A firm of south London architects is challenging software giants Autodesk and Bentley by launching its own entry-level BIM tool costing less than £100.
The architects at Lomal have spent a year developing their BiMUp5D software, which is aligned with the Google SketchUp 3D design platform, the basic version of which is free to users. BiMUp5D enables cost-modelling to be auto-generated from 3D SketchUp models.
The designers call it the “missing part of the jigsaw that allows BiM using SketchUp to become a reality” and claim that their £99 tool is suitable for 95% of construction projects.
“It’s suitable for anyone in the industry, from architects to contractors,” said architect Ipeng Kiang. “It’s inexpensive and easy to use. We see uptake with smaller firms with limited resources and larger organisations not wanting to bear the cost of expensive BIM upgrades.”
BiMUp5D uses the Google SketchUp 3D design platform
However, the software is not yet capable of generating costings from designs modelled in Autodesk and Bentley, as the necessary IFC protocols — which provide a common language for files created in different native file formats — are not yet in place.
Although the software takes on many of the tasks traditionally undertaken by QSs, Kiang said that their demise was not on the cards. “It’s as useful for them as anyone. No BIM software usurps their expertise in logistics, programming and labour costs,” he said.
BIM and design management consultant John Eynon FCIOB believes the software could prove useful for smaller firms that want to get started on BIM. “The cost and potential return on investment in BIM is becoming a serious issue for the industry, particularly for SMEs and the supply chain. BiMUp 5D may not be sophisticated, but if it can do the job and give people access to the technology it could be a great starting point,” says Eynon.
Like SketchUp, the software features an intuitive user interface, which Eynon commended. “With most BIM software you get the feeling that software development has been driven by technical experts rather then users. SketchUp is very intuitive and helps users to perform very complex operations in a very short space of time. BimUp takes that to the next level by including a schedule of quantities in a similarly user-friendly software environment.”