ITcon Vol. 19 (2014), Wu et al., pg. 535
Quantity Surveying (QS) has been an integral part of the UK construction industry for about 170 years
(Cartlidge, 2011). However, many have been predicting the demise of the profession over the past 20 years or
more (Ashworth and Hogg, 2007). Such predictions have been proven wrong when the endurance of the
profession is tested through innumerable changes within the construction industry (Cartlidge, 2011).
Traditionally, the role of quantity surveyors has been mainly associating with the functions of estimating and
cost planning, procurement advice, measurement, preparation of Bills of Quantities (BoQ) and tender
documentation, construction cost control, and preparation of valuations, payments, contractual claims and final
accounts (Ashworth and Hogg, 2007). Lately, driven by the modern technological advancements in the
construction industry, quantity surveyors have seen the potential of further enhancing their role and become
more efficient and productive in performing their measurement and management oriented functions. Ashworth
and Hogg (2007) predict the broadening range of QS functions in the future as automated measurement and
quantification, environmental and sustainability analysis, facilities management, legal services, investment
advices and quality management. Following the emergence of Building Information Modelling (BIM), it has
been realised that some of the aforementioned QS functions are likely to be achieved through BIM more
efficiently. BIM is becoming the mainstream in the UK construction industry and as a result, clients expect the
QS firms to embrace BIM in order to increase the cost effectiveness and value of construction processes (BCIS,
2011). Therefore, it is important for the quantity surveyors to appreciate BIM, understand its potential, and
develop and employ effective processes and tools to integrate BIM into their current practices (Cartlidge, 2011).
It has been recognised that BIM has a high potential to inspire every aspect of the QS profession (Pittard, 2012).
Matthews (2011b) states that no quantity surveyor can argue BIM has negative implications for the industry.
BCIS (2011) emphasises that quantity surveyors cannot afford not to use BIM having known BIM’s capability.
In other words, QS professionals should be fully aware the opportunities BIM could bring in relation to their
current and future roles.
1.1 Research process
Recent BIM survey results reveal that many professions such as engineers and contractors are lagging behind the
architects in adopting BIM (McGraw-Hill Construction, 2010; NBS, 2012). Notably, quantity surveyors are
found to be slow to embrace the use of BIM. According to the RICS BIM survey (Matthews, 2011b), many
quantity surveyors are still not aware of what BIM is and only small numbers (10%) claimed to have used BIM.
There is also a little evidence to show that BIM is systematically introduced by the quantity surveying (QS)
profession in UK. According to the initial background studies, the majority of literature available on BIM focus
on the architects’ and designers’ interest at the utmost and only a very few connect BIM and the practice of
quantity surveying. In addition, there are also limited case studies found within the UK to portray the integration
of BIM into QS practice. This signifies an alarming need to gain quantity surveyors attention into this new
technology and help them to keep up with the pace of other industry professionals to maintain their
competitiveness within the industry. Hence, research about the integration of BIM into QS practice in the UK is
a timely need. In this paper, the authors aims to bridge the knowledge gap of BIM based estimating or take-off
technology and the UK standards and practices of measurement and cost estimating, this research investigates
how a BIM model to support the estimating process according to the RICS standard of NRM1 order of cost
estimating and elemental cost planning, and reviews the technical requirement for BIM based software tools to
support NRM1. In order to achieve this aim, the following three objectives have been established:-
To review BIM in general and its application to cost estimating and quantity take-off
To examine the NRM1 for both cost estimating and elemental cost plans
To review technical requirement for BIM based software tools to support NRM order of cost estimating
Having recognised the significance needs of developing a comprehensive understanding of how to support the
cost estimating/planning processes through BIM, the study deployed two main research methods to achieve its
objectives. - Literature review and BIM estimating tools review.
ITcon Vol. 19 (2014), Wu et al., pg. 536
1.2 BIM application for cost estimating and cost planning
According to Samphaongoen (2009), cost estimating is essential for budgeting and tendering in any construction
project. It reflects the inherent risks, direct costs of a project involving materials, labour, professional services,
etc. (Olatunji et al., 2010). Introduction of cost planning techniques, enabled the quantity surveyors to provide
more reliable cost advice from the early stages of a project for design appraisal to offer best value and
confidence for clients and project team to proceed with the project (Ashworth, 2004; Cartlidge, 2009). An early
cost estimate then becomes the fundamental guideline to determine the projects’ feasibility and also acts as the
main parameter with which the design has to conform throughout its development (Odusami & Onukwube,
2008; Raisbeck & Aibinu, 2010). It also enables alternatives to be considered at early stage of a project (Eastman
et al., 2011).
BIM means changes to the manner buildings are designed, documented, analysed, procured, constructed and
managed as it unlocks new way of working for all construction disciplines, (Aranda-Mena et al., 2008; Hardin,
2009). Inevitably, it includes changing the way cost plans and estimates are produced as well.
1.2.1 Process of BIM based estimating
BIM offers visualisation to ease the production of conceptual estimates (Matipa et al., 2008) and the function to
automate the generation of quantities and measurements directly from a BIM model (Sabol, 2008). Cartlidge
(2009) noticed that many estimating software are developed to speed up the labour-intensive traditional approach
of quantification works only by helping to determine the dimensions from CAD drawings to be input into QTO
(Quantity Take Off) templates. The software is yet to achieve a high efficiency since the selection of necessary
elements from the drawings and measurement are still based on manual operations (Autodesk, 2007; Jiang,
The development of early cost estimates is widely facilitated by BIM. Eos Group (2008) acknowledges that BIM
rather enhances the QS expertise in cost estimating than eliminating it as sometimes claimed, since BIM is only
able to automate quantification but not cost estimates (Autodesk, 2007). BIM technology allows early design
models to be linked to software that enables the quantity surveyor to extract necessary quantities at the initial
stages of a project (Eastman et al., 2011). A BIM model contains 3D objects with geometrical information, and
hence it is easier to capture the quantities of the objects; the volumes and areas can be automatically and
instantly extracted (Jiang, 2011; Kymmell, 2008). Quantities extracted then form the basis of an accurate cost
estimate, after linking and mapping them with the quantity surveyor’s internal built-in or external cost database.
1.2.2 Approaches of BIM based cost estimating
The capability of BIM platforms to perform automated quantification of items, areas and volumes of building
elements does not produce a cost estimate. Application of BIM in cost estimating is a broader process than mere
automated measurements. Eastman et al. (2011) and Autodesk (2007) suggest several approaches for BIM based
cost estimating as follows:
• Exporting building object quantities to estimating software
It is identified by Eastman et al. (2011) that most BIM based estimating tools are capable of exporting the
quantities to a spreadsheet or external databases, enabling the quantity surveyor to then begin the pricing work.
Quantity Surveyors usually consider quantities that have been exported to MS Excel format are sufficient for
their work in BIM. However, Hardin (2009) argues that it is inefficient to export the quantities if the BIM model
and the spreadsheet or database are not linked in a way that the latter is automatically updated with the changes
to the former. In contrast, Autodesk (2007) suggests such output still offers the simplicity and control that
matches certain workflows. Therefore, a standardised modelling process is recommended to help to achieve
• Bridging the BIM tool directly with estimating software
ITcon Vol. 19 (2014), Wu et al., pg. 537
This approach refers to the use of BIM estimating software such as Tocoman iLink which are capable of directly
linking to the BIM design tools such as Revit through plug-ins (Autodesk, 2007; Eastman et al., 2011). Quantity
surveyors can define the measurement rules using the plug-ins to automatically generate all the required
quantities for the cost estimate from the underlying model and then map the cost data to the relevant building
components (Jiang, 2011). They can also associate objects within the model instantly with the assemblies or
items in the estimating software or from the external database. In this case, BIM design tools mainly serve to
provide model visualisation to aid the cost estimating processes.
• Using BIM quantification tools
This approach associates with the use of specialised Quantity TakeOff (QTO) software, e.g. Autodesk QTO,
Vico Office, and Exactal CostX, that transfer the BIM models and their embedded information from BIM design
tools into their system. Similar to the previous approach, these tools can support both the automated extraction
and manual take-off features. They can generate visual take off diagrams while providing visualisation of models
whereby the quantity surveyor can mark off the building components using colours enabling to cross check the
take-off lists and to see which components have or have not been included in the estimate (Eastman et al., 2011).
The items and assemblies are inter-linked and the quantity surveyors are able to insert additional annotations to
the model to clarify the conditions whenever necessary during the quantification process. The approach provides
an advantage for the quantity surveyors to work using familiar QTO software without having to possess an in-
depth understanding of BIM design platforms. According to our study, this is also the most likely approach that
will be adopted by QS in UK.
Furthermore, BIM is argued to be adding new complications to the cost estimating processes for QS; including
3D model management, navigation and model export, identification and linking building components to
estimating data, rapid responses to changes and design alternatives along design development stages (Eastman et
al., 2011; Eos Group, 2008).
1.2.3 Challenges of BIM based Estimating
Agreeing with the statement “BIM has its flaws” (Yan and Damian, 2008), Kiviniemi et al. (2007) believe that
BIM is unable to solve all quantification issues although it is capable of performing most manual work quickly.
The following challenges still remain with BIM based estimating despite its advanced technology.
• Substandard BIM models and inadequate information
Jellings and Baldwin (2009a) emphasise the importance of producing a properly configured BIM model to derive
a meaningful cost estimate or cost plan. McCuen (2009), RICS (2009) and Kiviniemi et al. (2007) suggest that
the accuracy and quality of BIM based estimates rely upon the extent that the project has been defined to the
quantity surveyor, the quality of information included, and the details of the construction methods presented in
the plans and specifications by the designer. Whether or not the assemblies and objects are well developed in the
model also influences the accuracy of BIM based cost estimates (Sabol, 2008).
Frequently, BIM models do not exactly tally the needs of the quantity surveyors in terms of quality and
information. This creates difficulties for the quantity surveyors in managing and searching for the required
information within the model for the development of cost estimates. Hereby, the arguments arise as to what
information needs to be included in BIM models for the benefit of quantity surveyors. All these factors have to
be carefully evaluated to improve the use of BIM in cost estimating. To resolve this issue, Sabol (2008, p. 2)
recommends the needs of “methods and standards to support the level of design detail required for useful
estimates” and a “framework” to maintain a consistent input of information into the BIM components throughout
• Issues related to data exchange
Sabol (2008) claims many BIM estimating applications currently do not accommodate bidirectional data
exchange. Bidirectional model linking is useful to support information flows and expansion (Hardin, 2009). It
ITcon Vol. 19 (2014), Wu et al., pg. 538
enables BIM models to stay updated along the design development process and thus, increases information
integration. Accordingly, when new information is input into a model, the quantities and cost information can be
simultaneously retrieved and updated within the model (Sabol, 2008). Most software enables only quantities
within the model to be constantly transferred and updated during design changes, but not the cost information.
However, the nature of the link between a model and its database varies depending on the type of software used
• Lack of standardisation and inappropriate pricing format
In practice, the most common issue raised is that even though a quantity surveyor can be provided with a full
breakdown of quantities through the automation capabilities of BIM, they are rarely given in a format suitable
for pricing. BIM adopted currently is contended to be fragmented and there is no industry standard yet for the
link between the model and cost estimating (McCuen, 2009).
Further, Sabol (2008) noted the amount of design information that the current BIM applications are able to
model is far in excess than what is actually needed for cost estimating purposes in preliminary project phases.
However, it is not advisable for BIM model designers to include as much information as they desire since having
inappropriate information at the wrong time in a BIM project would end up in incorrect decision making and
unrealistic project planning. Therefore, it is crucial to determine and delineate what information is required to
support early cost estimating processes.
Accordingly, the next section of this paper examines various measurement standards, which have been used in
the UK for cost estimating and planning.
2. UK MEASUREMENT AND COST ESTIMATING STANDARDS
2.1 The Standard Method of Measurement for Building Works
According to Matipa et al. (2010), industry practices have largely depended on the use of Standard Method of
Measurement (SMM) to obtain the detail project costs in the form of BoQ during tender estimation. SMM has
been in use since 1922 to provide quantity surveyors a uniform set of rules and guidelines for measuring and
pricing building works (Cartlidge, 2011; RICS, 2012). It has been revised several times over the years and
SMM7 is its latest version.
SMM7 rules categorise and organise the building works measurement into many trades in detail, which set out
the systematic structure, layout, contents and phraseology for BoQ (Cartlidge, 2011). It utilises the Common
Arrangements of Works Sections (CAWS) system as basis to define the classification and coding of items under
three levels as shown in Table 1 for greater consistency and easier information distribution (Lee et al., 2011;
RICS & CC, 1998).
Table 1: Classifications and coding of elements in SMM7
Driven Sheet Piling
As indicated in SMM7 (1998), a BoQ prepared according to the SMM explains the quantity and quality of work
carried out in a building project comprehensively. Lee et al. (2011) comment that the rules help to maintain the
consistency of BoQs in the industry resulting in an improved understanding among project participants and
forming a uniformed basis for tender evaluation.
However, SMM7 which has been developed fundamentally based on the traditional procurement method does
not effectively cater for variability of procurement strategies in the building industry (Cartlidge, 2011). As a
ITcon Vol. 19 (2014), Wu et al., pg. 539
result, different formats are used for measurement works, particularly when procurement methods that do not
require a detailed BoQ and tender documents are employed in a project.
The format presented in SMM7 is specifically related to the preparation of BoQs, but not to cost estimates or
cost plans. Therefore, SMM7 is unable to support quantity surveyors in providing cost advice due to its failure to
suit the new approach of cost planning, particularly when capturing cost information (Cartlidge, 2011).
However, there has been a tendency of adopting the SMM for cost estimating and cost planning in the absence of
a specific set of standards to serve the practices, (Matipa et al., 2010; RICS, 2012). As a result, approaches that
have been used by quantity surveyors for the measurement and description of building works for estimates and
cost plans were inconsistent and frequently created doubts about the cost advice provided among the other
project team members (Lee and Smith, 2010; RICS, 2012). The ambiguities in cost estimates caused by the
absence of an appropriate standard triggered the RICS’s move towards deriving a new set of rules for
measurement known as New Rules of Measurements (NRM) to encompass the purposes of trades based
measurement and cost planning, and to sustain the needs of current construction market.
2.2 BCIS Standard Form of Cost Analysis
Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) developed a document named Standard Form of Cost Analysis
(SFCA) to set out how to analyse the cost of a project into elements based on the costing documents from the
procurement process (BCIS, 2009). Elemental costs provide a basis for generating a robust estimate for a client
based on very little information (BCIS, 2009). Thus, before the NRM were published, SFCA was considered as
the existing industry standard for the presentation of elemental cost planning and cost advice (Cartlidge, 2009;
Lee et al., 2011). The BCIS way of producing cost plans is strictly dependent on the availability of accurate and
well-documented cost information from previous similar projects which are then adjusted for the new project in
terms of price, quantity and quality (Cartlidge, 2009).
SFCA outlines the elements of a building project by their functions and provides ways of capturing, analysing,
storing and distributing the historical cost data over the building elements to deliver a complete cost plan for
early cost advice (BCIS, 2009). The elements are not supposed to be altered according to the design or
specification of a project because they are standardised and fixed for the use in all types of projects (BCIS,
2009). In addition, Gross Internal Floor Area (GIFA) is used as the basis for the cost data together with element
unit quantities and element unit rates to build up the required elemental-formatted cost plan. This type of cost
plan format is meant to help the design team and client to know the cost allocation of the project at a glance
According to Cartlidge (2011), SFCA performed the role as the industry standard for cost planning since 1961
when BoQ was extensively used. There have been no revisions made to its original elemental format for forty
years since it first introduced to the industry. Hence, it was insufficient to address the modern business needs
without further improvements. The elemental cost data captured could not be readily used in the new
construction procurement processes. Consequently, a revision was made to the BCIS SFCA in 2008 (Lee and
Smith, 2010) and it is believed that it can now create more positive implications on the pre-contract cost control
processes together with the adoption of NRM.
2.3 New Rules of Measurement (NRM)
Upon reviewing the SFCA and SMM7, there was a growing intention within the RICS working group to bridge
the gap in the existing standards. Accordingly, a new set of rules known as the New Rules of Measurement
(NRM) was drawn up in three separate volumes in 2011 to be applied at various stages of the construction
process from early feasibility to building occupation through completion and handover (Cartlidge, 2011). The
three volumes are named as follows.
• NRM 1: Order of cost estimating and cost planning for capital building works
• NRM 2: Detailed measurement for building works
• NRM 3: Order of cost estimating and cost planning for building maintenance works
NRM1 provides vital guidance on the quantification of building works for the purpose of preparing cost
estimates and cost plans. NRM2 has been prepared to guide the detailed measurement and description of
building works for the purpose of obtaining a tender price while NRM3 extends indispensable guidance on the
ITcon Vol. 19 (2014), Wu et al., pg. 540
quantification and description of maintenance works for the purpose of preparing initial order of cost estimates
during the preparation stages of a building project, cost plans during the design development and pre-
construction stages, and detailed, asset-specific cost plans during the pre-construction phases of a building
project (RICS, 2012).
Hence, NRM is considered as a comprehensive guide to good cost management of construction projects. In
addition to introducing a standard set of measurement rules to provide a consistent approach for cost
management, it facilitates an improved understanding of measurement rules for any participants involved in a
construction project (Lee et al., 2011; RICS, 2012). NRM is illustrated as a more universal approach that
facilitates a worldwide application as opposed to SMM7 that was used to be more UK centric. The following
sub-section discusses NRM1 in detail.
2.4 NRM1 for Order of cost estimating and cost planning for capital building works
NRM1 was developed as the standard measurement rule to guide the quantification of building works for
preparation of order of cost estimates and elemental cost plans (BCIS, 2009; RICS, 2012). Although the first
edition of the RICS new rules of measurement: Order of cost estimating and elemental cost planning was
published in February 2009, a combination of number of factors urged the need for a second edition which was
published in April 2012 (RICS, 2012).
NRM1 provides a structured basis for preparing order of cost estimates and elemental cost plans including all the
costs and allowances forming part of the cost of the building to the client but which are not reflected in the
measurable building work (BCIS, 2009). An order of cost estimate is necessary to examine the affordability of a
proposed building project and, if affordable, to establish a realistic cost limit for the building project. The cost
limit is the maximum expenditure that the employer is prepared to make in relation to the completed building
project, which will be managed by the project team (RICS, 2012). The cost limit is established prior to
preparation of complete set of working drawings or BoQ and forms the initial build up to the cost planning
process (BCIS, 2009). NRM1 provides guidance for the preparation of order of cost estimates using three
methods of estimating; namely, floor area method, functional unit method and elemental method. Fig.1
illustrates the components of an order of cost estimate according to NRM1.
Elemental cost planning is the breakdown of the cost limit into cost targets into each element of the building. It
provides a statement of how the design team proposes to distribute the available budget among the elements of
the building, and a frame of reference from which to develop the design and maintain cost control (BCIS, 2009).
RICS (2012, p.2) introduces NRM1 as “the ‘cornerstone’ of good cost management of construction projects –
enabling more effective and accurate cost advice to be given to clients and other project team members, as well
as facilitating better cost control”. The rules in NRM1 can also be used for the preparation of cost analyses and
benchmark analyses (RICS, 2012). With the ability of using as a basis for capturing historical cost data in the
form required for order of cost estimates and elemental cost plans, NRM1 completes the entire cost management
cycle. Lee and Smith (2010) point out five usages of NRM1 as follows.
• Pre-construction cost management
• Order of cost estimates
• Cost planning
• Construction phase cost management
• Analysis of cost data
ITcon Vol. 19 (2014), Wu et al., pg. 541
(1) Facilitating works estimate
(2) Building works estimate
(3) Main contractor’s preliminaries estimate
(4) Sub-total [(4) = (1) + (2) + (3)]
(5) Main contractor’s overheads and profit estimate
(6) Works cost estimate [(6) = (4) + (5)]
(7) Project/design team fees estimate (if required)
(8) Sub-total [(8) = (6) + (7)]
(9) Other development/project costs estimate (if required) (9)
(10) Base cost estimate [(10) = (8) + (9)]
(11) Risk allowances estimate [(11) = (11(a)) + (11(b)) + (11(c))+ (11(d))]
(a) Design development risks estimate
(b) Construction risks estimate
(c) Employer change risks estimate
(d) Employer other risks estimate
(12) Cost limit (excluding inflation) [(12) = (10) + (11)]
(13) Tender inflation estimate
(14) Cost limit (excluding construction inflation) [(14) = (12) + (11)]
(15) Construction inflation estimate
(16) Cost limit (including inflation) [(16) = (14) + (15)]
Fig. 1 The key constituents of an order of cost estimate (Source: RICS, 2012)
Further, NRM1 makes references to both the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Plan of Work and the
OGC (Office of Government Commerce) Gateway Process throughout the document. RIBA Plan of Work and
the OGC Gateway Process are recognised frameworks for managing and designing building projects. Cost
estimates and cost plans are necessary to be prepared by the quantity surveyor/cost manager at various stages of
the RIBA Plan of Work or at various gateways in the OGC Gateway Process, whichever management process is
applicable (RICS, 2012). Hence, RICS has determined a series of formal cost estimating and elemental cost
planning stages (Fig 4) in the context of the RIBA Work Stages and OGC Gateways. Order of cost estimates are
produced as a fundamental part of RIBA Work Stages A: Appraisal and B: Design Brief, or OGC Gateways 1
(Business Justification) and 2 (Delivery Strategy).
ITcon Vol. 19 (2014), Wu et al., pg. 542
Fig. 2 Cost estimating, elemental cost planning and tender document preparation stages in context with the RIBA
Work Stages and OGC Gateways (Source: RICS, 2012)
In addition, the format of NRM1 which offers a way of dealing with cost allowance that is not reflected in
measurable building work provides a greater range of cost information to clients compared to the SFCA format
(Cartlidge, 2011). BCIS (2009) identifies three main differences between NRM and SFCA as follows:
• NRM covers the non-physical aspects of a project that the client may require as part of his overall budget for
the project, while the SFCA relates to the physical construction and contractors charges.
• Pragmatic changes to presentation and allocation
Different coding system
It is worth noting that the measurement standards in UK (SMM or NRM) are developed independent of the BIM
development process. They are designed for the presentation of the building cost during the design and
construction process. Inevitably, their classification system and measurement rules have not been taken into
consideration of the BIM development and their information structure is not fully compatible with the BIM data
structure (i.e. IFC structure or Revit object structure). Therefore, in order to for QS to embrace the BIM based
estimating and cost planning, the BIM estimating tools have to provide the flexibility to support for the
abovementioned UK cost estimating practice. In the next section of the paper, the study reviews a number of
BIM based cost estimating tools available and their capability to support UK estimating practice.
ITcon Vol. 19 (2014), Wu et al., pg. 543
3. BIM BASED COST ESTIMATING TOOLS REVIEW
QS firms would have to choose BIM based estimating tools depending on the estimating workflow, available
software, and pricing database used in their practices in order to be part of a BIM based project and to benefit
from the advantages of BIM technology. In this context, this paper reviews the functional and technical
capabilities of the following four BIM based estimating applications currently available in UK market.
• Solibri Model Checker 8
• Autodesk QTO 2012
• CostX 3.5
• BIM Measure 16.4
BIM based estimating tools vary in their functionality and working processes, therefore, it is not the intent for
this review to compare the performance of tools against each other or to disapprove their potentials among the
others. Rather, it intends to present an overview on how different BIM estimating tools can facilitate quantity
surveyors to take advantage of their quantity take-off capabilities and how each tool could adapt to the latest
3.1 Review methodology
This review first explores the information published by software suppliers and product reviews by existing users
and collect variable opinions towards the aforementioned software application. Trials are later undertaken on all
the tools to further verify and distinguish their functions and features towards the QS profession. In order to
develop a consistent and objective review, it is important to base the experiment on a standard structure; for
instance, a common BIM model and a set of defined criteria.
The use of Autodesk Revit application packages is dominating in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction
(AEC) industry (Monteiro & Martins, 2013), the majority of industry practitioners in UK are familiar with the
interface and the BIM model produced by Revit. Hence, a Revit 2013 model is used as the testing BIM model in
Fig. 3 Revit Model used in the review
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