• Nick Fuller

Is Outsourcing Your BIM Workload Really a Good Idea?

Most of us in the building design industry have considered outsourcing our workload when things get super busy. Some of you may have gone through with it and had success, saving the project both time and money. With today's building design projects becoming increasingly complex, is that really a wise idea? That depends, here are some things to consider.

Why Are You Considering Outsourcing Your BIM Needs?

There are a wide array of reasons behind the consideration to outsource. For example, you may not have the in-house expertise to successfully execute a BIM project. If you are bidding on a project where BIM is required and do not have in-house expertise, you must ask yourself some important questions; such as, is this type of project going to commonly have a BIM requirement or is this project unique? Am I trying to wade into a new market sector where BIM is required, and this is somewhat of a test run? Is the BIM requirement so rare for your business that you cannot justify hiring dedicated BIM staff?

We have found that a high percentage of general contractors running large commercial projects require full BIM coordination prior to releasing their contractors to begin installing their trades. Smaller subcontractors working on those projects often do not have in-house BIM staff. This is especially prevalent with plumbing contractors. This means without question they are going to be looking to outside help for their BIM requirements if they want to be considered for the project.

Another common reason we see BIM outsourcing is renovation projects. There are an incalculable number of existing buildings here in the United States and around the world. The majority of those buildings do not have a BIM model available for use in a renovation design. Often the design schedule does is such that modeling the existing structures would be difficult, if not impossible. In-house staff are often juggling multiple projects and do not have time to model the existing facility in Revit before starting the design.

Where Should You Outsource To?

This is the most important question to consider once outsourcing the BIM requirements has become a serious consideration for the project. The first inclination for most building design professionals seems to be offshore; that is, somewhere outside the United States. But is that really the best choice?

The most common answer we get when we ask a client why they decided to send previous work offshore is cost. The exchange rate between the US Dollar and other currencies around the world is pretty favorable for those here in the United States. Let us be frank, labor is very inexpensive in other areas of the world when compared to labor rates here in the US. When compared side-by-side, the lower labor cost may seem to have enormous potential for savings to the project. We have seen this specific issue numerous times ourselves. A client comes to us asking for us to prepare a proposal to model an existing facility or provide drafting services, etc. We invest valuable time reviewing the project, preparing a detailed proposal, and presenting it to the clients with the hopes of partnering with them. We then later find out that a proposal was being considered by a source somewhere outside the Unites States. Naturally, we can't compete on costs, often times the perceived savings will less than half or even a quarter of our costs. But what is that client really getting by outsourcing the work offshore?

How Much Does Accuracy Matter?

On some projects, accuracy is everything. So very often we see buildings where the ceiling space is so limited that the thickness of duct insulation is the difference between it fitting and needing to adjust duct size. One question you should strongly consider is the experience level of the team doing the modeling. Just this week we reviewed an architectural model that was generated by a firm outside the United States. The overall dimensions of the building were incorrect. As we started trying to find the source of the errors, more issues started to come to light. The exterior walls were CMU with stucco. Most of us worth a lick in the construction industry know that an eight-inch CMU wall is not eight inches, its actually 7-5/8" thick. If the modeler was working wall face to wall face through the building, those errors will compound.

How Much Does Accountability Matter?

We have worked on a wide array of coordination projects; most of which have been on behalf of a subcontractor, such as plumbing or mechanical. All the coordination projects have followed nearly the same workflow. All the coordinators for the trades model their components, whether that be piping, ductwork, conduit, etc. Then we meet regularly throughout the construction process to coordinate routing of the trades. More often than not, some ductwork has to be adjusted here, piping needs to be rerouted there and so-on. If you have sent the modeling efforts offshore, it is pretty unlikely they are going to be attending coordination meetings week to week. What will probably happen is your staff will sit in the meetings, record the changes that need to be made, and then disseminate those changes to the offshore group. Within a couple days (hopefully), they will submit a new model to you, your staff will have to confirm they made the changes, then they will have to pass the updated model on to the GC's coordinator. How much is all that extra oversight time costing you? Did you account for that in the calculation of your savings?

How Much Does the Economic Impact Matter?

There are players in every industry that undercut prices to win the project or close the deal. It is no different in the construction industry. We see it on both sides of the table; the design side, and the construction side. There are architects, engineers, and contractors that are known for doing it cheaper or faster, but what is that really costing you? The old saying still rings true, "You get what you pay for". John Glen famously said once, "As I hurdled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind - every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder".

When architects, engineers and contractors systematically lower their costs to win jobs they are putting a strain on the industry as a whole. The same holds true for the BIM industry, if not more so. There are firms here in the United States that offer ridiculously low fees to win projects. Often we find that the firm claiming to have offices in the US as well as around the world, actually have nothing more than an address and a telephone number that funnels back to the labor pool somewhere offshore. Firms staffed with BIM professionals living and working here in the US simply cannot afford to work for fees at twenty-five percent of cost; and why would we? We firmly believe BIM professionals should be compensated for the value they bring to the project.

Our Commitment to Bring Value

BIM Consulting Services has been in business since 2016 and we have over twenty years' experience in the design industry. Our core business principal has always been the same, offer top-tier BIM services to our clients at a fair price. We will not always be the lowest cost, especially when pitted up against an offshore provider. But one thing we can guarantee on every project in which we are engaged, our unwavering pursuit of excellence will bring value to the project. We look forward to partnering with you and your team.

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