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ZweigWhite: Architecture, engineering, planning and environmental firms view BIM as top priority for 2010

By Jeff Yoders on October 07, 2010

Natick, Mass.-based consulting firm ZweigWhite recently released its “2010 Information Technology Survey of Architecture, Engineering, Planning, & Environmental Consulting Firms” and while some of its results still reflected the difficult market conditions most firms face, IT spending per employee was down from the 2009 10-year-high of $4,806 per employee to $4,521 per employee in 2010, there’s still lots on interest in 3D Building Information Modeling. Again, most respondents said their firm’s top IT priority for 2010 was CADD/BIM/technical applications, tied with managing costs and profitability with 46%. 69% of respondents also said their firms plan to increase their use of BIM in 2010. A majority said their firm’s biggest IT training needs were CADD/BIM and technical applications.

The 106-question survey, the 14th of its kind, was taken in March and April by AEP and environmental consulting leaders from 115 different firms, including full-service engineering, E/A, multidiscipline engineering, architecture or interiors, environmental consulting, A/E, single discipline engineering, and design/build firms.  The firms were chosen from every region of the nation and their staff size varied from 10 to 20,000 employees, although more than half did have more than 100 employees at the time of the survey.

“Technology investment is quickly becoming a cost of entry into the A/E marketplace, rather than a competitive advantage,” wrote John Soter, Principal, ZweigWhite Strategic Advisory Services, in his introduction to the survey. “The current challenge is to define the core work flow processes, and to integrate the technology to support those processes.”

While IT managers do expect the cost of hardware to go down, firms typically replace hardware every 36 months, according to the survey, and for new workstation PCs, the median specifications are a machine with 3.0 gigahertz processor speed, 160 gigabytes of hard disk space, 4.0 gigabytes of RAM, and a 20-inch, flat panel monitor.  97% opt for a single flat panel and 56% prefer a dual-monitor setup. The majority of firms also opt for 1000baseT network interface card. More than 60% prefer PC desktops and 33% use laptop PCs. Only 2% use Apple’s Macintosh computers. 77% of respondents also have wireless networking in their offices and 43% provide remote access to all employees, a 10-year high.

The firms are using such powerful hardware and networking for greater collaboration and connectivity.

  • 62% have set up at least one project website.
  • More than three quarters host their own project websites.
  • Microsoft Sharepoint (51%) and Autodesk Buzzsaw (42%) are the most popular commercial project website systems

On the design software side, more than three-quarters of respondents are using 3D CADD and Autodesk programs still dominate both CAD and BIM. The survey defined BIM as “creating a computer model of a building that links a three-dimensional geometric description of the architectural and engineering elements to information about their properties and behavior.”

  • AutoCAD is being used by 87% of respondents
  • Revit is used by 62%
  • Bentley’s Microstation was the only other CADD program used by more than half of respondents (55%).
  • A quarter of firms are using BIM in at least 25% of their work
  • The top quarter of firms report at least 17% of their staff are currently using BIM
  • More than two-thirds of firms (69%) plan to increase their use of BIM in 2010
  • Firm leaders report the advantages of BIM include better coordination, increased efficiency and reduced errors
  • Among the disadvantages cited were additional time to learn the software, its cost and legal issues surrounding project delivery in IPD situations.