The costs for the new airport in Berlin are exceeding the planned budget by more than 5 Billion Euros, and there seems to be no end in sight. The Elbphilaharmonie in Hamburg cost 600 Million more than expected. And the Grand Paris Express, the most significant mobility construction in the world right now, will be around 9 Billion over budget. Corruption, mismanagement, etc. – some of you might shout now. And yes, that is part of the problem. But for once, we can’t only blame those governing. Anyone who has ever built a house or an apartment knows – there are always some extra costs hidden somewhere.

Does it HAVE to be this way?! No, an American University just proved that if done right, a major construction project can even be more affordable than planned. The Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon State University, and Portland State University just realised a joint project: The Collaborative Life Sciences Building (CLSB). A 650,000 square-foot centre housing the life sciences programs of the three universities. The building’s 12-story complex features 500,000 square feet of space for classrooms, lecture halls, and laboratories for research and teaching, including medical simulation laboratories for high-tech, team-based learning. The total construction volume was $295 million, of which the clients saved $10 million through smart planning.

By now, you might have guessed how they did it: Everybody, literally everybody, involved in the design and construction process of the CLSB was using BIM: Architects, designers, consultants, subcontractors.

But back to BIM. What exactly is BIM?

“Think of it as computer-aided design (CAD) on steroids.” FASTCOMPANY


BIM is an intelligent model-based process for planning, designing, building and managing buildings and infrastructure. It connects AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) professionals so that they can more efficiently design, build, and operate buildings and infrastructure. Instead of using separate sets of drawings BIM enables project members to design and build collaboratively using one coherent system of computer models.

BIM is more than just 2D or 3D modeling. Designers create digital 3D Models that include data associated with physical and functional characteristics. The data in the model define the design elements and establishes behavior and relationships between model components. When an element in a model is changed every view is updated with the new change appearing in section, elevation and sheet views.

BIM explained by Autodesk

One of the biggest challenges, when it comes to designing and constructing a building is communication. The bigger the project and the more people involved in it the more complicated it gets. Pieces of information get lost or misunderstood and errors happen. But if everyone involved in the projects works in the same model, meaning that everybody is always up to date about what the others are doing, and every change is shown, miscommunication is reduced to a minimum.” Vanni Sacconi, project-architect at Robert Neun.

Who can use BIM and how does he/she benefit by using it?


  • More control over the project, as BIM provides an understanding of the current status of all partners involved.
  • Planning errors are immediately visible.
  • Loss of information due to poor communication and other carelessness is reduced to a minimum.
  • Improvement of the design before it is built.
  • Integration of technical concepts in early design phases.


  • Planning errors are immediately visible. If for example other teams involved in the project make changes, which intervene with the static, changes or/and mistakes are immediately visible and therefore changeable before construction started.
  • Loss of information due to poor communication and other carelessness is reduced to a minimum.


  • Better overview, as all the information is always available for everybody involved in the project.
  • Improved schedule: more accurate timing enables better planning for follow-up projects as well as a more precise calculation of the labor force.


  • Lower project risks through greater costs and schedule predictability.
  • More control through transparency, e.g. when it comes to the amount of material. With BIM the amount of all materials can be exactly defined. No space for fraud.
  • Fewer costs through precise prediction of the amount of material needed. Better offers can be obtained and there is less waste of material.
  • Faster selling with realistic visualisations.
  • Better understanding and easier execution of future operations, maintenance of the building and renovation work: all information of components, such as the manufacturer, model number, etc. are saved so of components are saved. In case anything has to be replaced in the lifecycle of a building, all the details are easily accessible.
  • Access to all information at any time.


  • Lower project risks through greater costs and schedule predictability.
  • Access to all information at any time. For example, the size of gross surface often changes during the span of a project. With BIM, investors always have insights into the current status.
  • Faster ROI thanks to faster selling of properties with realistic visualisations.

The five biggest benefits of BIM:

According to the SmartMarket report “The Advantages of BIM for the Infrastructure sector 2017” by Deloitte and Autodesk.

  1. Fewer mistakes
  2. Better cost forecast
  3. A better understanding of the project
  4. Improved time management
  5. Optimised designs

Top five reasons why companies DON’T use BIM:

According to the SmartMarket report “The Advantages of BIM for the Infrastructure sector 2017” by Deloitte and Autodesk.

  1. Not enough demand from clients/ other organisations on the project
  2. Software is too expensive
  3. Processes don’t apply well enough to what they do
  4. Poor interoperability with other applications
  5. BIM implementation guidance is unclear/too limited

Three Downsides of BIM named by architects who do work with BIM:

  1. BIM models cause more work and therefore more costs in the run-up to a project.
  2. BIM models are relatively inflexible and therefore take the spontaneity out of construction projects. Investors very often change their plans. 2D models are quicker to change.
  3. Not every architecture company has people qualified to set up a BIM model.

And when even the European Union is embracing BIM…

After billions of Euros from public funds disappeared into airports, concert houses, subways, train stations, etc. the European Union decided to rely more on technology and transparency than on nepotism. At the beginning of 2014, the European Parliament recommended modernising European Union public procurement law by recommending the use of computer-based methods such as BIM to award public works contracts and tenders. Some European countries, such e.g. Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway or Finland, embraced this initiative and made the use of BIM for public-sector construction projects mandatory.

How exactly did the CLSB project save $10 million with BIM?

Let’s have a look at the three main factors that created savings for CLSB:

  • Cross-disciplinary involvement: The project had 28 design teams in 10 states collaborating on plans, and all of them were using BIM. Even though more and more companies are using BIM models, it is extremely rare, that all partners and subcontractors involved are also using it. That is one of the outstanding circumstances of the CLSB project.
  • Communication: They used editing and file-sharing platforms and cloud-based spreadsheet solutions to keep track of documents, to allow multiple users simultaneous access and editing, and to prevent version-control problems. One firm’s changes automatically reflected in everyone else’s documents. These communication tools saved them 127,000 hours of manual labour, which would have cost at a billable rate of $79 per hour, $10,058,017.
  • Automation: They used automatic tools, such as Point Layout and Robotic Total station to layout and install mass production such as 55,000 hangers for the mechanical, engineering, and plumbing systems. Applying these tools saved them another million $.

To BIM or not to BIM?

It seems that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and one wonders why not all companies use BIM. Very frankly, BIM only makes sense when a certain project size is reached. For a single-family house, for example, the effort at the beginning is too high for the cost you would save. In a normal scenario, there are also not that many parties involved in building a single-family house, so the communication between the parties is in most cases manageable just by speaking to each other.

The more people involved though, the more complicated it gets. Therefore, if a project exceeds a certain size, it makes sense to invest time and money at the beginning to have planning reliability, and to stay within the budget and the timeframe.

Speaking of savings, we can only imagine the calculations of additional savings for these companies if they had been using the Prompto platform! If you want to more about our services and how we can help YOU save money on your projects, click here.

What are your experiences with BIM? We would love to hear about it. Comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook page. Find out more about how the future of house building will look like by reading our article on AI and real estate.

All the best, Karolin on behalf of the entire Prompto-team.