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The B1M | 7:41
THE ADOPTION of digital tools across the construction industry is transforming the way that projects are designed and delivered.
Teams can now share graphical and non-graphical data in common areas online, enabling everyone to access the information they need, wherever they happen to be, across a range of devices.
The shift to digital is also changing the way that estimates and cost plans for schemes are developed, with considerable implications for cost managers and the project teams they work in.
To learn more about this “digital take-off’ approach and to discover the benefits it can bring, I caught-up with Tom Young of Glodon; the largest construction technology company in mainland China and the developers behind Cubicost, a market leading digital take-off software.
You can see our full discussion in this video.
WHAT IS DIGITAL TAKE-OFF
Before considering the benefits, it is important to understand exactly what the term “digital take-off” means.
Young explains: “Digital take-off is using software like Cubicost to obtain quantities from design information much more quickly, in an automated fashion, and to link those to rates to produce a cost plan”.
Above: Glodon's Tom Young explains the benefits of digital take-off. Below: Software like Cubicost is transforming the way that projects are costed (image courtesy of Glodon).
Digital take-off is an approach increasingly used by cost managers, estimators and quantity surveyors (QSs). With powerful software, they can quickly develop
a cost plan or estimate from a project’s digital design information.
That information could be in 2D or 3D form, or it could take the form of an information model, built up of both graphical and non-graphical data in a shared area online known as a “common data environment”.
Developing and/or integrating cost data with an information model is known as 5D building information modelling or “5D BIM”. You can learn more about what that means in our “What is 5D BIM?” video.
So what benefits does digital take-off bring over more traditional methods?
1 – IMPROVED SPEED
Quite simply, digital take-off enables quantities to be measured faster.
With powerful software to count and sum the materials shown in digital design information, cost managers can progress to applying rates and developing a cost plan or estimate in a fraction of the time.
Above: Digital take-off can enable projects to move forward faster.
A key advantage for the wider project team is that this enables cost information to be provided more readily, informing the design process and helping to improve decision making. The time saved in costing can, in theory, reduce the overall gestation of schemes in the pre-construction phase.
More conventional arrangements might see cost teams develop estimates or cost plans over 2-3 weeks before feeding them back into the wider team for review. Digital take-off has the ability to bring that cycle down to just 2-3 days or even a few hours in some instances.
However, just as with a conventional approach, it is critical to ensure that design information is right before it is presented for costing. If poor information is fed into the process, it will lead to poor, inaccurate results at the end.
2 – GREATER ACCURACY
Digital take-off is inherently more accurate, reducing discrepancies between different measures by different members of the project team.
Ambiguity, over/under measures and rounding can all be eliminated, and the quantities obtained from design information can be presented and used with much greater certainty.
Above: Digital take-off is inherently more accurate than conventional approaches (image courtesy of Glodon).
Once again, the importance of well-developed – and properly authored – design information cannot be overstated. This is key to unlocking the efficiencies of digital take-off as a project progresses. Whilst a cost manager can use their experience to interpret graphical representations of a proposed project, digital take-off software will measure based on how elements of a digital design have been created and classified.
“Good information produces great automation” explains Young. “If we can get it right at the start and agree those principles then we [will] have a much more streamlined process all round”.
3 – TEAM INTEGRATION
Digital take-off enables cost managers, estimators and QSs to become better integrated into product teams.
There is an established mis-conception that digital take-off tools enable cost plans and estimates to be produced at the press of a button, often fuelling fears that such approaches will lead to people’s job roles being replaced.
In reality, digital tools like Cubicost change the cost manager, estimator and QS roles, enabling them to add much greater value to their project teams.
Above: Digital take-off can better integrate cost managers into their project teams (image courtesy of Glodon).
With digital take-off, these roles are collaboratively at the project team table, providing the equivalent of real-time updates on cost information. They
are informing decision making and playing a much more prominent role in steering the development of a scheme. They are more clearly recognised and
valued by other members of their project team.
“As a QS myself I would want to be spending much more time looking at the data and adding value as a professional and much less time fetching that data” Young explains. “If the modern QS has this living breathing cost document they become much more integral to the team, much more collaborative, much more consultative. They can get involved more often and not be shut away. For me that's the definition of the new role”.
Naturally there will be some who will see greater accuracy, transparency and reducing ambiguity in the project costing process as a disadvantage or even threat to the opportunities that existed in project development in the past.
Opportunities that ultimately led to a bit of distrust in the construction industry and led to poor collaborative working amongst project teams.
However, digital take-off tools have the ability to greatly increase efficiency, allowing businesses to theoretically undertake more work with the same size team; increasing turnover and profit.
Above: Digital take-off can theoretically allow businesses to undertake more work with the same size teams, increasing turnover and profit.
“Construction companies have to act like tech companies now” says Young. “We use these tools for a return on investment, but also we use them because they're simply more compelling and more fun”.
Once you start using and seeing success from Cubicost, don’t forget to share your experience. Get inspiration from other heroes and show them your own success by following the hashtag #DigitalConstructionHero.