Last week I attended the Estimating Technology for Construction 2016 conference in San Francisco, CA. This was the inaugural event, so I had no prior experience for gauging the attendance and speaker quality.
I was pleasantly surprised with both. The event was well attended by approximately 200 industry-leading firms. It included AEC/O estimating, VDC/BIM, and collaboration technology vendors.
I was pleased to see Sage and Autodesk finally announce their long-standing partnership and raise public awareness of their collaboration efforts to integrate Navisworks Quantification with Sage Estimating via eTakeoff Bridge. The solution offers users the choice of leveraging the Navisworks 2D quantification features or the best-in-class eTakeoff 2D quantification module. This integration is currently in beta and planned for release in the latter part of 2016.
A few key takeaways:
- San Francisco is and has always been a great city that draws big crowds. Great choice of venue.
- Many of the speakers discussed a very similar VDC work process. It appears that the industry leaders have settled on a (somewhat) proven work process that’s common enough to warrant some speakers indicating, “...everything I have to say has been said by the previous speakers.”
- The VDC/BIM vendors are converging on some themes that we’ve been discussing for years, including:
- The model doesn’t contain all the information needed to develop an estimate—AT ANY LEVEL—so one must be prepared to fill in the gaps.
- 3D quantity extraction must be supplemented by 2D quantity takeoff (or vice-versa). 3D alone won’t cut it.
- Reconciliation of 2D and 3D elements with each other and the resulting estimating data. In essence, understanding the source of the estimating inputs and outputs.
- New AEC/O collaboration vendors are appearing, which indicates enough people (and money) believe there’s still room for more technical solutions. One indicated they received start-up money because the investors were convinced there was nothing on the market that could dominate the space.
In general, my discussions with attendees lead me to believe that those firms with a few years of VDC investment have “figured out what works” in terms of supporting preconstruction and cost estimating processes. We’re no longer in the euphoric state that BIM will solve all our problems. We no longer believe the model will generate an estimate with a click of a button. We’re also past the abyss of many high-profile BIM failures and the market is accepting what works and kicking what doesn’t to the curb. Good riddance.
That’s not to say there’s no room for improvement. Quite the contrary, we still have a long way to go. For example, BIM is still an ENR Top 250-300 conversation. While there are exceptions, we’re still not seeing it deployed to the masses where the majority of the AEC/O industry makes its living. As an industry, we need to continue to innovate and simplify the experience to engage with the SMB market.
Schedule permitting, I plan to attend the 2017 event. I hope to see you there.