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Using Business Technology + Data to Drive Efficiency + Profit | Q+A with Joe Buysee
This is one of a series of Q&As with architects, builders, consultants and software providers that explore what builders need to do to take advantage of BIM or other advanced software programs, as well as how to choose the right ones for their needs.
This Q&A is with Joe Buysee, Director of Operations at BIMaire, a turnkey software and consulting company that offers a full range of BIM services for every phase of the builder's process. He says that BIMaire works with several large builders, and is helping one of them create a virtual sales center for a community without a model home.
Alliance: Can you explain to me exactly what BIMaire does?
JB: We're a packager. We've written some of our own software but also use others' software.
The builder tells us what processes they want to improve. We analyze those processes, including how much they're costing the builder and how much time they're taking to complete. We then design the most cost-effective software package that will meet the builder's goal.
Alliance: How do you define BIM?
JB: We think of it as a multi-leveled, multi-disciplined implementation of a set of instructions.
The example most people cite is the CAD model of a faucet that connects to a database with costs, installation instructions and other information. But that's just one tiny piece of the puzzle. A fully built building information model will connect all the pieces in a home.
Alliance: Can you give an example of what such a model can do?
JB: Say the builder wants to start with sales. They give us a design that we use to produce a model to drive a sales experience that lets the customer choose options in a virtual kitchen.
Getting there can be a challenge. A kitchen might have 30,000 configurations, which is an unbelievable amount of complexity. To manage that, the information in the model needs to be very accurate.
Alliance: How do you keep all the items in the model current?
JB: There's a lot of information flowing back and forth between us, the manufacturers and the builder. In most cases, if the manufacturer updates the product data we will push that update to the builder via an API (application protocol interface). That's the most streamlined method. But if the builder prefers to manually pull the data we can let them do that as well.
Alliance: What is the ROI for the builder on a BIM driven virtual sales experience?
JB: From an options standpoint we typically see a 35-40% increase in options revenue. Sales and closings also tend to happen faster. We have seen builders shave six to eight weeks of cycle time from the sales process.
Alliance: What actions would you advise a builder to complete to take full advantage of a BIM implementation?
JB: You will need to have a very open and honest conversation with the internal management team as well as with your design partner. Here's what you need to do:
Clarify your goals. Software is a tool for solving problems, so you need to define what problems you want to solve in a very specific way. Do you want to grow your volume from 200 to 600 homes over the next five years? The software you need for 600 will be different than what you're currently using, and the transition process will depend in part on the time frame.
Get ownership of your plans. We can't move the construction documentation process to BIMaire unless we have permission from the plan owner. In some cases the architect owns the plans and charges a fee for making changes to them. It's a source of ongoing revenue for the architect. The builder will have to either buy the plans from the architect or negotiate a license that lets the builder's staff make those changes while protecting the architect's profit margin. We usually see yearly license agreements in these cases.
Get purchasing involved. We want to work within the builder's current products, so we will want to know what they're purchasing today. If they are buying ductwork locally from a particular supplier, we will use that as an assumption for the HVAC system. Some builders want to transition from lump sum to itemized bids so they can us the BIM to optimize material usage. First, however, they need to determine exactly what materials are going into the home, which might require them to do their own material takeoff.
Calculate a budget. Technology costs money, but to get an accurate cost estimate you may have to invest in a small-scale pilot implementation. Say it's a builder starting from scratch. If they give us their most popular plan we can do a rough cost estimate. However if we build a BIM model for that plan, we will have an exact cost that we can use to create a more accurate estimate of what it would take to add their remaining plans. If a builder decides to do such pilot, we try to fast track it. We might have two or three people on the drafting side, and one or two estimators working on it. Our goal is to complete it in a four-week timeline. When we're done they get a 3D model that gives them the ability to create master set plans as well as lot specific plans with options. It will show all the parts and pieces for each plan iteration, including cost estimates. With those costs defined, they can either decide either add more plans, or they can get more comprehensive price data creating a virtual sales experience for that first plan.