of Singapore understanding of 3D, 4D and 5D BIM concepts and scenarios as well as gave the participants the necessary skills to apply the concepts in practice. As the leading 5D BIM solution in Australia, Exactal along with Graphisoft, Solibri and Synchro sponsored and took part in the marking of the contending young teams.

The 5-day event concluded with the winning team taking home $1,000 donated by the sponsors and were recognized on both their presentation and the end solution – well done!

Feedback from Lecturers
As an integral academic implement for the contemporary QS, hear what several institutes in the world have to say about the CostX® educational programme. Click here for an article from Construct magazine (the official magazine of the AIB – Australian Institute of Building) – containing testimonials from two lecturers at well-regarded QS courses in Australia on how they are teaching CostX® into their own respective courses.

Where to from here?
Now that you have heard all the advantages of the CostX® Educational Program, how can you truly take benefit from this?

If you are an academic staff looking for more information on the Educational Program, click the button below:
Submit an Educational Enquiry >
Or
If you are just a student or a lecturer wanting a licence for a single computer, click the button below:
Apply for a Student License >

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My Favourite CostX® Feature: 3D Model Maps

Each month we will ask a Product Specialist at Exactal what their favourite feature of CostX is, and how it can be used. This month, we are speaking to our Brisbane-based Product Specialist Gavin Termine. Hi there to all the CostX Fans out there! If you’re reading these CostX blogs, […]

My Favourite CostX® Feature: 3D Model Maps

Each month we will ask a Product Specialist at Exactal what their favourite feature of CostX is, and how it can be used. This month, we are speaking to our Brisbane-based Product Specialist Gavin Termine.

Hi there to all the CostX Fans out there!

If you’re reading these CostX blogs, I guess you’re probably a CostX fan like myself. Within this blog, I’m sharing my favourite feature about CostX.

Probably the feature at the top of my list is the 3D BIM Model Maps. It is undoubtedly one of the most powerful features amongst CostX’s huge range of powerful tools.

Now, to get this blog in the direction of using Model Maps, I’ll begin by saying that one of the most daunting prospects of dealing with modern large-scale 3D BIM models these days is the massive amount of data that is attributed to every single object within that model. Then there are the innumerable and diverse descriptions, categories and family groups created by the various 3D modelling software programs out there.

When you first open one of these 3D models and start examining its BIM data schedule, you are presented with information thousands of columns wide and rows deep in data.

For example, check out this schedule snippet below, taken from a relatively small model (80MB). It’s overwhelming, but when shown in the CostX schedule handler, you can at least turn unwanted data off via the check boxes, or right-click to unselect all, and then just turn on the stuff you need. Simple in theory!?

CostX schedule handler

Okay, you can be forgiven for thinking, “How the heck am I going to sort all this data out and find the data I need”??

This is just a simple example as well- 3D models can get massive – over 100MBs in size! And if you’re not using a 64bit system with (of course) a 64bit version of CostX, you’re not going to be able to even open these models. An awesome Rig would go a long way to making life easy for those serious about BIM! A very condensed 100MB model once fully generated, can sometimes use over 10GB of RAM. Then, once all the revisions start coming through, and the CostX auto-revisions of the updated models start being applied, well, all this adds up to more and more data…

So, how do I deal with all this afore mentioned data? I use CostX’s ‘holy grail’ – Model  Maps!

With this tool, a CostX user can not only decide what they want, but how they are going to measure it, what folders they would like to create to categorise their measures, what data or combination of data they would like to use to produce their measures … and the list goes on!

This is why CostX Model Maps are still one of my favourite and rewarding tools to use. No matter how complex the Architects and Consultants get with their models, I know I have the technology under my fingertips to rein in their information and convert it into the data I need to quantify and price every aspect of the project.

For example, I’ve added an image below of some MEP objects which have been categorised in the model tree as per their basic materials. The client obviously wants the MEP priced up into their relevant services. Within this example’s Mapping Definitions, firstly in the ‘Folder:’ field, I’ve added an “IF” function in the formula to place any undefined pipes into the Sanitary section. In the ‘Dimension Group:’ field, I’ve separated the elevated piping from the in-ground piping using an “IF” function to segregate them by their invert levels. In this case, simply by sorting anything with an invert level less than zero, it will be considered in the ground.

Model Tree

The subsequent extraction gives me these results in the image below:

Model Tree 2

By the way, I’m just using the preview button to test my formula above. This way, if there are still unwanted results showing up, I can go back and make some adjustments.

You may notice how the Mild Steel folder is also in a bold font like the Pipe Types folder.

The reason for this is that while creating the examples, I found that the System Classification wasn’t a service description the client required. Instead of adding more “IF” statements in the Folder field formula of the Pipe Types, I just created an overriding Model Map definition to the Mild Steel group separately. See image below:

Model Map

I could go on with many other examples here, but for now, I hope I have been able to give a glimpse of the possibilities when using CostX Model Maps, and why I consider it one of my favourite features.

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7 Traits of a QS

What exactly makes a great Quantity Surveyor? It’s certainly not just about the software that you use. A good Quantity Surveyor should possess a series of traits to set them apart from being average. In this post, we’ll explore seven of the most important. Traits are unique qualities or characteristics […]

7 Traits of a QS

What exactly makes a great Quantity Surveyor? It’s certainly not just about the software that you use. A good Quantity Surveyor should possess a series of traits to set them apart from being average. In this post, we’ll explore seven of the most important. Traits are unique qualities or characteristics that embody and accurately differentiate you as an individual. These are your typical patterns of behaviour which encompass and influence your thoughts, temperament and emotions. The following attributes don’t exist by accident or luck; they need to be cultivated and integrated into your daily habits to ensure optimal yield. How many do you have?

Communicative

The profound ability to articulate yourself in a concise manner is essential for the contemporary QS. Communication between relevant parties is crucial for a successful project delivery – especially in relation to the BIM workflow where collaboration is core. Miscommunication is typically a contributing factor to an elongated project along with wasted expenditure. With CostX, customisable reports allow you to convey key insights to non-technical stakeholders; furthermore, various data visualisation functions such as Ghost view, Revision overlay and Charts can be used to aid communication efforts.

Critical Thinking

The true value of a QS lies not in his/her ability to rapidly add, subtract or multiply figures; far from it. The esteemed QS more so has the ability to process critical thinking into decision making at crunch time. With CostX, you can examine different cost futures combined with the imminent “What If” scenario. Additionality you’re able to rely on a comprehensive audit trail: revision logs, undo button, comparison reports, and quantity sourcing to enable a swift and reliable response to impending offsets. Being responsive is a crucial feat in acquiring and retaining clients. Your clients need to be reassured that any issues will be resolved immediately before they move into terminal stage.

Attentive to detail (Meticulous)

A prerequisite to becoming a QS is to have an eye for detail. Being industriously attentive to detail enhances accuracy; diminishing room for errors. With digital takeoff packages like CostX, human error is greatly reduced through the aid of features such as “live links” and “revision overlay”, however, it is you who should capitalise on the tools and not rely on them totally. Vigilant supervision of detail constitutes to the overall success of a project. This reflects strongly on you and your company image, conclusively influencing the customer experience. As they say, it takes years to build a good reputation but just seconds to destroy it.

Composure (Working under pressure)

Being a QS means working to meet deadlines every day. Typically, a QS won’t have the luxury of working on a single project at one time. Duty calls and you will likely be juggling multiple projects simultaneously. Having the ability to stay composed permits you to tackle your work in prime condition; ensuring tasks are completed without compromising company standards. Being composed spans out to include being able to efficiently prioritise and evaluate your tasks concurrently, show commitment at every stage of your work and ultimately gives an underlying quality of perseverance. With a comprehensive software package, this can often be all the more easier to manage.

Organised

Quantity Surveyors must keep up with all figures, data, and paperwork if they are to give timely recommendations. You will need to whip out information instantaneously if you want to stay on top. It is essential for a QS to organise their work so that productivity is maximized. Today, Quantity Surveyors are playing an increasingly significant part in decision-making in projects, so being organised should really be part of your modus operandi. If you are using old-school systems or not using digital takeoff at all, then you will find yourself wasting time on the trivial things. CostX come with both BIM & 2D takeoff, integrated estimating spreadsheets, customisable reports, rate libraries and much more, making it the all-in-one estimating solution. The coherency from having everything seamlessly integrated into one software package strongly helps facilitate organisation.

Humility

Humility is about knowing your limits, and having the poise to welcome the strengths and perspectives of the people around you. In essence, humility is an asset for self-development where converting weaknesses into strengths is alleviated. Working within such a dynamic market scape, it is vital to embrace new knowledge and technology. Yet, humility may be the most difficult trait to acquire simply because we fear it at the same time as seek it – everyone wants to be humble and not to be humbled. One of the best way to think around this is not to think less of yourself, but to think of yourself less. Too often, one can become stuck on the pre-existing methods they were using as they are convinced that is the best way- but it is very important to always be open to new ways of working within your profession.

Team Orientated

Being a QS means not only polishing your numeracy skills, but your team building skills as well. Like any other job, teamwork delivers enhanced performance beyond the sheer sum of its members’ single contributions – also known as the synergy effect. With loads of construction documents to handle such as contract conditions, BOQs, tender schedules, subcontractor enquires and construction drawings, great teamwork facilitates the delegation of duties in accordance to individuals’ strength and weakness. This way, ones’ weaknesses can be minimized while leveraging on their strengths for improved efficiency and productivity. CostX network version allows multiple users to work on the same project simultaneously, with each persons’ computer updating automatically when a change is made. With clear delegation and teamwork, it’s the perfect way to ensure each team member can do their part and get the project finished in a record amount of time!

So how many of the above can you confidently tick off? Don’t fret if you haven’t scored full marks, traits can gradually be nurtured through determination and self-discipline. There are no proven short cuts in developing these traits, however, with the right tools such as CostX, you can start developing and rectifying your practises in aspiration to becoming a QS that is not only respected but also at the top of their game.

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My Favourite CostX® Feature: Report Writer

Each month we will ask a Product Specialist at Exactal what their favourite feature of CostX is, and how it can be used. This month, we are speaking to our Malaysian Product Specialist Andy Ang. When I recall back to the time that I studying Quantity Surveying, the subject which […]

My Favourite CostX® Feature: Report Writer

Each month we will ask a Product Specialist at Exactal what their favourite feature of CostX is, and how it can be used. This month, we are speaking to our Malaysian Product Specialist Andy Ang.

When I recall back to the time that I studying Quantity Surveying, the subject which was most time consuming was measurement. The test for measurement, which only required takeoff of all ground floor beams for a bungalow, would take up to 4 hours. That time I always thought that, if there is software that can help us to do takeoff by a couple of clicks of a button, that will save a lot of my time.

After graduating and starting to practice as QS in construction industry, I found out that still takeoff is very time consuming, but with some formulas using Excel you can expedite the process. The new challenge then shifted from takeoff to preparing Bills of Quantities. The content of the Bills of Quantities we could just copy and paste from an old file, but when come to printing out the Bills of Quantities, it takes from few hours to a whole day just to amend the pages’ alignment, item code, headers, footers and page break.

Hence, my favourite CostX feature would be the standard report writer. We just need to key in our information in the Bills of Quantities, and CostX has the ability to generate the report nicely and neatly automatically. It’s very easy to use- just generate a report with the click of a button. It saves the time where you used to be keying in the item code page by page and filtering I & O manually, and you are not required to identify which line to input the page break in either. Sometimes when there was a minor change in description which affected the page break, we needed to redo all the page breaks in Excel. This will never happen in CostX; CostX auto-generates the page breaks and aligns the content. Other than that, when using Excel, if the number is large, some figures might be missing or hiding when we print it out. CostX always wraps text, so no figures will be hiding when we print out the Bills of Quantities using CostX.

Bills of Quantity

Trade Breakup

Most of our users might think that CostX saves time in taking off, but as a complete solution, CostX is able to assist Quantity Surveyors to reduce the time to prepare complete Bills of Quantities at the moment drawings are received from designers. From electronic take off, live linked quantities, live linked rate, to printing out the report. For me, the report writer is the feature that Quantity Surveyors cannot live without.

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What File Types Should Your Estimating Software Support?

Ever been on an estimating software hunt? It’s probably quite likely that the answer is yes; given that technology is constantly evolving, it always seems like it is now or never to find the tools to stay on top. Yet, each and every package promises to revolutionise your business and […]

What File Types Should Your Estimating Software Support?

Ever been on an estimating software hunt? It’s probably quite likely that the answer is yes; given that technology is constantly evolving, it always seems like it is now or never to find the tools to stay on top. Yet, each and every package promises to revolutionise your business and guarantee a hefty ROI. A few clicks here and there, mustering what’s left from your concentration bank, scrutinizing product info and testimonials – where do you even start to figure out what’s important to analyse? You could easily descend into the oblivion of either feeling great affinity or incredulity with each and every word. Not to worry, here we will aid your decision by covering one of the most important factors- discussing the file types your estimating software should support.

File interoperability is crucial when choosing an estimating software. You need to have confidence in your software supporting the seamless transfer of digital design information between designers and users for measurement and estimating purposes. This becomes even more pertinent now as the BIM workflow is introducing new files and formats into the market. CostX® allows its users to measure from a variety of drawing file formats including both 2D and 3D BIM without running CAD software. Whilst CostX® supports a wide variety of file formats, thus enabling its use on any project, file formats for design data vary and each inherently provides differing levels of data richness and functionality.

CostX Compatability

DWF and DWFx
DWF and DWFx are secure file formats developed by Autodesk that combine and publish rich 2D- and 3D-design data for dissemination. Normally if Revit® is the software used to design the building, a multi-sheet DWF or DWFx export with a default 3D model view and 2D sheets of all plans, elevations and sections can be exported. When imported into CostX®, this enables users to utilise the database information to automatically generate quantities from the 3D views, and augment the database quantities with additional measurement from the 2D or 3D drawing views or sheets as required. Revit is quite widely used across the world to produce BIM files, and if you want to work with BIM, you need to make sure your software provides optimal support for these formats.

IFC Files
The Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) file format is maintained by buildingSMART®, and is the primary BIM file type exported from most major design packages. The format establishes international standards to import and export building objects and their properties. Owing to differences in IFC implementation by the various authoring applications and the multiplicity of supported data types, IFC file configuration and data content will differ between projects. If the correct associations are not explicitly made in the source file, they cannot proceed in the IFC and hence may not appear in a downstream application. Thus, how a model file is prepared for export to IFC is extremely important and is a critical factor in the ultimate success of the IFC exchange process. To alleviate this, Exactal produces a Drawing File Optimisation document that fully outlines the parameters that need to be selected to ensure quantities are included in the model for analysis in cost estimating programs. With CostX®, users are able to import an IFC and create customised mapping to extract quantities from the model with ease. IFC navigation is also a cinch, and Exactal makes sure to continually develop IFC support with new versions and revisions to ensure there is the utmost level of compatibility between the two. When searching for estimating software, it is integral that support for IFCs is high on the list of priorities given that it is the international standard.

SKP Files
In addition to Revit files and IFCs, it is becoming increasingly prevalent for SketchUp® to be used to produce conceptual 3D views in the preliminary stages of construction projects, especially those that are intended to progress in a BIM environment. Having the ability to measure from these files would therefore be of great benefit in producing early stage Cost Plans and, for CostX® users, this ability exists. SKP files can be loaded in and viewed three-dimensionally, whilst measurements of areas, lengths and counts can be taken.

2D CAD Formats – DWG
For most 2D CAD packages, DWG files can be used as an interoperable format. DWG files are capable of being rich in content and CostX® users can exploit this intelligence with various advanced measurement tools. For example, the polyline command allows a series of lines or arcs to be combined into a single continuous entity to create highly complex shapes. CostX® is able to recognise the geometry of polylines and automatically return the area and perimeter or length of the shape, no matter how complex, with a single action. Hence it is very helpful if floor plans, rooms, areas, etc. are defined by polylines in drawing files. Similarly, CostX® recognizes CAD blocks, where a collection of shapes are combined into a single named object. Blocks can be realistic representations of objects or merely symbols, but in either case CostX® can takeoff all like blocks in a single action. Again, the Drawing File Optimisation document provides guidance for architects and designers on how they can ensure these polylines and blocks are included. Having an estimating software package that fully supports these intelligent file formats and allows the user to take advantage of intelligence in the drawing is a huge time-saver.

PDFs
PDF files are heavily used throughout the construction industry worldwide- almost certainly the most common file format that is used. CostX® supports both Vector PDFs (PDF files exported from a CAD package) and Raster PDFs (scanned images that have been converted to a PDF) and extracts the maximum level of intelligence from them. For example, with Vector PDFs polylines are maintained as with CAD files and you’re able to utilise the layers tool to filter the display to make viewing and measurement much quicker by eliminating unwanted data to reduce clutter. When searching for an estimating software package, it is crucial that PDFs are supported to ensure 2D jobs can be undertaken where required.

Sketches, Scanned images and more…
File types such as JPEG, BMP, TIFF, etc. provide the least data and do not contain any vector or other intelligence from the source CAD file. However, they are still used very frequently in the construction industry, and you can still load them into CostX® and takeoff when required. So long as the drawing is relatively to scale, it can be loaded in. A quick sketch on a napkin can be scanned, a scale added, and then the takeoff can begin! This is hugely advantageous if you find yourself needing an ‘on-the-fly’ basic drawing taken off for a simple estimate. Support for these file format types by your estimating software is extremely important for this reason.

As shown above, it’s very important to consider the file formats supported by your estimating software, so you can be prepared in any situation. What’s more, when 2D and 3D/BIM are supported in the same program, it means the user is able to work on Projects with both BIM and 2D files, which can make a huge difference to your accuracy and bottom line. CostX® supports all the file formats listed above and more, so you know that you’ll always be equipped to win the job!

For more information on the file formats CostX® supports, click here to apply for a copy of our Drawing File Optimisation document.

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My Favourite CostX® Feature: Subcontractor Comparison

Each month we will ask a Product Specialist at Exactal what their favourite feature of CostX® is, and how it can be used. This month, for our inaugural post in this series, we are speaking to our Principal Product Specialist Tony Shaw, from New Zealand. I have been thinking recently […]

My Favourite CostX® Feature: Subcontractor Comparison

Each month we will ask a Product Specialist at Exactal what their favourite feature of CostX® is, and how it can be used. This month, for our inaugural post in this series, we are speaking to our Principal Product Specialist Tony Shaw, from New Zealand.

I have been thinking recently about what my favourite feature in CostX® is. Now, those that know me may recall that I came to CostX® from a background of site-based Quantity Surveying for building contractors and, at the risk of highlighting my age, was used to measuring from paper drawings and hand writing each dimension on sheets of five column paper before then getting my calculator out. In light of this, my immediate thought was that perhaps it was the ability to perform digital on-screen measurement and, more recently, the advent of BIM take-off with its inherent 3D visualisation and automated quantity extraction.

Pausing for further reflection, and recalling my days on-site, again, just having a single CostX® file handed over from the Estimators that contained all of the marked-up drawings and detailed price breakdowns in one place, with a revisions history, would have been a huge benefit compared with the disparate pieces of information that we were given.

For me, however, being used to working in the post contract environment- if I had to name one part of CostX® that would be my favourite feature, then the Subcontractor Comparison module would quite probably prove to be it.

This module, which forms part of both the CostX® and CostX® 2D programs, offers the ability to sort/break out the base estimate into separate user-defined work packages that reflect how the job is to be procured. This can be done for whole items or, in the case of elements such as concrete foundations, say, can be separated into reinforcing steel supply and fixing, concrete supply and concrete placing, etc. as distinct packages, if that is how the work on-site will be undertaken. Once broken-out into these work packages, there is an option to export them as Excel® tender files, or CostX® tender files which can be opened in CostX® Viewer and include copies of the marked-up drawings, if desired. This opens up a world of e-tendering where files are transmitted instantaneously and figures received back from the subcontractors are imported, as opposed to being manually re-keyed with the intrinsic probability of errors, which just wasn’t available previously.

sub-contractor-navigation-bar

All of the work packages are managed in one file set against the original tender budgets, with up to ten subcontractor prices able to be entered against each one. Generally speaking, I would only ever go out to the market looking for a maximum of six comparable quotes so ten would have been more than enough. Once quotes are returned, the CostX® system will accommodate varying levels of detail such as schedules of rates or lump-sum pricing, and can automatically spread a lump-sum price pro-rata across the estimate items, if required. With using my previous manual methods, that would have involved some serious time spent with my calculator or in deriving some fancy Excel® formula to achieve the same end goal.

In my experience, it was common for items to be ‘tagged’ or excluded from a sub-contractor’s price, meaning that the price at the bottom of the quote wouldn’t be the final price you’d pay if you placed an order with that subcontractor. To account for this, the CostX® Subcontractor Comparison allows these items to be appended and priced accordingly to ensure an apples-with-apples comparison across all quotes. Similarly, if a subcontractor has missed pricing an item then the resulting gap can be filled with a choice of the Estimator’s rate, a price from a competitor’s quote for the same item, or a simple ‘plug’, all of which shows up in colour-coded text that denotes the appropriate status, as well as in a colour-coded bar-chart that gives the concomitant make-up of a price.

sub-contractor-bar-chart

It is also shown on the analytical reports that are provided as part of the package, which can rank the pricing in ascending order and identify the values and percentages of a figure that have been quoted, or are derived from other sources. Again, this level of automation was unheard of just a few years ago and would have required some degree of set-up and maintenance in Excel® to ensure that it was producing the right information on which to base the ultimate decision of which sub-contractor to employ.

Having made that decision in CostX® the final piece de resistance in my view is having the ability to make lump-sum or percentage based adjustments across wholesale or specifically selected items in the final settlement of a quote. Accounting for escalation /inflationary rises over the life of a project, last minute negotiated buying savings or alterations to a subcontract price couldn’t be simpler and can be changed in real time during a settlement meeting to immediately engender the final agreed figure.

Had I had all of this functionality at my disposal when I was negotiating and placing forty to fifty subcontract orders on each project that I was involved in, then maybe life would have been a lot easier!

sub-contractor report
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Understanding 5D BIM in 5 Minutes!

BIM also known as Building Information Modelling, is now well-established in the construction industry, and Quantity Surveyors/Estimators are hearing about it more and more. Designers have embraced BIM and many today are producing 3D models. But how can the QS or estimator get started, and how is it relevant to […]

Understanding 5D BIM in 5 Minutes!

BIM also known as Building Information Modelling, is now well-established in the construction industry, and Quantity Surveyors/Estimators are hearing about it more and more. Designers have embraced BIM and many today are producing 3D models. But how can the QS or estimator get started, and how is it relevant to them?

First and foremost, it is important to note that BIM is not a software you can simply purchase and pressure your staff into implementing. BIM is a new way of working or a process. So in a sense, you cannot purchase a BIM software per se, but a software to capitalise on the BIM work flow.

Building Information Models are three-dimensional digital representations of both the physical and functional characteristics such as the spatial relationships, constraints and dependencies of a project which in collaboration, forms a reliable foundation for decision making. The emphasis is on the “information” which is collectively shared and communicated between the projects’ stakeholders – throughout the entire lifecycle of the building. Enforcing a consistent flow of data through the adoption of a centralised model not only enhances accuracy, but also significantly diminishes discrepancies whilst harvesting meaningful collaboration between the Architects, Structural Engineers, MEP Designers and Quantity Surveyors.

So where does 5D BIM fit in? Well, 5D BIM is, quite simply, the process of applying costs to the model. This is the role of the QS/estimator, and as BIM workflows become established within the construction industry, QS & estimators will require the ability to deal with these models and know how estimating from the model fits in with the BIM supply chain. The benefits of 5D BIM for the QS/estimator, once established within a workflow, are endless. In a 5D BIM environment, the QS/estimator can participate in data exchange from the outset, rather than working in isolation to offer cost advice or takeoff quantities for a project. This enables them to better collaborate with the entire construction chain, including project teams. They can also focus on the client’s needs more effectively, which results in a higher quality project overall. The automatic generation of quantities provides a faster, more accurate tool to analyse data and provide better advice, and allows the estimator to explore ways of improving building design, efficiency, performance and cost.

A key principle of BIM is that a shared asset model promotes a collaborative work¬flow leading to improved outcomes. File interoperability is an important aspect of this, so any 5D BIM software worth its weight needs to support a multitude of BIM native files, such as DWG, IFC, and even SketchUp. The establishment of industry standards and procedures provides a sound framework for BIM implementation across all sectors of the industry to the benefit of the community as a whole. 5D BIM within QS and building companies has been a slower uptake than some other facets of BIM, but this is now changing as more and more companies are making the switch to ensure a better workflow.

For companies trying to make the transition to 5D BIM, there is a wealth of online information. A good starting point is the B1M website (http://www.theb1m.com/) which contains a variety of videos on different facets of BIM, including 5D. Depending on your location, there may be various published standards to follow as well. Then, RICS has published a number of Guidance Notes and Research papers such as ‘The International BIM Implementation Guide’ and ‘Overview of a 5D BIM Project’. A CostX® Whitepaper is also available on the Exactal website (www.exactal.com) as well as demonstration videos and other useful information.

One of the main issues for companies that are wanting to make the switch to 5D BIM is that even if some of their projects are now in BIM, they are not receiving BIM exclusively, and furthermore, the models may often not contain all the required information they’d need to create a full estimate. Since CostX® supports both 2D and 3D, it facilitates the transition of a company’s current practices across to BIM in a planned manner. Much of what they are already doing is still applicable in a BIM workflow and there is still a need to work with 2D drawing files within a BIM project. The main difference is the ability to interrogate the BIM model to extract quantities, and use the 2D files to verify and validate those quantities rather than measuring them.

Overall, to phase 5D BIM into your day-to-day practices with minimum disruption, the following tips are recommended. Firstly, do your homework. Find out as much as you can from sources such as those mentioned above. Secondly, buy some software such as CostX® and invest in proper training. Software on its own is not a BIM solution, but it is the enabler to undertake BIM and is a logical starting point. Thirdly, start straight away! This means having a dialogue with designers and starting to work with 3D model files, even on projects which are not designated as BIM. Current early adopters are companies that perhaps saw a competitive edge in being BIM-enabled. However, the emphasis will soon shift so that being BIM-enabled will be the norm and those companies that have maintained the status quo will find themselves competitively disadvantaged.

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Welcome

Hey There! Welcome to our new blog. Did you know global construction will outpace GDP growth over the next 10 years? That’s right, Oxford Economics estimates that nearly $100 trillion will be blown into global construction over the next decade – with the sector expanding at an astounding rate of […]

Welcome

Hey There! Welcome to our new blog.

Did you know global construction will outpace GDP growth over the next 10 years? That’s right, Oxford Economics estimates that nearly $100 trillion will be blown into global construction over the next decade – with the sector expanding at an astounding rate of 5.2 percent yearly!

The potential of the market can be depicted as an untapped gold mine – it is natural to want a bite (or two) of the trillion-dollar pie. With opportunity comes success, yet it is inevitable through the course of natural selection for the evolving organizations to end up on top, while others struggle just to scavenge the crumbs.

Opportunities solely award those who are prepared. Through this social hub we will do the preparation work for you to help aid your evolution. From market insights to technological advancement, from global conferences to protocol updates, we will share key pieces of information to streamline your business into the future.

Just to give you a little background info – Exactal are the makers of CostX®– one of the fastest growing and most recognised names in the takeoff & estimating software industry. This blog aims to empower and equip you with insights and intel to help you keep in sync with the construction paradigm shift.

We only ask of you to be accepting and embrace the changes up ahead!

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