Vico Office Cost Planner FAQs

Construction estimating software needs to bridge the gap between 2D drawings and 5D BIM models.  Vico Office Cost Planner does that by recognizing model-based and non-model-based elements in the estimate and visually linking the cost items to the model elements.


Cost planning is an iterative estimating process tied to the level of detail available in the BIM. Vico Office Cost Planner offers rapid costing calculations based on construction-caliber quantities.  You can tie costing and productivity rates from past projects to your current project or even pull in data from other estimating systems like Timberline and MC2.


An estimator needs Vico Office Client, Takeoff Manager, Cost Planner, and Cost Explorer to incorporate BIM models into their estimating process.


After reading through these questions, please navigate across the product line:

Vico Office FAQs

Vico Office Client FAQs

Vico Office Takeoff Manager FAQs

Vico Office Constructability Manager FAQs

Vico Office LBS Manager FAQs

Vico Office Schedule Planner FAQs

Vico Office Production Controller FAQs

Vico Office 4D Manager FAQs

Vico Office Cost Explorer FAQs

Also read through these questions:

Model Progression Specification FAQs

Location-Based Managememt System FAQs (the theory which powers Vico scheduling solutions)

5D Data Pack FAQs


We also offer a step-by-step guide to our 5D virtual construction workflow with video tutorials. These videos are just 2-5 minutes in length, but illustrate how to use a particular piece of functionality. You can access the video library index and view just what you need, or download the complete set of training videos.


Q:  Where does the pricing come from? Is this from a Means index or does it come from those who actually perform the work?


A:    It can come from subcontractors, from RS Means as a source, or from previous projects. Basically, it is all the data which is in estimators’ heads right now. That’s the data that we try to put into the system so it can be reused on future projects. The productivity rates generally remain the same for similar project types and so it’s the cost of labor and materials that tend to fluctuate. We would expect to get those prices from RS Means or from the market.


We have a webinar which describes this knowledge base of cost and time elements in much more detail.  We help you determine whether or not it is advantageous to build it or buy it.  And, of course, we can help you with the Vico Standard 5D Library gives users a standard collection of formulas and values suitable for linking 3D BIMs to Vico's 4D scheduling and 5D cost planning applications. 


Q:  I still don't understand the concept of creating components and assemblies for the cost plan.  Can you show that part again?


A:  The component assembly structure in Vico Office Cost Planner allows the user to evolve the estimate as more and more data is known about the project. As the level of detail increases, our variance should hone in on the project budget.  As we know more granularity about the project, we can evolve the estimate.



Q:   Unit pricing is impacted by quantity (lower unit prices are associated with higher quantities and vice versa). How is this accounted for? 


A:   Exactly the same as in any estimate. You have a standard set of information and you tweak it per project.  It’s a misconception that people think that you have one set of estimating data and you publish a model to it and your estimate is automatically complete. (Please read: There Is Not An Easy Button for BIM Estimating.) That is just not the case, but you can automate it by getting the quantities. And also you link to it your estimating data… so you have your build ups and then you tweak it as any estimator does. That’s what an estimator does for a living. We just have a better tool for getting the quantities and automating a lot of the process, then the estimator has to put his final touches in. If we can get concrete for $90 instead of $100 because there’s lots of it, you just adjust the resource price for the concrete.


Q:  Is there any limitation on how many tiers of data you can attach in Cost Planner? Can I add a tier for LEED data if I was tracking that for the project?


A:  Yes, absolutely. The Cost Planner Database is set up to have unlimited additional tiers of data.  Having had some experience with LEED, the biggest difficulty I had was keeping score of where I was at any given time. So actually the database is set up to enable you to attach whatever additional data you want to on an element.


Q:  How do you account for margins and mark-up and how do you make those calculations private?


A:  Vico Office Cost Planner allows estimators to apply margins to individual line items in the cost plan or as a percentage of the project total price.  There are options for spreading out the mark-up across all active cost components in a cost plan or to simply report on the bid price.


This video offers a brief tutorial on how to use the Add-Ons and Mark-Up features.



Q:  How does Vico address multiple estimators working on the same project at the same time?


A:  The system can be run on a network with multiple users. However, as things stand today, there would be one person making the edits at any one time. We are planning on allowing people to be able to work and edit together (the technical term for this is multiple branches). The team would use compare and update to see where/what the differences are and it can be chosen whether those differences are put into the main project. We will have that collaborative functionality soon.  But right now, one designated user would update the estimate.


Q:  How can you tell the difference between model-based data and non-model-based data?  I can imagine that you see all your scope identified in the 3D model, but you still haven't accounted for everything.


A:  Exactly.  You're going to be able to sort your cost plan to quickly located your non-model-based General Conditions. 


We deployed a new feature that allows users to sort or filter their cost plan by any number of factors.  The easiest of which is to filter on non-model-based elements.  Please watch this quick tutorial video.



Q:  If you tender a substructure package out and the contractor comes back with a revised design or concept can you insert that back into the model?


A:   Yes, and if you get a price from a sub and you want to plug that price in then you can do that as well. Just type that in as a high level price and make sure that that does not roll down to the quantities you had calculated during preconstruction.


Q:   How does Vico interact with Timberline software?


A:   Please watch the demonstration from the Model-Based Estimating Basics webinar.  With a small amount of reformatting it can be imported straight in utilizing the Excel Import feature.  This means that you can associate your existing data in Timberline to a 3D model.



Q:   How can MPS bring better value with systems such as custom designed curtain walls from the architect? How is this cost modeled?


A:   Curtain walls are a really good example of how the Model Progression Specification can facilitate a project estimate because oftentimes today the construction manager is going out and hiring a specialty sub early to consult on the curtain wall and it’s critical that they be able to match up the design intent of the curtain wall from the architect to their specific engineering design. The MPS details what they will get from the architect as far as geometry and location goes and what level of detail it will be at. It also then tells the subcontractor hired to put the detail in what specifically they are required to put into the model itself. And then finally the construction manager that needs to price this correctly knows what he is getting and probably more importantly when he is getting it in order to put the pricing together.


Q:  How do you build the estimate if you getting multiple models from multiple sources?


A:  Because cost plans are iterative in nature and evolve as more detail is known about the project, we made it as easy as possible to publish multiple versions of the model(s).  And as these BIM models grow more and more complex, they contribute highly accurate quantity counts to help the estimator.


This video helps explain how to manage multiple models and increase the level of specificity in the estimate as more and more details are known about the project.



Q:  How do I create custom fields for sorting or organizing estimating data?


A:  Tags are a simple way to label data in Vico Office so it can be utilized in the reporting structure. Tags can be for internal or external consumption in all the modules, they can be edited on the fly, and should be generally thought of as a group data logically beyond the database field structure.


Many estimators want to create a report using the Uniformat classification system but they also want to create a report with the CSI MasterFormat classification system, as well. To make that happen you need to assign labels to your cost items that are both Uniformat and CSI MasterFormat. By assigning those labels and then applying grouping in the reporting engine, you can use the same cost plan to show the cost broken down into Uniformat systems as well as CSI trade classification.


Here is a quick tutorial on the use of tags in a cost plan.



Q:  Is it possible to have quantities for basic material in Cost Planner? Can we go all the way down to the bricks and cement?


A:  Absolutely.  We were working on a project in Dubai where they were more interested in the cost of the water in the concrete. So obviously we would be more interested in the steel price and the cement, etc. But it was the water they were more interested in. So on one project they wanted to break down the components and the constituent parts of the components.


So you can go to whatever level of detail you want. Obviously it’s a case of what level of detail is appropriate and what level of detail you can manage.


Just another plug for the Model Progression Specification…  If you’re not in control of the model from start to finish which is likely the case, the MPS would identify that level of detail and who’s responsible for adding it to the model.


Q:  Simple question.  I have a Revit model and I don't know if it is modeled to the level of detail necessary to do a deep estimate.  What is my first step?


A:  As the Estimator, you have the expertise to interrogate the model.  The first step is to review and refine the quantity takeoff of your Revit model with the Vico Office formula editor. This example illustrates creating a new component and modifying the source quantity, consumption, and any waste factor data.  The 5D workflow continues with constructability analysis, location breakdown structure, and scheduling. 




Q:  Does everything automatically update the estimate when the model is revised? How do all the updates work?


A:   Every time we publish a model it will ask you where you want to put it. So if you already have a substructure model and this is substructure V2 you would put it in the same place the substructure was or you can have it as a separate model (so you could have substructure/superstructure) Any changes you may have made to any of the takeoff items…say the designer has not modeled something correctly and has used the wrong takeoff item, the wrong tool or the wrong family and you’ve made that change…the system will remember when you get the new model and if it’s the same element it will remember the changes you’ve made and it will just add in the new data. So it’s very flexible and will remember anything that you want to keep or it will just override any changes you’ve done with the new model data. So it is a very smooth update.


Q:  How do you connect the work the Estimator is doing/has done with what the Planner is working on?


A:  The Task Manager, part of the Vico Office Schedule Planner, is used to establish the link between cost and schedule information by mapping cost Assemblies and Components to defined Tasks. Cost Assemblies and Components contain quantities for labor, material and equipment. Task Manager uses this information to calculate the amount of work that is associated with a Task by applying a Production Rate to one or more of the mapped Assemblies or Components using the equation: component quantity per location divided by production rate equals duration.  Here's a quick example of how you do that - it's just a matter of dragging and dropping...




Q:  Why does the workflow bounce around from clash detection, to quantity takeoff, to estimating, to scheduling?


A:  We all learned to count 3-4-5, but at Vico we count 3-5-4 to highlight that several 5D BIM estimating tasks feed the 4D BIM schedule.  The quantities that define our schedule come from the coordinated 3D BIM model.  Vico Office Cost Planner takes these quantities and associates them with construction means and methods.  We can then assign productivity rates from past projects or work with our Subs for commitments.  Feeding estimating data into the schedule data is one of the core building blocks that makes the Vico Office unique.  And it is this tight integration that allows us to produce a live BIM model that can answer the question: what impact will this change have on my estimate and schedule?