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case study - Benchmark

case study – Benchmark

THE ROAD TO DIGITAL TAKE-OFF. BENCHMARKS PARTNERSHIP APPROACH TO BIM INTEGRATION

BENCHMARK offers globally renowned, comprehensive, cost estimating solutions based on Estimating First Principles. Working within the construction vertical they’ve built an increasingly strong presence in the civil engineering sector with large-scale asphalt and earthworks companies being some of their key accounts. Benchmark offers users the ability to create estimates at various stages of the design, bid and construction process. The level of complexity of the estimates can differ greatly depending on the stage of the process or the requirement of the sector or government body.

BENCHMARK offers globally renowned, comprehensive, cost estimating solutions based on Estimating First Principles. Working within the construction vertical they’ve built an increasingly strong presence in the civil engineering sector with large-scale asphalt and earthworks companies being some of their key accounts. Benchmark offers users the ability to create estimates at various stages of the design, bid and construction process. The level of complexity of the estimates can differ greatly depending on the stage of the process or the requirement of the sector or government body.

With market strength and knowledge in the civil engineering and utilities vertical Benchmark were becoming increasingly aware of the need in the tendering process.

“BIM is where the industry is going and wants to be. In fact, the industry wants even more than that, they want to put more intelligence into the process, but BIM is the starting point.”

Within this sector the estimating process is lengthy, it invariably starts with drawings in a design or concept phase and at these initial stages clients increasingly need to be able to take individual drawing elements, create a robust bill of quantities by breaking down the structure, be it a bridge, ramp, or tunnel for example, and cost out each individual element. For some national infrastructure projects this can be a monumental part of the process with many, many elements requiring estimates.

A key challenge for Benchmark was how to integrate a meaningful BIM proposition into their software solution. How might they harness and use the huge amount of data held within a BIM model to create a two-way conversation that allows for a quicker, simpler more efficient way of breaking down a structure and accurately cost estimating the individual parts?

In the construction industry this process of separating a structure or building into its individual parts for cost estimating is known as ‘take-off’ and depending on the size and scale of the project this can be an extremely complex part of the estimating process. Digitising the take-off process through interaction with a BIM model in a fully immersive experience within the Benchmark platform was key to project success.

“Most competitor products don’t have integrated digital take-off systems. Previously a semi-manual process using a spreadsheet with the Benchmark offering we knew we wanted this new BIM enhanced version of our platform to be the best digital take-off functionality we could provide, and so finding experts in BIM to work with would be crucial to helping us achieve this”

The team at Benchmark looked at different BIM specialists in the industry, and never having worked with BIM before they knew they needed to find a provider that instilled confidence and had the expertise and understanding to carry the project forward. They wanted a partner who could help the wider team at Benchmark to understand how to work with BIM data and integrate it with their own solution.

The founding members of xbim have a wealth of experience in the AEC (Architecture Engineering Construction) industry, predominately working with BIM, both commercially and academically on the advancement of the technology and in the development of the standards that relate to its use.

“When we met with Andy and the team the depth of capability was so clear. In this industry you have to work with people that really know what they’re doing, whilst the tech looks simple on the surface, it’s sophisticated underneath. Working with a team that understands that complexity and can navigate that with you is important as it would be easy to fall into costly traps on a project like this”

In a collaborative partnership Benchmark have developed truly digital take-off functionality powered by the xbim Flex platform. Flex is a powerful open standards cloud-based BIM platform that takes widely recognised model formats, from proprietary software such as Revit and, transforms them to IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) format. By hosting all asset and project data in the industry standard IFC schema, the flex platform enables business processes to work against BIM data authored in multiple different proprietary tools, without duplicating effort, while also providing an accountable long-term record of the model that can be used in hundreds of different ways to help organisations fulfil their objectives.

For Benchmark, Flex enables repeatable pin-point accuracy in the model-driven digital take-off process. Flex enables the quantification of all the elements in the models, using existing and derived model data, and by employing user-standardised query libraries and rate libraries, enables efficient and reliable extraction of quantities to integrate automatically into the cost breakdown. That process makes it extraordinarily efficient and accurate for the end user – processes that previously took weeks with drawings now take a few minutes by pulling data straight from the current models.

Flex is a cloud platform which radically streamlines the distribution and access control of critical BIM design data. This means Benchmark customers don’t need to worry about distributing potentially large and sensitive models and drawing files to estimators, or ensuring they are using the correct versions, or worry if their PC has resources to open them. Estimators are granted access to just the designs they require, with all design data hosted centrally the source BIM models never leave the Flex platform, and because Flex is optimised for the cloud the IT requirements are much lower than a typical desktop hosted BIM take-off solution. Importantly this cloud delivery also simplifies updating estimates when design changes occur, so that iterations to a scheme’s design can be quickly reviewed to determine exactly what has been altered across a set of models, and identify exactly which take-off quantities require updating, and to see the impact on cost. Previously this process could take many weeks when quantifying from drawings. The process is simple. Take off what is required, create a bill of quantities, cost them out, and there’s your revision of the estimate. 

The new Digital Take-Off product can also handle parametric modelling, which is a means to further refining the estimate from a concept state. It goes through various stages whereby it becomes increasingly refined as more knowledge is gathered on that project.  On top of that the new product also offers business analytics. The Benchmark platform takes historical information of estimates and projects and considers the estimates versus the final cost. The data the system gathers is a closed loop ever informing itself about how accurate end users could make estimates during the process and therefore helping businesses to increase their efficiencies and ultimately improve their bottom line on a project-by-project basis.

The first version of Benchmarks Digital Take Off product, powered by xbim Flex, is due to launch in Spring 2022. The team in both Benchmark and xbim are already considering what’s next in the roadmap for the product but they’re keen to take some time and gather some data to digest end user feedback and usage.

“We envisage introducing other disciplines in to the product, for example, carbon is one that we’re already working on. Artificial Intelligence is prime for a product like ours, clients could start to incorporate some real intelligence around making decisions earlier in the estimating process.”

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