Finding software can be overwhelming. Software Advice has helped many construction firms choose the right BIM software so they can improve collaboration across the project life cycle and reduce costs.

Showing 1-20 of 224 products

Buildertrend

Buildertrend is a construction management system for home builders, remodelers, specialty contractors, and general contractors. This solution combines project scheduling, project management, financial management, customer management... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 332 recommendations

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Deployments: Cloud
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Houzz Pro

Houzz Pro is a lead and project management solution designed for businesses in the home remodeling and design industries. Houzz Pro is able to streamline processes for businesses of all size by centralizing all business needs into... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 176 recommendations

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Esticom

Esticom is a cloud-based construction takeoff and estimating platform that helps contractors manage construction projects with real-time access to labor, pricing, plans and material database. Primarily catering to trades such as electrical,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 114 recommendations

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STACK Takeoff & Estimating

STACK Estimating is a cloud-based on-screen takeoff and estimating tool for professional contractors of all business sizes and all trades. STACK users can quickly and easily upload digital plans and complete takeoffs using the software.... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 80 recommendations

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Deployments: Cloud
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Procore

Procore manages your projects, resources and financials from project planning to closeout. The platform connects every project contributor with the owner and general or specialty contractor. The centralized dashboard allows managers... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 63 recommendations

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Deployments: Cloud
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PlanSwift

PlanSwift is an on-screen digitizing and takeoff system that is suitable for both commercial and residential GCs and subcontractors in a number of industries, such as electrical, heavy/highway, plumbing, and custom and production home... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 59 recommendations

Platforms: Win
Deployments: CloudOn premise
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Contractor Foreman

Contractor Foreman is an integrated cloud-based project management and estimation solution that caters to businesses in the construction industry. Key features include financials and accounting, scheduling and planning, contact management... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 52 recommendations

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CMiC

For 40+ years, CMiC has delivered enterprise software to general, specialty and heavy/highway contractors as well as project owners. The CMiC platform can be deployed as a multi-tenant SaaS solution, as a private Cloud (PaaS) or on-premise.... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 20 recommendations

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Deployments: CloudOn premise
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Sage Estimating (formerly Sage Timberline Estimating)

Sage Estimating is an on-premise based construction estimating software designed specifically to serve contractors and sub-contractors in construction and real estate industries of all sizes. The solution provides interactive tools... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 19 recommendations

Platforms: Win
Deployments: On premise
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eSUB

eSUB is a mobile application and cloud-based project management solution that helps commercial subcontractors across various trades to manage day-to-day operations. eSUB offers tools to connect field workers with office managers and... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 14 recommendations

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Deployments: Cloud
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Build Hero

Build Hero is a web-based home remodeling software which assists contractors and suppliers with cost estimation and customer acquisition. Its key features include project bidding, expense tracking, messaging and billing. The application’s... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 14 recommendations

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Deployments: Cloud
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Acumatica ERP

Acumatica ERP delivers a cloud and mobile technology platform designed for mid-sized customers with a complete, real time view across the business anytime, anywhere and on any device with a browser. From on-line accounting to full... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 13 recommendations

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Deployments: Cloud
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WeBuild

WeBuild is a cloud-based, all-in-one software platform that enables zero-cost, frictionless project collaboration. WeBuild empowers contractors, engineers, architects, developers, subs, and consultants alike to collaborate like never... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 11 recommendations

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Deployments: CloudOn premise
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Oracle Primavera

For more than 30 years, successful projects around the world have relied on Oracle’s Primavera solutions to plan, build, and operate critical assets. It is the only solution that integrates project and portfolio planning and delivery... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 10 recommendations

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Deployments: CloudOn premise
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InSite SiteWork Earthwork Takeoff

InSite SiteWork is a PDF & CAD cut and fill take-off and GPS modeling software solution for earthwork estimators who need to save time and money.  Quickly and accurately calculate cut and fill, stripping, strata quantities, paving... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 10 recommendations

Platforms: Win
Deployments: On premise
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QuoteSoft Duct & QuoteSoft Pipe

QuoteSoft is a takeoff, estimating and bid management solution developed to meet the unique needs of piping, plumbing and ductwork contractors. QuoteSoft is an industry-specific solution that is used by more than 3,000 contractors... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 9 recommendations

Platforms: Win
Deployments: CloudOn premise
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Trimble Estimation (Formerly ViewPoint Estimating)

Trimble Estimation (formerly known as Viewpoint Estimation) is a full-featured estimating solution tailored to the needs of mechanical, plumbing, and HVAC contractors. Developed with capabilities designed specifically for your trade,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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Deployments: CloudOn premise
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eTakeoff

eTakeoff is designed to offer estimators a comprehensive software that provides electronic viewer and takeoff tool for companies across all construction disciplines. The flexible solution is suitable to meet the needs of construction... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

Platforms: Win
Deployments: On premise
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Estimating Link

Estimating Link is a construction estimating and bidding solution. It’s suitable for heavy highway, environmental, bridges, site-work and civil projects, and both state and private commercial work. Estimating Link allows users to... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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WenDuct and WenPipe

WenDuct and WenPipe are construction estimating and digital takeoff systems designed specifically for mechanical contractors. Wendes Systems, the maker of WenDuct and WenPipe, has a long history of helping specialty contractors create... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 7 recommendations

Platforms: Win
Deployments: On premise
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Buyers guide


Last Updated: June 30, 2020

Ten years ago, if you had asked a construction firm what its virtual design and construction (VDC) strategy looked like, you would likely have been met with mostly blank stares. Now, nearly 80 percent of firms report using VDC workflows on projects to some degree, as JBKnowledge found in its 2016 construction technology report.

Building information modeling (BIM) is the reason for this massive industry shift. BIM is a process for creating a digital model of a construction project, comprised of layers of metadata describing the physical and functional aspects of the initiative.

BIM software creates a collaborative, open environment for teams to connect and optimize their time and efforts across the project life cycle. The positive returns and cost savings are numerous, so much so that McKinsey reports a number of governments are requiring BIM be used for all public infrastructure projects.

Whether you're investing in BIM software for the first time or looking to upgrade your current system, this guide can help you make a more informed purchase decision.

Here's what we'll cover:

What Is BIM Software?
Common Features of BIM Software
Benefits and Potential Challenges
Market Trends to Understand

What Is BIM Software?

BIM is an intelligent model-based process (3D, 4D, 5D) that helps architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals collaboratively plan, design, build and manage projects. It is a digital representation that conveys the physical and functional aspects of a project, e.g., geometry, spatial requirements and other metrics.

3D, 4D and 5D BIM

 

3D BIM 4D BIM 5D BIM
3D, design 4D, schedule 5D, cost
An informed and realistic model of a project initiative. Used to more accurately take customer requirements into design consideration and determine project scope.

Information that can be included in the 3D model includes geometric measurements, spatial data, design aesthetics, as well as thermal and acoustic properties.
Adds the element of time to the 3D model.

Allows general contractors to determine if the project scope can be completed on the given timeline, and once approved, schedule resources, set milestones and communicate plans to clients.
Adds the element of cost, together with scheduling, to the 3D model.

Allows estimators to determine the costs for the project and if they are in line with the approved budget. Any changes in the design or schedule are reflected in the budget.

The most commonly used format for BIM is the industry foundation classes (IFC) data model. The IFC specification, developed and maintained by buildingSMART, is the accepted ISO standard and is an open and neutral file format.

This means that IFC allows AEC professionals to share BIM data, regardless of what software application they use. For example, BIM data can easily be transferred between Revit, an Autocad product, to ArchiCAD, a Graphisoft product.

This also means it is accepted and used by the various disciplines involved with the project life cycle, including:

  • Architecture
  • Client requirement management
  • Structural engineering
  • Building authority for permits and approvals
  • Project management
  • Facilities management

IFC files representing different layers of metadata for each stage in a project in BIM software

IFC files representing different layers of metadata for each stage in the project. Source: Areo

As Engineering.com states, "In BIM, every project is built twice—once in a virtual environment to make sure that everything is just right and once in a real environment to bring the project to life."

BIM tools support this collaborative process between design and construction. They enable greater accuracy and consistency when planning and executing projects, helping to improve quality and safety, as well as reduce costs incurred from schedule and budget overruns.

Common Features of BIM Software

Specific features will vary across BIM software, depending on the stage in the project life cycle they are designed for, e.g., design, scheduling or estimating. However, there are some standard capabilities you should look for as you evaluate BIM solutions. These include:

Process/workflow management Set workflows surrounding the processes within set stages of the project life cycle, so users stay on the same page. For example: Design, visualization/modeling, model review, model simulation and analysis, model-based takeoff and costing etc.
Collaboration A single BIM model houses the metadata for all processes and connects teams across each stage of the project life cycle, from architects to general contractors to estimators. Changes to the design impact the cost and schedule. Each team can track and stay up-to-date with changes as they are made.
Change management Track known issues and allow users to flag new issues as they arise. Require approvals for model changes. This helps with version control and creates an audit trail, so everyone is on the same page and can understand model progressions, what changes were made and why.
Content/document storage and data management Store project data, e.g., drawings, customer requirements, requests for information (RFIs), phasing plans and more alongside the BIM model. Some systems may allow you to store models and information for multiple projects.
Reporting and analysis Gain actionable insights on the data provided by BIM models. Run reports during design and find problem areas or inconsistencies, run reports during planning to see if the project will finish in the time allotted and/or run reports during estimating to ensure the project costs don't exceed the budget.

Benefits and Potential Challenges

Benefits:

  • The 3D, 4D and 5D models help you more accurately determine project scope, cost and schedule. This improves project outcomes and reduces expensive reworks or change orders down the line.
  •   
  • BIM helps you identify missing or incorrect information early on in the design and planning processes, improving quality and safety down the line. Additionally, BIM models can continue to be used after planning, through construction and into maintenance, helping to increase the overall value delivered from the project.
  •   
  • Using the open, standard IFC file format allows for seamless transfer of data between tools and teams. This helps cut down on duplicate data entry (and potential for human error), saves time and promotes an open, collaborative BIM environment.

Challenges:

  • Although a centralized, collaborative environment is a positive, the more people involved in each process requires that BIM tools have strong version control and audit trail capabilities. Additionally, this makes it important to set workflows around changes and approvals, so you can track who did what and when.
  •   
  • Although the BIM IFC files are transferable between tools, there is a wealth of project information that needs to accompany the digital model, e.g., drawings, FRIs, change orders etc. These documents need to be stored, shared and linked to the model.
  •   
  • BIM files can easily reach sizes of 200 MB or larger, which can make it difficult to send files via email or download files to mobile devices if teams are in the field. If you search "BIM file sizes" on Google, the top results all center around how to reduce file size and how to deal with file size limitations when importing/exporting data.

Market Trends To Understand

BIM use is on the rise. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of builders who do not use BIM software dropped by 30 percent, according to JBKnowledge in their annual construction tech reports. Of those investing in BIM in 2016, 33 percent use BIM tools internally while 10 percent outsource.

Outsourcing may be a great stepping stone into this technology for small firms who lack the IT budget to invest in these tools for themselves. However, outsourcing doesn't negate the need for training on the data provided by BIM, so be sure someone is up to speed on what these models have to offer.

Open BIM. Open BIM is an initiative to maintain a collaborative and open environment for design, building and maintaining projects using the open buildingSMART data model, IFC. This initiative is backed and led by several prominent vendors in the AEC industry, including:

  • Tekla
  • GRAPHISOFT
  • Nemetschek
  • AllPlan
  • Vectorworks
  • Trimble

AEC software vendors can become Open BIM certified, showing that their products are IFC compliant and that their data works seamlessly with other Open BIM solutions.

This initiative is important for several reasons (read about them here), but one specific benefit is that it helps small and large software vendors compete in the space. Meaning, construction firms can take a chance on a lesser known, less expensive product. So long as it is IFC compliant, they can benefit in the same way as they would from using an industry giant.