Insights and Advice for Enabling More Efficient and Sustainable Construction

Understanding 5D BIM In 5 Minutes!

15 September, 2016
6 mins read

BIM also known as Building Information Modelling, is now well-established in the construction industry, and Quantity Surveyors/Estimators are hearing about it more and more. Designers have embraced BIM and many today are producing 3D models. But how can the QS or estimator get started, and how is it relevant to them?

First and foremost, it is important to note that BIM is not a software you can simply purchase and pressure your staff into implementing. BIM is a new way of working or a process. So in a sense, you cannot purchase a BIM software per se, but a software to capitalise on the BIM work flow.

Building Information Models are three-dimensional digital representations of both the physical and functional characteristics such as the spatial relationships, constraints and dependencies of a project which in collaboration, forms a reliable foundation for decision making. The emphasis is on the “information” which is collectively shared and communicated between the projects’ stakeholders – throughout the entire lifecycle of the building. Enforcing a consistent flow of data through the adoption of a centralised model not only enhances accuracy, but also significantly diminishes discrepancies whilst harvesting meaningful collaboration between the Architects, Structural Engineers, MEP Designers and Quantity Surveyors.

So where does 5D BIM fit in? Well, 5D BIM is, quite simply, the process of applying costs to the model. This is the role of the QS/estimator, and as BIM workflows become established within the construction industry, QS & estimators will require the ability to deal with these models and know how estimating from the model fits in with the BIM supply chain. The benefits of 5D BIM for the QS/estimator, once established within a workflow, are endless. In a 5D BIM environment, the QS/estimator can participate in data exchange from the outset, rather than working in isolation to offer cost advice or takeoff quantities for a project. This enables them to better collaborate with the entire construction chain, including project teams. They can also focus on the client’s needs more effectively, which results in a higher quality project overall. The automatic generation of quantities provides a faster, more accurate tool to analyse data and provide better advice, and allows the estimator to explore ways of improving building design, efficiency, performance and cost.

A key principle of BIM is that a shared asset model promotes a collaborative work¬flow leading to improved outcomes. File interoperability is an important aspect of this, so any 5D BIM software worth its weight needs to support a multitude of BIM native files, such as DWG, IFC, and even SketchUp. The establishment of industry standards and procedures provides a sound framework for BIM implementation across all sectors of the industry to the benefit of the community as a whole. 5D BIM within QS and building companies has been a slower uptake than some other facets of BIM, but this is now changing as more and more companies are making the switch to ensure a better workflow.

For companies trying to make the transition to 5D BIM, there is a wealth of online information. A good starting point is the B1M website ( which contains a variety of videos on different facets of BIM, including 5D. Depending on your location, there may be various published standards to follow as well. Then, RICS has published a number of Guidance Notes and Research papers such as ‘The International BIM Implementation Guide’ and ‘Overview of a 5D BIM Project’. A RIB CostX Whitepaper is also available on the Exactal website ( as well as demonstration videos and other useful information.

One of the main issues for companies that are wanting to make the switch to 5D BIM is that even if some of their projects are now in BIM, they are not receiving BIM exclusively, and furthermore, the models may often not contain all the required information they’d need to create a full estimate. Since RIB CostX supports both 2D and 3D, it facilitates the transition of a company’s current practices across to BIM in a planned manner. Much of what they are already doing is still applicable in a BIM workflow and there is still a need to work with 2D drawing files within a BIM project. The main difference is the ability to interrogate the BIM model to extract quantities, and use the 2D files to verify and validate those quantities rather than measuring them.

Overall, to phase 5D BIM into your day-to-day practices with minimum disruption, the following tips are recommended. Firstly, do your homework. Find out as much as you can from sources such as those mentioned above. Secondly, buy some software such as RIB CostX and invest in proper training. Software on its own is not a BIM solution, but it is the enabler to undertake BIM and is a logical starting point. Thirdly, start straight away! This means having a dialogue with designers and starting to work with 3D model files, even on projects which are not designated as BIM. Current early adopters are companies that perhaps saw a competitive edge in being BIM-enabled. However, the emphasis will soon shift so that being BIM-enabled will be the norm and those companies that have maintained the status quo will find themselves competitively disadvantaged.