Deriving Engineering and O&M Cost Information From "Scan to BIM" Models

The UK Government has mandated BIM for all central government construction projects starting in 2016. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is one of the organizations that is helping prepare the industry for the BIM future. At last year’s RICS BIM National Conference 2014, RICS sponsored a BIM Vendor Showcase in which a BIM derived from laser scanning the RICS headquarters building in Parliament Sq in London was provided to vendors who were asked to estimate dimensions of different aspects of the building, for example, gross internal floor space. For comparison RICS staff also measured the building internal spaces with tape measures.

The results were surprising. For example, the gross internal floor space was measured by tape measure to be 4,736 sq-m. The vendors’ estimates derived from the BIM ranged widely, from 3,474 to 4,781 sq-m. The variances in other measurements derived from the BIM among the vendors were also quite wide.

At this year’s RICS BIM Conference, a similar experiment was tried, but the challenge was not focused just on measuring the dimensions of interior spaces from the BIM but also on estimating maintenance costs over 10, 20, and 30 years and the space the vendors were asked to consider was limited to just one floor. In addition to the 3D model derived from scanning the building, the following information was provided to all the vendors

BIM and coloured plan of the floor

A condition survey/schedule

BCIS (Building Cost Information Service) typical component life expectancies

BCIS building maintenance price book


Eight vendors were invited to participate in this year’s exercise. Four vendors took up the challenge.The vendors were asked to respond to the following scenario:

A company has a floor in a building (the RICS HQ building) and wants to understand the expected life cycle costs over the next 10, 20, and 30 years.

Floor space measurement

On the basic measurement of floor space the different vendors were in much better agreement with the tape measure result than last year. In fact one vendor came up with exactly the result that RICS measured. (The others didn’t include certain cupboard space in the floor space calculation.)

Lifecycle cost estimates

All the vendors used different software packages to estimate maintenance costs 10, 20, and 30 years into the future. Each vendor had a different professional focus, for example, feasibility, detailed estimating, or facilities management, and the results reflected the different objectives of the different vendors.

At the RICS BIM event three of the vendors described the workflow they followed to estimate the lifecycle costs. One example of a workflow was

Import BIM data in IFC format into a BIM 3D model viewer

Select elements and export data as COBie Excel file

Create survey template with full element and room list using NRM (RICS New Rules of Measurement) 1&3 (see below) elemental structure

Import BCIS component life expectancies and building maintenance prices (see below)

Import BIM data

Perform condition survey of RICS HQ

Upload data to cloud to run 10, 20, and 30 year lifecycle plan

Report results as net present values

The lifecycle costs estimated by the different vendors varied widely, for example, from 90,000 to 220,000 for the 30 year lifecycle cost. RICS concluded that the variance is due to the different assumptions that were made by each vendor about the condition of the assets (remaining life), the condition they needed to be in to operate efficiently, how much they could be stretched before failing, which maintenance activities should be included/excluded in the life cycle costing, the cost of maintenance activities, and different discount rates and other financial parameters.


RICS’ conclusions are that the capabilities of the software using BIM is accelerating rapidly in this field. They were impressed that there was agreement among the vendors on the dimensions for the floor space selected for the analysis. They were also pleased that RICS standards such as NRM are being embedded in the software. From a data perspective, RICS emphasized that BIM quality is key and a content plan defining what information is required is essential. Most importantly, it was emphasized that you can’t plan on simply loading the data and pushing the big red button. It is necessary to carefully check all measurements, equipment details, and assumptions about equipment lifetimes and conditions. RICS’ conclusion is that this reinforces the need for an experienced professional in the UK called a quantity surveyor (QS) for estimating based on scan to BIM models.

Glossary for non-UK readers

BCIS (Building Cost Information Service) provides benchmarking data covering cleaning, energy consumption and administrative costs. It is used for early life cycle cost estimating and the development of life cycle cost plans by facilities managers and surveyors who specialize in facilities management, maintenance and operating costs.

NRM (New Rules of Measurement) are published by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). They provide a standard set of measurement rules for estimating; cost planning, procurement and whole-life costing for construction projects. They are the "bible" for what is in the UK called quantity surveying (QS). It is comprised of three volumes NRM1: Order of cost estimating and cost planning for capital building works, NRM2: Detailed measurement for building works, and NRM 3: Order of cost estimating and cost planning for building maintenance works. Together this suite provides a cradle-to-grave guide for cost estimating, works procurement and post-construction procurement.

About the Author

Geoff Zeiss, Ph.D

Geoff Zeiss, Ph.D... has more than 20 years experience in the geospatial software industry and 15 years experience working with utilities, communications, and public works in enterprise geospatial IT around the world. Previously Geoff was responsible for thought leadership and industry messaging for the utility industry program at Autodesk. Over the past five years Geoff has spoken at conferences and trade shows around the world including Geospatial World Forum, Where 2.0, Location Intelligence, India Geospatial Forum and Distributech. Principal, Between the Poles
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