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My Favourite CostX® Feature: Show Source

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 Ashley Corona from our Austin office. “Trackability and Auditing is one of the most important fundamentals in Estimating.” During my time […]

My Favourite CostX® Feature: Show Source

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 Ashley Corona from our Austin office.

“Trackability and Auditing is one of the most important fundamentals in Estimating.”

During my time as an estimator, I learned the importance that Estimating plays in the success of a project. Accurate and precise estimates are the most important foundation with which projects can be successfully built. When the Estimator or Quantity Surveyor hands the project over to the next person downstream, they must ensure that their work is very clear and unambiguous. It must be so carefully documented that anyone at any point of the project must be able to pick up and follow the estimator’s logic for how quantities and rates were determined. Previously I was using 3 different programs to pull together an estimate. I had to manually transcribe data from one program into another, and then into another. This was a very tedious and labor intensive process. I also had no trackability between my takeoff, rates, and total costs for each trade. When I started using CostX®, the Show Source feature quickly became my favorite one. This function is a very powerful auditing tool which allows all players in the project team to track and audit every part of the estimate, at any stage.

Show Source
CostX® is a fully integrated take-off and estimating solution. One of the biggest benefits of having the take-off and the estimate within one program is the ability to create live-links between the dimensions and the workbook. My favorite CostX® feature is the Show Source function because it allows anyone reviewing the estimate to track the source of any given quantity or rate. With a live-linked cell selected, Show Source switches to Dimension View and displays the referenced dimension group and drawing.

Here is an example of all the ways Show Source offers trackability throughout the life of the project:
Firstly, let’s start off with a standard spreadsheet. If I was reviewing my estimate and wanted to interrogate my EIFS quantity and rates, I can do so by using the Show Source Function.

CostX Show Source

Interrogating the Quantity
When I select the quantity [3,140 sf] for 2” EIFS and click Show Source, CostX® automatically switches to the Dimension View and brings me to the part of the building where I measured the EIFS and highlights the current sheet and Dimension Group.

CostX Dimension View with EIFS quantities

From the Dimension View, I can see the information about where my quantity came from. The drawings in my Drawings Window will expand and bold the names of the sheets which contain EFIS quantities.

In this example, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floor plans are bolded because EFIS takeoff was done on all three levels of the building. The EFIS dimenison group was also expanded from its respective folder and highlighted along with the [3,140 SF] quantity. This quanitity matches the quantity in the workbook (because of the live-links!). Upon review, if more EFIS is found in the plan, I can measure the quantities and the running total will be automatically updated in real-time within the workbook.

For further trackability, one could click into the Dimensions Tab and view more granular detail about the dimensions. Additional details include:

  • Dimension Type (Wall Area in this case)
  • Estimator’s name who measured the dimension
  • Individual quantities
  • Zones (if this was a multi-zone project)
  • Individual wall heights

CostX Dimension Tab

This is a fantastic level of trackability that would not be available to the user if they were to use different programs for take-off, pricing, and building the estimate. This eliminates the opportunity for manual entry errors to arise when transcribing data from one program to another.

Interrogating the Rate
In the same fashion that I traced the source of the quantity, I can choose Show Source for a rate if it is linked as a rate in my Rate Database. I would do so by selecting the cell in the Rate column within my workbook and choosing Show Source.

Select the cell in Rate column

That will prompt a Rate Properties window to open which shows the source of the rate, and all additional properties. Once I’ve traced the source of this rate, I can change the description, rate group, unit of measure, and even update the rate itself.

CostX Rate Properties window

So, if upon review I wanted to update the rate for the 2” EIFS, I could do so by clicking on the green Rate sheet and that will open the Labor, Material, Subcontractor Equipment Breakdown and make the change. A Date and Time Stamp will be left behind in the “Date Modified” section at the bottom of this window. The figure will then be updated here and everywhere else in the estimate where this rate was used.

I hope I have given you ideas on how you can help all players in the project team utilize Show Source to its full potential to track costs and quantities throughout the life of the project to minimize material waste, maximize profits and result in a project that is within budget!

CostX Rate sheet

I hope I have given you ideas on how you can help all players in the project team utilize Show Source to its full potential to track costs and quantities throughout the life of the project to minimize material waste, maximize profits and result in a project that is within budget!

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International BIM Initiatives

In April, we examined the various levels of BIM Mandate primarily implemented into the United Kingdom. However, there are further BIM initiatives taking place in the international community also- some of these have been explored below. USA Having 50 different state legislatures can be very difficult when attempting to roll […]

International BIM Initiatives

In April, we examined the various levels of BIM Mandate primarily implemented into the United Kingdom. However, there are further BIM initiatives taking place in the international community also- some of these have been explored below.

USA

Having 50 different state legislatures can be very difficult when attempting to roll out industry standards, however, a nationwide effort manifested and formed the National BIM standard (NBIMS-US). The NBIM-US, in partnership with the buildingSMART alliance, provides consensus based standards through existing standards, documenting information exchanges and delivering best business practises for the entire built environment. Ultimately, NBIMS-US’s focal goal is to cut down on wasted resources (including time) on building projects. The lack of “timely” information was identified by the NBIM-US as the overriding bottleneck in accelerating the industry and fundamentally, BIM is the enabler of sharing “on-demand” data through a collaborative data repository for all project members.

Concurrently, the US General Services Administration (GSA) devised the National 3D-4D BIM Program which established policy mandating BIM for all Public Buildings Service (PBS) projects. GSA also actively partners with BIM vendors, federal agencies, professional associations and academic institutions to develop and push out best practises. Today, it is reported that 72% of the construction firms based in the US are using BIM technologies to some degree.

There are also some private sector initiatives, such as the American Institute of Architecture’s conventions, and standards from the construction associations. On the other hand, states such as Maryland and Wisconsin are publishing their own standards.

Despite the fragmented efforts, it is evident that BIM initiatives in the US have taken a positive lunge forward and it won’t be long before a nationwide mandate is published.

China

In China, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development’s (MOHURD) 12th National Five-Year Plan have made BIM a focal economic strategy. More explicitly, industrialization, informatization, urbanization and agricultural modernization schemes will be addressed and reinforced with the aid of BIM methodologies. Under this policy, regional governments at all levels have been establishing foundations for being BIM compliant, and initiative groups such as the China BIM Development Alliance and various similar organizations have been established in a short span of time.

An increasing number of BIM conferences, seminars, and summits have been held across China. Various documents have been released to promote the use of BIM, especially in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Additionally, new national documents about BIM and its application such as a BIM standard, Protocol, Guidance Note and Practice Code are constantly being reviewed.

It is clearly a revolution in the sector, and governments are implementing national programs in the hope of reaping major benefits, as well as individuals and organizations, with some aggressively moving forward and others waiting for greater clarity. However, some professionals and government leaders still debate on the actual return of implementing BIM. China has a distinct demand for BIM, but needs more thought leaders to develop suitable guidelines and effective data exchange protocols in addition to native software to enhance its value and push the industry forward.

Hong Kong

BIM has been gaining traction in Hong Kong over time. The CIC (Construction Industry Council), created in 2007 to forge consensus on long-term strategic issues, convey the industry’s needs and aspirations to Government, as well as provide a communication channel for Government to solicit advice on all construction-related matters, is one of the organisations looking to the future. In 2013, the CIC published the ‘Final Draft Report of the Roadmap for BIM Strategic Implementation in Hong Kong’s Construction Industry’. The roadmap suggested 7 initiatives in 9 areas, with 3 immediate actions. One of the immediate action items from this was establishment of a local BIM standard, and Stage 1 of this is currently in action- based upon current BIM standards of the HKHA (Hong Kong Housing Authority), MTR Corporation and HKIBIM.

The HKIBIM is another organisation of importance in this area. Established in January 2009, two of their key aims include: To promote and advance the general education, understanding, appreciation and interest of and in building information modelling management, and to establish and advance standards of building information management practice in the industry. Their annual conference gathers experts from around the country to discuss the progress of BIM within the industry.

Singapore

The Singapore government has been very proactive in terms of encouraging BIM amongst companies in the region. They have developed a series of industry-wide BIM guides, in order to define a legal/contractual framework for BIM-based projects, and they encourage the development of international BIM standards such as IFCs. The BIM workflow has also been examined to attempt to identify alternate ways of collaborating and how BIM can assist in this.

The BCA- Building & Construction Authority- were actually involved in implementing the world’s first BIM electronic submission back in 2007/2008. They have continued to develop their BIM e-submission system and it is now credited with being a key catalyst in transforming the way construction companies in Singapore think and work. Since 2015, BIM e-submissions have been required for all projects greater than 5,000 square metres.

BCA has also implemented funds over the years that provide a rebate to companies using BIM or BIM software on projects, with the aim of increasing BIM collaboration capability. Supportable items include Training costs, Consultancy costs, Hardware (excluding printer and storage etc.) costs and of course, BIM or collaboration software costs or subscription- making it even easier for companies to make the switch. Overall, the government is very progressive in assisting with BIM implementation in the region.

Malaysia

The Malaysian government first announced its adoption of BIM in 2010, and the first construction project to support BIM was the National Cancer Institute in Sepang. One of the key government bodies involved with implementing BIM into Malaysia is the PWD (Public Works Department), responsible for the construction & maintenance of public infrastructure in Malaysia. PWD established a BIM committee in 2007 to identify the most suitable BIM platforms for construction projects, as well as providing training-related BIM tools. The department created the BIM Standard Manual and Guidelines for companies to use when implementing BIM into their construction projects. They also created a BIM Roadmap, plus have conducted several pilot projects.

Another key government body involved in this area is the CIDB (Construction Industry Development Board). In 2013, the CIDB established the first BIM Steering Committee, designed to guide those in the construction industry by providing strategic direction to the adoption and implementation of BIM in Malaysian construction projects. Recently, the CIDB is preparing to launch ‘myBIM Centre’, designed to be a one-stop-shop providing resources to those in the Malaysian construction industry looking to implement BIM.

At this stage though, the private sector is progressively taking lead in the positive adoption of BIM, so there is more that can be done in terms of government assistance.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, BIM is beginning to gain momentum amongst companies. At this stage, it is not mandated by the Government. However, the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment established the BIM Acceleration Committee (BAC) in February 2014, designed to coordinate efforts to increase the use of BIM in New Zealand. It is sponsored by the Productivity Partnership and BRANZ, and consists of members throughout the NZ construction industry. They have produced the New Zealand BIM Handbook which includes information for firms that wish to implement BIM in their own company. Currently on its second release, the development and revision of the Handbook was done in reference to international standards, codes and guidelines, specifically, the PAS1192 from the UK and Natspec from Australia.

Australia

For Australia, there is increased efforts amongst the Federal government, as well as State governments, to implement BIM. In March 2016, a report was released by the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities which made ten recommendations regarding new technologies improving productivity. Two of these were BIM-specific.

There are various industry BIM groups, but these are not associated with government bodies in most cases. NATSPEC, owned by the design, build, construct and property industry, is an independent organisation whose major service is the comprehensive national specification system endorsed by government and professional bodies. They have created a National BIM Guide, as well as other resources such as Project BIM Brief Templates.

At this stage, the Federal government has elected not to mandate the use of BIM in Commonwealth funded infrastructure projects, with a gradual approach to BIM implementation preferred.
However, for individual states, there has been differing levels of action. The Queensland Government, for example, has committed to implementing the use of BIM on all major state infrastructure projects by 2023. Then, NSW developed BIM requirements in 2012, using the NATSPEC BIM Guide as the basis. They also implemented a BIM policy in 2013 that mandates the use of BIM on projects over $30m.

The implementation of BIM remains something that is slowly gaining ground across the world, as can be evidenced by the countries explored above. To ensure you are keeping up with potential BIM mandates and future-proofing your business, look at how CostX® can bring you into the world of 5D BIM today by contacting our sales team here.

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My Favourite CostX® Feature: Rate Libraries

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 Matthew Donnison from the London office. I believe the rate libraries are one of the most useful, yet underused, features of […]

My Favourite CostX® Feature: Rate Libraries

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 Matthew Donnison from the London office.

I believe the rate libraries are one of the most useful, yet underused, features of CostX®. When setup properly they give users the ability to automatically extract man-hour information to provide to Planners/Schedulers, bills of materials for purchasing departments to order from, splits of labour/plant/material/subcontractors for management teams to forecast from, and when combined with CostX®’s BIM Model Map tools they can even be used to automatically generate cost estimates from BIM files with the click of a button.

Creating a rate library and then entering rates is easy. Firstly, if lots of historic data already exists within a company then it can be imported from Excel, or if starting afresh then it’s easily done from within the ‘System Administration’ area of CostX®.

CostX Rate Properties

When creating a rate, the rate properties window will appear with various fields to fill out (as shown above). These fields are as follows-

Item Code: This is one of the crucial aspects to plan in advance, there’s no set format required (you can use numbers or letters or both). Personally, I always start my codes with a letter designating what type of item it is, which can be used later on for the filtering and sorting. For example, L-Labourer or L-Carpenter (L being ‘labour’), P-Excavator or P-Dozer (P being ‘plant’), M-Concrete or M-Rebar (M being ‘material’) or S-Flooring or S-Tanking (S being ‘subcontract’). The code needs to be unique, so if you want to include codes for different grades of concrete (as an example), each will need a slightly different code.

Location: This can be used when pricing different jobs regionally or internationally, so the same item (e.g. L-Labourer) could have a price of £30/hr in London or £20/hr in Manchester as an example. In this case, if you are creating a copy of a previous project that had been priced (e.g. a school in Manchester) but the new project was elsewhere (e.g. a school in London) then you just change the location and all of the rates will automatically change to reflect the relevant local market.

Description: This is self-explanatory, but it’s worth making the effort to include a reasonably detailed description of the rate as this is what is used when automatically creating bills of quantities or cost estimates from BIM.

Rate Group: This is just for your own use to create sub-folders to help filter and sort the rates in the library if there is a large list.

UOM: Unit of measure – as best practise you should try and standardise your unit of measure notation. As an example, if measuring steelwork then you should decide if you want to use ‘tonnes’, ‘t’ or ‘Te’ as examples – or for rebar it would be ‘tonnes’ or ‘kilograms’ as another. The UOM list can be set-up within ‘System Administration’

Rate: Finally the rate can be input. If it’s just a single figure then it can be simply typed into the box e.g. the labour rates I mentioned above would just be 20 or 30 depending on the location. Alternatively, if the rate requires a build-up (i.e. it is a composite rate built up from labour/plant/material components) then the small spreadsheet button can be pressed to load up a sheet in which the custom build-up can be created.

The composite rate build-ups are crucial to the process, and using this method one rate can be linked to another – so an item for laying of blockwork can be built up from first principles:

Rate properties with description

Rate Calculation

If the source rate is changed, e.g. if L-Bricklayer in the above example was increased due to wage inflation, it would automatically feed through to every built-up/composite rate where a bricklayer was required. However, the production factor would remain the same until manually amended (as production factors shouldn’t often fluctuate).

In the right hand side of the spreadsheet (Column I onwards) are the user columns, and just like in the workbooks these can be used for whatever functionality is required, for example to extract the man-hours or to carry out a L/P/M/S analysis.
I typically use the format below, but it’s flexible depending on what you’re trying to achieve:

User Column 1 – Cell I1: Labour Manhours, example formula =IF(LEFT(A1,1)=”L”,C1,””)
User Column 2 – Cell J1: Labour Cost, example formula =IF(LEFT(A1,1)=”L”,H1,””)
User Column 3 – Cell K1: Plant Cost, example formula =IF(LEFT(A1,1)=”P”,H1,””)
User Column 4 – Cell L1: Material Cost, example formula =IF(LEFT(A1,1)=”M”,H1,””)
User Column 5 – Cell M1: Subcontract Cost, example formula =IF(LEFT(A1,1)=”S”,H1,””)

That covers the main points of setting up a rate library, you’ll have to keep following the blog for further tips on using the rates in your workbooks and for 5D BIM estimating – or get in touch with your local Exactal office here for information on the training options we offer.

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BIM Mandates & BIM Levels Explained

BIM BIM BIM…not only does it seem to be everywhere these days, but now governments and industry bodies are getting involved too. BIM Mandates are emerging around the world, and this is causing people who thought BIM might not affect them to sit up and take notice. So what does […]

BIM Mandates & BIM Levels Explained

BIM BIM BIM…not only does it seem to be everywhere these days, but now governments and industry bodies are getting involved too. BIM Mandates are emerging around the world, and this is causing people who thought BIM might not affect them to sit up and take notice. So what does it mean for you?

What are BIM Mandates?
There is no one absolute definition of Building Information Modelling (BIM), rather, BIM is widely referred to as an aggregation of technologies and processes which provides a collaborative data repository for all project members. Fundamentally, BIM Mandates simply entails BIM policies implemented by the government for centrally procured projects (regardless of size) spanning, and made applicable to the associated supply chain.

Why is it important?
A lot of construction veterans may question the credibility of BIM and the subsequent mandates, convinced that it is a gratuitous scheme between the wealthy and the government. However, if they take one step back and embrace an open mind, they can recognize BIM not as a corrupted conspiracy, but as a catalyst for a leaner and more efficient project. More specifically, BIM is regarded as the key to reinventing the construction industry by increasing delivery and operational efficiency, reducing cost, reducing waste, lowering the carbon footprint (green construction), improving collaboration across the supply chain and ultimately, enhancing the quality of the final outcome.

What might a BIM Mandate involve?
BIM Mandates are really only in their infancy internationally, but the ones that have been implemented so far vary widely in terms of their content. The United Kingdom has set a precedence, with a heavy focus on the various levels of BIM. Other countries have implemented a similar approach. We’ll look further into the particular mandates of the international community in an upcoming blog post.

So what are the levels of BIM and what do they mean?
The notion of BIM Levels was developed as a practical “adoption process” for being BIM compliant. Fundamentally, the levels of BIM are a set of criteria which progresses from 0 to 3, where distinct milestones are defined to move the construction industry into a full-fledged collaborative environment. Whilst there may be some disputes on the exact description of each level, the general concept is as follows:

Levels of BIM

BIM Level 0
Level 0 BIM, also known as “unmanaged CAD” is essentially the starting block for any sort of BIM implementation. It defines the move from generating information by hand to creating 2D drawings using computer aided design. Nevertheless, there is minimal collaboration where files are being shared either traditionally or digitally as separate sources of information. Technically speaking, a firm using any form of CAD tools would be considered level 0 BIM compliant and most firms (if not all) have already made this breakthrough and are well ahead of this by now.

BIM Level 1
Moving from “unmanaged CAD”, we have “managed CAD” in Level 1 BIM. Generally, this encompass a combination of 3D and 2D CAD drawings, however, there is still minimal to no collaboration between project members. CAD standards are managed to BS1192:2007+A2:2016 (British Standard documentation; ultimately addressing the process for managing the storage of data and the convention for naming data), and electronic sharing of data is carried out from a common data environment. This is the level at which most firms are operating, where the standardised structures and frameworks set the foundation for proceeding towards Level 2 BIM.

BIM Level 2
Once enterprises are comfortable working with 2D and 3D drawings, Level 2 BIM comes into play and is differentiated by collaborative working. The crucial aspect of this level comes in the form of how the information is exchanged between stakeholders, however, this does not necessarily involve working on a single, shared model. Instead, you may have different parties using various 3D models and design information, which is then converted and shared via a common file format such as IFC. The standardised format is structured and reusable, allowing parties to combine data or models and carry out a more validated audit on the project to reduce risk of errors and waste. Ultimately, Level 2 BIM requires all asset information and data of a project to support efficient delivery throughout the project life cycle via a standardised electronic transfer. This was set as the minimum target by the UK government for all centrally procured work by 2016.

BIM Level 3
Looking ambitiously beyond Level 2, Level 3 BIM, often regarded as the “Holy Grail”, constitutes total collaboration between all stakeholders. The UK Government Construction Strategy paper published in March 2016 aims to mandate Level 2 BIM across departments, which was to ultimately enable the gradual phasing to BIM Level 3 – or at least this is what the Government envisions. While Level 2 BIM has just passed the initial infancy stage, where firms are still steering towards being Level 2 compliant, it may seem a little hasty to start conversing about Level 3. However, the current uptake of Level 2 BIM has been five years in the making, and much preparation and planning was required.
Where Level 2 BIM has no integrated arrangement in leveraging BIM data, Level 3 facilitates complete synergy enabled through a single, shared project model saved into a central repository (normally in the cloud) – an “integrated” open standards centric solution. Stakeholders of all discipline may access and modify the file, ultimately fostering end-to-end efficiency by delayering risks of conflicting information. However, as with all new approaches, conflicts will arise such as who owns the model (copyright), which party is held liable if any misfortune were to fall upon the project and obviously, the resources (time and money) administered into mobilising the Level 3 movement.

How can you start implementing BIM?
It is crucial not to confuse the “Levels” of BIM with the “Dimensions” of BIM. Where the Levels of BIM are guidelines or protocols to implement and ultimately adopt BIM practises, the Dimensions of BIM (4D, 5D & 6D) are attributable data inherent to the project model. For example, you may have 5D and 6D BIM Dimensions within a Level 2 BIM project but not necessarily the other way around.

Although Level 3 BIM may seem distant, a commitment was made to formulate a new digital standard for construction with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in the UK, unveiling an issuance of £15m to be rendered over the next three years for the development of Level 3 BIM.
To ensure you’re in the running for future mega projects, it is inevitable to start investing in becoming BIM compliant. To find out how CostX® can help you prepare for International BIM Mandates, send us an enquiry or give us a call.

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My Favourite CostX® Feature: Zones

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 New Zealand-based Product Specialist Johnathan Mudrovcic. This might sound familiar- You have completed your estimate for a project where there are […]

My Favourite CostX® Feature: Zones

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 New Zealand-based Product Specialist Johnathan Mudrovcic.

This might sound familiar- You have completed your estimate for a project where there are three multi-storey buildings on one site. You have submitted your estimate to the client or your director. They revert back to you and request for you to please provide three separate estimates instead- one for each building, whilst also still maintaining the overall estimate that you have already submitted. Oh… and they need it submitted within a week… Within a split second, your workload just quadrupled and all of this needs to be completed within a quarter of the usual time frame.

A week goes by… you have managed to submit your four estimates back to the client or your director. However, they’ve reverted back to you again and asked for you to breakdown the cost even further, plus provide an estimate for each level of each multi-storey building. Your workload has just increased exponentially and you’re thinking: “I might have to call my partner and let them know I won’t be able to see the kids for the next week!

I’m sure anybody in the construction industry would appreciate and understand how the total cost of a construction project might need to be analysed and reported on using different perspectives, similar to the example above; but also, how frustrating it can be if you’re trying to do it manually!

Within CostX®, the Zones functionality allows the user to capture measurements against specific attributes of the project, such as different departments, basements, podiums, towers, Stages, Phases etc. All of this can be managed whilst working on one estimate in CostX®, hence the reason for Zones being my favourite feature in the program.

How are they created? Zones are generated with the Project in System Administration and preferably need to be determined at project set-up stage. This can be done by either inserting new zones or alternately the zones already in existence may suffice. New zones can also be added later in Project Properties, and existing zoned dimensions can be re-allocated.

Added project properties

Prior to measuring a dimension, you just need to select the relevant zone from the drop-down list in the Dimensions ribbon. All measurements taken from then on are assigned to that zone. A different zone can be selected at any time, in which case all subsequent dimensions will be assigned to the new zone.

Select a different zone

The zone of a Dimension Group or a Dimension can be changed at any point if required.

Change zone

Dimensions can easily be filtered to only show the quantities for the selected zone using the filter button. Located on the Dimension ribbon to the right of the zone drop-down box, once it’s on you can check the correct dimension allocation and verify zone content.

Zone drop down box

Workbooks also contain a zone filter function so that zone-specific workbooks and reports can be created.

Zone filter function

Assuming you have live-linked your dimension groups into the workbook, the dimensions displayed in the new filtered workbook will be only those assigned to the current selected default zone. This in turn, adjusts the costs according to quantity changes in the workbook.

I personally love these small features that just make life a lot easier. If I had this feature available to me whilst being in the field, I would have definitely utilised it to its full potential. Plus, having a feature like Zones at your disposal means that you won’t have to make any calls to your partner about working late due to those break-down reports- in fact, you might have enough time for a family holiday instead!

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BIM for SMEs- Is It Necessary?

The incentives of immersing into Building Information Modelling (BIM) for large-scale projects makes sense for big organizations, however, is BIM necessary for smaller firms? Many SMEs have solely been practising traditional 2D takeoff or even using the scale ruler for as long as they have been operating, and transitioning to […]

BIM for SMEs- Is It Necessary?

The incentives of immersing into Building Information Modelling (BIM) for large-scale projects makes sense for big organizations, however, is BIM necessary for smaller firms? Many SMEs have solely been practising traditional 2D takeoff or even using the scale ruler for as long as they have been operating, and transitioning to the BIM workflow can seem an intimidating ordeal, particularly for firms with limited budget or specialized personnel. The fear of change has been implemented so that BIM appears to be exclusively for big companies, thus, SMEs have falsely assumed that they fall into the “not for us” category without exhausting a second thought. However, contrary to popular belief, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) revealed that BIM is equally used on projects between £10m – £15m and projects between £0.5-£1m; showing the benefits of BIM are not merely restricted to mega projects. In todays’ post, we will explore why BIM is just as important (or even more so) for SMEs as it is for the big dogs.

BIM for SME

1. BIM MANDATE
Although it is currently possible to work without BIM, the proven benefits of reducing costs, enhancing collaboration across the supply chain, lowering carbon footprint, and improving quality of customer outcomes (just to name a few) is sufficient enough to make BIM the global industry standard. Various levels of BIM mandate have already been implemented into places such as the United Kingdom, France, Singapore and multiple countries in Scandinavia. If nothing else, the BIM mandate provides a strategic motive for SMEs to jump onto the BIM wagon – especially if they don’t want to be closed off from centrally procured government projects.
At the UK BIM4SME Group launch Chloe Smith, Cabinet Office Minister, voiced that SMEs should not feel excluded from the drive to adopt BIM across the construction industry. Instead, she encouraged SMEs to welcome BIM as a catalyst for growth and noted that BIM will be a great leveller in helping SMEs compete with much bigger organisations by opening doors to larger markets, in addition to exploiting new and more efficient ways of working. RICS further reinforced the point by noting that the construction sector is primarily built upon smaller businesses, and without the SMEs there would be no construction sector at all. It is not a case of whether SMEs should be involved with BIM or not, rather, it is inevitable that SMEs must be involved, otherwise the sector will suffer from industrial fragmentation.

2. LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD
It is no secret that BIM continues to evolve with incremental modules such as 4D BIM all the way up to 7D BIM. The associated software facilitating the BIM workflow has likewise grown in terms of functionalities and capabilities, further widening the gap between old and contemporary practises. Therefore, smaller firms heavily relying on 2D CAD methodologies will find themselves handicapped. Geoffrey Tears of Mohle Design, US explained that one of the biggest issues for them in receiving larger projects was the competition. “It was tougher for our firm to show up with just 2D drawings and space plans and elevations, compared to some of those bigger firms that were competing for the same jobs and would have renderings and walkthroughs. Any bit of information that they needed to take out, they had, and when you show a client a 3D model and start spinning it around, it kind of blows their mind.”

The cruel reality is that smaller firms can typically find themselves competing within the same realms of much larger companies. Routinely, SMEs are incapacitated due to the presumed lack of sophistication when pitching against known BIM practitioners. To triumph in such scenarios, SMEs need to start leveraging BIM and level the playing field – it is pointless bringing swords into a gun fight. BIM and the corresponding software demonstrates sophistication and brings credibility to the table, even if a firm is of a smaller size. Not only does harnessing BIM technologies aid SMEs in winning projects, it also aids customer retention. For clients, the most crucial aspect of any project is delivery within the determined time frame and budget. With BIM, companies are able to collaborate and produce precise construction documents which subsequently allows for a more accurate schedule and predicted costs – ultimately opening doors for repeat customers.

3. CHANGE MANAGEMENT
It is evident that BIM is not just for large companies, yet, the processes associated with adopting BIM can also be seen as a major restricting factor for SMEs. A common misconception is that you can simply purchase ‘BIM’ and be a high roller in no time. Unfortunately, this is a great pitfall which leaves a lot of firms in a state of vulnerability. BIM is not a software, it is about changing the way you work, the management and the way of delivering projects. When it comes to “change management”, SMEs hold the advantage over bigger firms due to the lack of institutional bureaucracy, which otherwise hinders, prolongs and in some cases even inhibits adoption.

In SMEs, decisions are generally made more quickly and implementation more simple. Rather than having an extensive implementation plan which will certainly be reviewed and amened numerous times, SMEs can enjoy a less stressful and shortened implementation phase while experiencing less disruption. Cultural resistance to change is also less apparent and much more manageable in SMEs.

4. POST ADOPTION
Once BIM has been implemented, RICS notes that a firm generally experiences an increase in efficiency of up to 30%. BIM aids in creating a leaner project by mitigating design failures, plus saves time and resources – the essence of a SME. BIM also allows SMEs to partake in a wider range of projects and further gives them an advantage when decisions can be made much more quickly; this higher level of responsiveness allowing them to stay ahead of larger companies in a dynamic marketspace. Geoffrey Tears of Mohle Design, US notes that “BIM is a business opportunity to get on the right path for the next 15 years. You’ll eventually look back and wonder why BIM was even a conversation. It means you will be leaner and win more work and/or become more competitive. But it’s a medium to long-term game. Taking a short-term view would be a mistake as you’re unlikely to get a return on investment within a few months.”

If you’re an SME looking into how BIM could improve your QS or estimating business, and wondering where to start, we can help. Just call or email us here and schedule for a free web demonstration of CostX with one of our Product Specialists today!

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My Favourite CostX® Feature: Dimension expressions

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 Austin-based Product Specialist Alex Freeman. Often the measurements we take from a drawing require additional work after the actual act […]

My Favourite CostX® Feature: Dimension expressions

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 Austin-based Product Specialist Alex Freeman.

Often the measurements we take from a drawing require additional work after the actual act of measuring them; these can be simple calculations involving taking a count and multiplying out an assumed length and width to get an overall area, and other times it involves applying a known density of a material to arrive at a final overall weight of material based off a length or area.

My favorite feature in CostX® allows these calculations to all take place at the time of takeoff; saving time and reducing the amount of work between measuring plans and compiling an estimate of labor and material. Expressions in measured dimensions were added to CostX® in our 6.5 release. By combining the use of some custom CostX® functions, like XNUMBER() which allows us to extract specific numbers from a string of text, and the ability to refer to the dimension group name itself, we can store variables and construct powerful expressions which allow us to do virtually anything.
One area I like to use as an example of this is in taking off concrete construction. Whether you’re dealing with strip footings, spread footings, pile caps, piers, columns, beams, or slabs- dimension expressions keep us from having to transfer our measurements to a workbook later.

Adding dimension groups which use these extended expressions starts the same as any other dimension group. Before we get into creating the expressions, let’s look at a basic setup for a Continuous Strip Footing. In the Name field of the Dimension Group Properties we’re going to input all the information we need in order to calculate out any quantities we want for costing that we can’t measure directly off of the drawing. We can also fill in the custom fields of the extended properties section to identify which elements of this strip footing we want to add additional information onto.

Basic setup for dimension sheets

Now that we’ve defined all the basic information for the dimension group, we can start to take a look at the “Measured Dimensions” tab of the Dimension Group Properties window. From here we can define the math that will calculate out the concrete volume and formwork area quantities we’re after.

Measured Dimensions Tab

When switching to the Measured Dimensions tab for the first time you’ll be presented with the default length type dimension view. Attributes in this view which are enclosed in square brackets are properties which are populated by taking off a quantity in either line mode or point mode. Properties enclosed in curly braces are referring to individual dimension fields. You don’t need to worry too much about remembering which does what in this case as we’re going to use the expression editor to build these fields for us. By default, on a length type dimension group CostX® will refer to a dimension group’s default height field, but for this example we’re going to use the height we defined in the dimension group name instead. To do this we need to uncheck the “Use default” tick box and select the ellipsis button at the end of the height field.

Uncheck user default box

The ellipsis button will bring up the Dimension Group Expression Editor window, which is where we are able to start defining how our concrete and formwork quantities will be populated. As we’re starting with the height field, you’ll recall that when we defined our dimension group we gave it the name of 2’-0” x 0’-10; for this, the height is the second number. The first thing we need to do is find a way to retrieve the number out of that dimension group name, so we’ll use the XNUMBER() function which is located in the functions tab of the expression editor, in the mathematical section. In order to add the function into the expression editor we just need to double click on the function name and add an open parenthesis so we can start defining its attributes.

Dimension group expression editor

Because the number that contains our height is located within the dimension group name, we’ll need to switch to the “Dimension Group Fields” tab, then double click on “Dimension Group Name”. Finally we need to provide the XNUMBER() function with its second argument that tells it which number to extract from the string; this is done by simply entering a comma and the number 2, and finally a closed parenthesis.

Dimension group field

When completed, our expression will look like the above. You may have also noticed the red outline that was visible in the first step is gone; this means that the expression we’ve entered is valid. Once our height field is complete the other fields we’ll need can also be filled in. The below screenshot outlines all the dimension field formulas we’ll need in order to calculate the quantities we outlined in the initial setup.

Dimension field formulas

This setup can be replicated by typing in the formulas exactly as you see them here, or by using the expression editor the same way as we did for the height. The properties enclosed in curly braces are found on the “Dimension Fields” tab of the expression editor. For ease of copying and pasting you can find the formulas below.

Height XNUMBER({Dimension Group Name},2)
Area {Length}*XNUMBER({Dimension Group Name},1)
Volume {Area}*{Height}
Concrete {Volume}/27
Formwork {Length}*{Height}*2

If you’d like to skip all this, please email feedback@exactal.com for an EXF file that can be imported directly into CostX® with a sample set of standard dimension groups that use extended properties.

Once these have been entered, we can hit the update button and the dimension group will be added to the list for the currently open building. Because this process did take a bit of initial work to get the dimension group created, we can also add it to our standard list for future reuse without the entire setup process. Right clicking on any dimension group provides a context menu option to “Add to Standard Dimension Groups”, which will allow you to easily reuse it in the future.

Add to standard dimension groups

At this point, if you complete some linear takeoff (in either point or line mode) and hover your mouse over the dimension group name you’ll see that CostX® has extrapolated out the extended properties we were after. These extended properties can be used in the workbooks in the same manner you’d use any other dimension value via live linking.

Hover over dimension name

Because we’ve used the dimension group name to define the size of our strip footing, we can alter the output of these extended properties simply by changing the size of the strip footing in the dimension group properties, or if you need additional sizes you can simply copy the dimension group to a new location, or add a new one from the standard dimension group list and alter the name.

Copy dimension group

Dimension group expressions offer Estimators and Quantity Surveyors using CostX® a way to produce all the quantities required for applying costs, while still providing a large degree of flexibility and customization. Dimension Group Expressions are my favorite CostX® feature and one I hope you’ll integrate into your takeoff practices too.

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If BIM’s a Mystery, Here’s the History!

If you’re on our website right now, I would assume you are aware of the term Building Information Modelling (BIM). Since its infancy, BIM has vowed to bestow perks of reduced project delivery time, reduced costs and ultimately increased efficiency. The uptake of BIM in construction projects only really gained […]

If BIM’s a Mystery, Here’s the History!

If you’re on our website right now, I would assume you are aware of the term Building Information Modelling (BIM). Since its infancy, BIM has vowed to bestow perks of reduced project delivery time, reduced costs and ultimately increased efficiency. The uptake of BIM in construction projects only really gained traction from the mid-2000s – examples of such projects include Sutter Medical Centre, California USA; One Island East Office Tower, Hong Kong; National Cancer Institute, Putrajaya Malaysia and Crussel Bridge, Helsinki Finland.

By late-2000s, BIM has garnered prominence throughout the AEC industry with various mandates in place and more pending. However, it only feels like the “BIM Hype” has snowballed in recent years, while in fact, the BIM concept has existed since the late-50s. That’s right, the processes and technologies behind BIM have been evolving for at least 50 years! Isn’t it mind boggling that the uptake of BIM in the AEC industry has taken so long? Well, did you know that Wi-Fi (wireless internet) was invented in 1991, yet it was only in the mid-2000’s that the public started using it – hence, one should be pardoned for believing that BIM is a “new craze”. In today’s post, we will unveil the past behind the “overdue” BIM hype.

As a concept, the foundation of BIM was first documented in the paper Augmenting Human Intellect (1962) written by Douglas C. Englebart. Englebart suggests object based design, parametric manipulation and a relational database could come together to realise a vision where … “the architect next begins to enter a series of specifications and data. When he has finished, the revised scene appears on screen. A structure is taking shape. He examines it, adjusts it… These lists grow into an evermore-detailed, interlinked structure, which represents the maturing thought behind the actual design.”

BIM-evolution

Building Description System (BDS) in the 1970s
It is only in the early 1970s that Englebart’s vision would become reality through the merge of interactive graphical interface technology with a relational database. One of the first developments to successfully create a building database was the Building Description System (BDS). The program uses a graphical user interface, orthographic & perspective views, and a database which allows the user to retrieve information by attributes. The BDS was designed and created by Charles Eastman who is currently a Professor at the Georgia Tech School of Architecture.

Known by some as the “father of BIM”, Charles Eastman claims that drawings for construction are inefficient due to the redundancies of having one object projected multiple times on different scales. He also notes that hardcopy drawings have an inclination to decay over time and fail to effectively track revisions; therefore concluding that BDS reduces the cost of design by “drafting and analysis efficiencies”. Nevertheless, BDS was not widely popular as it had been limited to individual libraries and to design choices such as structural and architectural. Thus, Graphical Language for Interactive DEsign (GLIDE) was introduced in 1977, which both incorporated and built upon BDS.

GLIDE was developed to include certain building elements and more noticeably, to be used as a tool in monitoring the accuracy of data, cost estimating and evaluation of structural design. These enhancements allowed GLIDE to produce 2D drawings with enhanced reliability and accuracy. However, both BDS and GLIDE were limited to involve only the design stage of a project. In order to achieve a more comprehensive review, further collaboration allowing the immersion of the different phases of a project life cycle needed to be included.

Building Product Model (BPM) in the 1980s
Fast forward to 1989, and a new program called Building Product Model (BPM) was developed which covered design, estimation and construction processes –comprising information from projects from planning to completion. It acted as an archive and framework of concepts, technologies and standards. However, BPM only focused on product information instead of integrating information that was useful for design and construction management in the AEC industry- further development was needed.

Generic Building Model (GBM) in the 1990s
Enter 1995 and the Generic Building Model (GBM) was introduced to expand and integrate information from current and future design that could be used throughout a project life cycle – allowing multiple collaboration points amongst a project’s stakeholders. Then, we welcomed the new millennia and if you recall, the exponential technological advancements coming into play greatly impacted and transformed the way literally everything worked. The AEC industry, no different, scurried to adopt and expand their usage of technology for enhanced project management and delivery.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the 2000s and onwards
Consequently, Building Information Modelling (BIM) was introduced in advent of the technological revolution. It is vital to recognise that BIM is not a program or software, but a set of practices built upon prior research to utilise best available technologies; improving information flow, reducing errors and therefore increasing efficiency though collaborative construction. Currently, no single software delivers a complete BIM solution; instead, an assortment of software is utilised simultaneously throughout the Appraisal, Design, Pre-Construction, Construction and In-Use phases.

Looking back, BIM has been floating about for more than 50 years, so why hasn’t it been adopted more heavily and why is it only recently that people started to take note of it? There are primarily two forces resisting the implementation of BIM which could be classified as Managerial and Technical.

Managerial forces include the uncertainty of ownership amongst stakeholders. Who should develop, operate or own the Building Information Models? How will incurred costs be fairly distributed amongst stakeholders? How can we effectively implement and normalise the process? These all come down to the refusal of allocating extra costs, time and human resource. While technical forces consist of issues from data interoperability to security. It is safe to conclude that the long build-up to where we are now was due to the social and habitual resistance inherent in our human nature.

So, to conclude let’s just quickly run through the developments leading to up to BIM from 1970 up to late 2000. BDS, the seed of BIM, focally addressed the design application but was limited to building elements. GLIDE, an improvement of BDS again focused on the design aspect with enhanced visualisation and the ability to conduct estimation from the designs. However, both BDS and GLIDE were solely applicable at the pre-construction phase. By 1989, BPM was introduced as the replacement; touching upon design, estimation and project delivery processes and translating project information to relationships between construction activities. Then in 1995, GBM was introduced to further integrate information with construction activities throughout a project’s life cycle. Finally, in 2000, the term BIM was coined and popularised; a paradigm shift due to technological advancement has led to various BIM mandates, which has consequently led to the “BIM Craze” of late!

Overall, the history of BIM contains much development and goes back further than you may have thought! But it proves that, far from being the latest fashion, BIM is here to stay and has decades of research backing it up. If you’re not on board with BIM yet, there’s no time like the present to look at how it can improve your business! For more on how CostX & BIM can work together, click here.

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My Favourite CostX® Feature: Drawing Comparison Tool

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 London-based Product Specialist Milan Parmar. In the AEC industry, it is common for a designer/engineer to make changes to existing […]

My Favourite CostX® Feature: Drawing Comparison Tool

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 London-based Product Specialist Milan Parmar.

In the AEC industry, it is common for a designer/engineer to make changes to existing drawings. The struggle to compare these drawings to each other is apparent, and quantity surveyors in particular find it difficult to see how a drawing might have changed from the previous revision.

An example that I’ve personally experienced in my previous company was sellotaping an A1 drawing of the old revision to a large window in the office where the sunlight was prominent and affixing the new revision on top to identify any obvious changes. I later found out that only one door and one partition had been removed! I thought to myself, ‘There must be an easier way to do this!’

Hallelujah! CostX® provides 3 ways to compare drawings together which all work in different ways so I have more than one option if a particular comparison method isn’t showing the changes as well as another. So what are the 3 comparison methods and how do they work?

Overlay
This is the simplest way to compare drawings in CostX®. Two drawings are loaded, with the currently selected drawing appearing in green and the drawing it is being compared to appearing in red. If the drawings are misaligned, the green drawing can be dragged to the required position. The lines that are matching will be shown in brown (combination of red & green). It is also possible to use the sliders shown below to adjust the brightness of each drawing to help further identify differences.

Compare Drawing Different Colors

The next two comparison methods are only available after a revision has been added.

Comparing Drawing Revisions by Lines
This comparison method loads the currently selected drawing and compares the individual line segments (lines, blocks, arcs etc.) to the previous revision of the selected drawing. This comparison method is used to compare PDFs & CAD files. When in Comparison Mode under the layers tab, I can select 3 distinct options of Deleted, New & Same to visualize what each coloured line represents. I’m able to select and toggle the layers until changes become apparent.

Deleted, New & Same

However, if the drawing has been offset by the designer, for example, then no lines will match. There are some other limitations to comparing by lines, but if it doesn’t produce a clear comparison, then try another comparison method.

Comparing Drawing Revisions by Object
I would consider this comparison method the most intelligent of the three and it also works for comparing 3D models! Drawing objects contain unique object IDs, so when using the layers in comparison mode, CostX® will recognise if an object has been added, removed, changed or remained the same.

Added, Removed & Same

In terms of the changed objects, CostX® gives the option to show how they are Different After (the newly placed object) and Different Before (the same object before the revision), so I’m able to toggle between these two layers to interrogate objects that have been rearranged, which can be super useful (see below for an example where a door object has been moved). Also notice how I’m able to zoom in comparison mode; the same applies for panning.

Different Before & After

As mentioned, Match Objects is also the best comparison method for comparing 3D BIM models, as they contain unique object IDs where the layers explained above apply in the same way. This is a brilliant way to visualise, interrogate and question the revised model based on objects that have been added, changed or deleted.

3D BIM Model

Similar to 2D, I can check how previous objects have been modified by keeping the layer on for ‘Different Before’ and rapidly checking and unchecking the ‘Different After’ box which gives me a good idea where, for example, a window has been moved or where the slab has been modified (the latter shown in the example below). After I compare the drawings and promote the dimensions, I should expect to see a decrease in area for the ground floor slab and an increase in area for the first floor.

Different Before & After-3D

I don’t necessarily have to compare to the last revision, I may compare to any previous revision in the current building using the ‘Compare with’ dropdown, which is great for checking various scenarios if required.

Compare Revisions

In addition to all this, in CostX® 6.5, our latest version, there is a new “Measure” button available while in Comparison Mode. This is a game changer for those wanting to measure variations – for example, adds & omits. This measure button will enable Point Mode, so I can add new dimension groups or just simply measure into previously created ones.

CostX Nav Bar Measure

An added bonus to all of this is that any chosen comparison can be printed to report to show differences to the client, designer, contractor, or even just for internal purposes! Simply go to the Drawings tab, then click Reports and select one of the three options available.

Print Drawing Window to Report

Remember to click the Close button once you’re finished comparing drawings and the Comparison tab will disappear from the Ribbon Toolbar.

I hope you can share my delight in paying tribute to the three options to compare drawings with ease; saving me loads of time identifying changes rather than using a window, sunlight and marker pens!

P.S. The comparison mode is just one part of the Revisions process in CostX®. After being able to visualise the changes, it’s possible to quickly revise dimensions in both 2D/3D, update my workbook with the new quantities and totals and run reports to show variance in quantity, totals or any other calculated values! For more, check out our Auto-revisioning training video here.

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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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