Saturday, February 14, 2015

Is Two D from Two D still cheaper than Two D from Three D?

Should documentation that is based on a coordinated 3D digital model be charged at a higher price than straight CAD-ed  one is?
Should a client have the right to choose one over the other without wanting to pay for a full blown BIM?

One would think that in the time of advanced ‘BIM maturity’ we are enjoying these days, fundamental steps of information management within the industry, like documenting buildings for the purpose of construction would be done in 3D, as a default.

Sure, drawings are necessary outputs (others say) and orthogonal projections are the most widely understood representations of yet to be built objects, but marry this with the aggressive introduction of BIM for some higher purposes (and dimensions) and logic says, everyone should be using the 3D environment by now to create the simplest of drawings for construction.

Again, there are people arguing the exact level of detail one should model to before the button is pressed to strip the drawings off it, or how much metadata should be attached to a dumb model, but there is little frank discussion out there if traditional, CAD based services should be cheaper (or in fact more expensive) than 3D digital model based ones.
Not to talk about if the practice (2D based 2D) should still exist, at all.

Yet, it is an issue that I see often and raises interesting questions.
For example, an international consultancy I’ve been working with for a while now (7000+ people employed worldwide) likes to claim to be at the forefront of BIM application within its core services.
On the other hand the project we are involved with them has been ‘priced and structured’ to be done in 2D for the supposed benefit of the client.
I.e. it is cheaper this way.
Is it also slower? They claim not to be, though the day-to-day results show otherwise, it is definitely not faster than if done by competent 3D modellers/documenters.

Had the client insisted on wanting a fully integrated 2D-3D process, they’d have to pay a premium, the argument (and the consultancy) say.
Even though the time taken to prepare and the outputs would have been the same (supposedly), i.e. 2D drawings.

So, how does this phenomenon fit within the laws of common economics? The consultancy can argue that their services are exceptionally and equally good, no matter if the drawings were done via traditional CAD or by peeling them off 3D digital models.
And because the client is interested in the end results only, the ‘how they are done’ should not be of their concern, i.e. it is a question of the ‘means to the end’.
They could also argue that the extra charge is due to the higher (or different) skillsets the modellers must have from their CAD colleagues and possibly their availability.

But if the end results are the same, shouldn’t the client have the right to choose at no extra cost?
Now, let’s say we accept that this consultancy has a valid reason to offer the two services at different costs, after all it employs over 7000 people worldwide, that would include one or two old fashioned CAD-dies needing to be kept busy.

What then, if the client asked for visualisation material throughout the project development?
Asked and been offered, but at an extra cost.
Logically, one could say, that since the client is now paying extra for the visualisation material, the consultant should be offering a basic BIM-ish package instead that fulfils all the client’s needs at this extended cost?
Yet, the other side can argue just as logically, that visualisation 3D is not the same as documentation 3D (and I’d agree with that, funnily enough) so traditional 2D + visualisation 3D cannot be easily substituted by a ‘do it all 3D’.
A level headed approach to this question would be the ‘horses for course’ theory, have we not have been (as an industry) around this issue so many times before.

On one side, big names claim (and mandate wholesale) BIM because it is the only way to go to save money and work better. On the other side big names (like this consultancy) sell their clients ‘just as good 2D based documentation’ as well as the ‘higher cost 3Ds’?

Is this the case of some wires being crossed or is someone being seriously taken for a ride?



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