Are Kenyan Quantity Surveyors Missing out on BIM?
Quantity Surveyors in Kenya have been left out of BIM according to research. Their fellows in the architecture and design professions are progressing way ahead of them and already reaping the benefits of BIM in their practice. This cannot continue if we want the Kenyan QS to remain valuable and competitive in the global construction market.
What is BIM?
BIM is an acronym for Building Information Modelling, sometimes referred to as Building Information Management. It is a collaborative way of working that involves Architecture, Engineering and Construction professionals thinking and taking care of the information needs of fellow project participants as they produce and share construction information.
Also, it can be described as a data-driven process that allows all project participants to collaborate in a shared online workspace known as a common data environment (CDE). The CDE is an online repository for project-related construction information that is accessible to all users, anytime anywhere.
This way of working relies on the creation of intelligent 3D models rich in a facility’s geometry data. Non-graphical data such as cost plans, schedules, specifications, manufacturer information, material characteristics and performance data, among others, is then linked to the model to form an information model.
What is Quantity Surveying?
The 10th edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a quantity surveyor as a person who calculates the amount and cost of materials needed for building work. While this definition is limited in some way, the quantity surveyors do calculate the cost of construction projects.
Quantity surveying is a client-led profession with the overall role of the quantity surveyors being a response to the needs and requirements of the client. The main role of the quantity surveyors in construction projects includes estimation and cost planning, procurement advice, measurement, preparation of bills of quantities and tender documentation, construction cost control, preparation of valuations, payments, contractual claims and final accounts.
The measurement duties which involve quantity take off, abstracting and billing are a time-consuming exercise that takes more than 50% of the QS time spent on a given construction project. In places where BIM has been adopted for such activities, the users have reported huge time saving as they were able to extract quantities from the model and use them for the preparation of cost estimates.
BIM and Quantity Surveying in Kenya: Where’s the Disconnect?
BIM use is looked at in terms of dimensions. A BIM dimension is the ability of a specific BIM product to process attributed data to achieve useful information. This is the original idea of computers accepting inputs and processing them to produce useful outputs.
The following dimensions are recognised:
- 3D – This is about object-based modelling. It is used for geometry and gives a better visualization of the project.
- 4D – is about time. It helps monitor and control a project’s duration, optimising planning and improving team coordination.
- 5D – is about cost. It supports automated extraction of building quantities from the information model, saving time on the manual take-off processes and making the estimation process more accurate and efficient.
- 6D – supports operations and facilities management. The information collected and modelled such as the configuration and performance data on materials will help in the maintenance phase of the project.
- 7D – is about sustainability. It supports the production of energy estimates to optimise the performance of the whole building.
- 8D – is about safety. This allows for the prediction of accidents through design and the generation of mitigation measures. In the end, we can achieve safer designs by outlining risks and allowing threats to be controlled for potentially uncontrollable hazards such as typhoons and earthquakes.
As seen above, Quantity Surveying is supported by the fifth dimension (5D) BIM.
Technology should not be viewed as the solution to all our problems, because it is just a means of improving the efficiency of our work through the automation of repetitive tasks. Every practice begins with a manual valuable process. This process is QS is quantity take-off, abstracting and billing. Technology takes that process and automates it to make it more efficient.
With BIM, the traditional take-off process that is prone to human error is replaced with a faster method of extracting quantity and schedule data from the digital models. This saves time, and cost estimates can be more efficiently revised when the design changes without having to do lots of manual measurements and counts.
In the process, the QS gets his valuable time freed and they can invest their efforts in checking the quality of the model, proposing alternative design strategies, comparing material choices by performing cost in use studies and life cycle estimating; together with advising the rest of the project team on important procurement and contractual matters related to the project.
The main aim is to ensure the client gets value for the money they invest in construction projects. In the end, ensuring the construction industry remains profitable and sustainable.
BIM Use Amongst Quantity Surveyors in Kenya
I was looking at “An overview of the BIM Adoption around the world in policy, laws and regulations Courtesy of (Techture ISO 9001-2015 Certified 2020)” and no arrow pointed to any country in Africa. See the image below:
Is it that the research overlooked our continent or does it mean that the level of BIM adoption and key policy formulation in Africa does not match the pace f development in other parts of the world?
In Kenya, recent research found that architects have the highest BIM adoption rate at 70.3% while quantity surveyors had the least at 38.7%. This is among a sample representing key construction industry stakeholders and professionals. Why are the Kenyan quantity surveyors so reluctant yet we have seen the immense potential benefits that BIM promised to the quantity surveying profession?
Low BIM Uptake Explained
Similar research indicates that BIM in Kenya is largely associated with the software, especially Revit and ArchiCAD. Although we discussed that BIM is not software, it is a process that is supported by the software. The aforementioned software is largely used for architectural design work, which could explain why the quantity surveyors are being left out.
There is a gap in the training and education of built environment professionals in Kenya. Institutions of higher learning here do not offer BIM as a course or a topic in any of their courses. Students graduate and meet the giant on the field. You will have to learn by attending relevant seminars and conferences, get trained by software resellers or software development companies and by attending online courses or consuming free online tutorials.
The government does not have any BIM policies in place to guide the industry practice. Most of the BIM implementation is led by private sector firms. Some legal instruments like the Public Procurement and Disposal Act of 2016 require an amendment to recognize BIM as a possible procurement route to catalyze its use in Kenya.
Preparing the QS for BIM: Competencies to be Developed and Nurtured
To make the digital transformation journey for the construction industry easy, policies and best practice procedures need to be developed. These will act as guidelines for a coordinated effort to digitise our construction industry.
For the quantity surveyors to see an improvement in the uptake of BIM technologies, educational institutions and the government through incensing and professional bodies have a role to play in developing standards and training materials.
We can learn from the Australian and New Zealand Institutes of Quantity Surveyors who have together developed BIM Best Practices Guidelines for their quantity surveying professions. Maybe the Institute of Quantity Surveyors of Kenya together with the Quantity Surveyors Chapter of the Architecture Association of Kenya can team up with the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors of Kenya to come up with guidelines and best practices that best suit the Kenyan and East African context.
Also, specific skill sets and competencies should be natured among the QS. These include design modelling development, identifying quantities at specific levels, manipulating digital models to extract quantities and measures, performing validation of the digital models and the information contained therein for their reliability in performing cost estimation, and the continuous adjustment of the cost plans in response to the changing information in the shared digital model.
Some of these will be acquired from proper training, others will be picked up during the post-graduation on-job experience. Either way, something needs to be done if we want to benefit from the use of this collaborative way of working.
Quantity Surveyors are very valuable professionals in a construction project. Their ability to participate effectively and efficiently in a project cannot be overlooked because it adds great value to the execution of the project.
In Kenya, however, they have been left out in the use of BIM with their fellows in the architecture and design professions progressing way ahead of them and already reaping the benefits of BIM in their practice. This cannot continue if we want the QS to remain valuable and competitive in the global construction market.
The academia, professional bodies and government licensing boards should work together to come up with a revised Quantity Surveying curriculum that will include BIM as an independent unit or a topic. Individual professionals should also invest in continuous professional development by enrolling in online courses and participating in BIM training and certification programmes run by software development companies.
Some of these include the Graphisoft Certified BIM Manager program, the various Autodesk Certified Professional programs, RICS BIM Certification programs and software training by QS software development companies such as Masterbill and Exactal.
Are there are other ways to improve the uptake of BIM by quantity surveyors that I have left out? What strategies are you implementing in your current organisation to meet the demands of transition to BIM? Let me know in the comment section below.
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