Vico Office Suite FAQs

Vico Office is a different way of working with BIM models.  Used for much more than visualization, Vico Office extends the basic 3D model with constructability analysis and coordination, 4D location-based scheduling and production control with flowline principles, and 5D estimating.


We've assembled several FAQ pages to help you learn more about our products and determine whether or not they are a fit for your BIM initiatives.  BIM is so much more than software in a box - it requires process change and executive leadership.  So please be thorough and exhaustive in your investigation and know that we are here to help in any way we can.


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

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 Planner 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:  How does the way of modeling the building in Revit, ArchiCAD or Tekla affect the accuracy of Vico’s results?


A:  Obviously, we understand that poor quality in is poor quality out. That’s one of the reasons for the Model Progression Specification so that we can dictate better by what tools we are going to use to model with and essentially understand which properties we’re going to require when we go to the estimating and scheduling stages. So there is a level of control that would be useful.


However, if you were to get a very poor quality model then Vico Office offers you the functionality to actually refine the elements or change the element type and the quantity data is actually calculated within Vico Office… There is a set of algorithms that analyze the geometry and calculate it based on that geometry that is being reported rather than using lots of properties from the source.


The benefit of that means that you can then refine even the quantities either manually by entering information… or you could do what we call “paint” the surfaces to refine the quantities for each take off quantity per takeoff item… So there is an incredible amount of flexibility in the software that allows you to deal with that once you have a model.


However, to answer the question directly… it would be best to incorporate an MPS so that people understand what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how they are going to produce something that is going to be useful.


Q: In what format can you extract detailed cost estimate reports? 


A: You can extract cost reports in Excel spreadsheets that you can easily import into any other estimating software. But you can also generate your own custom reports from Vico Office directly in a PDF document or HTML format.


Vico Office also allows estimators to "connect" their existing Timberline, MC2, or RIB estimating database to the 3D model using a feature called Excel Import.  This way you can take advantage of the construction-caliber quantity takeoff with Takeoff Manager, but not rip out the existing investiment in a paper-based estimating system. 


Q: What is an estimated cost for a 5D services engagement on a typical one hundred million dollar hospital project?


A: Depending on the type of building...seeing this one is a hospital... It typically runs from one tenth of one percent to two tenths of one percent. So I guess a good estimate for this would be between $125,000 - $150,000 for a complete 5D model. That would include constructability reports where all the RFI's are reported, documented, and prioritized. It would include a quantity takeoff, a full 3D model of all systems (architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) and finally would have both a 4D schedule simulation as well as a Control flowline schedule to show the best way to flow the crews through the building. 


Q: At the control chart phase, how is input from the field provided? Does an on site person enter it into the Vico software? 


A: Yes, typically you use the Vico Office Production Controller control chart on-site and a Project Engineer can click on any of the cells like in Excel. When you click on a cell a dialogue box prompts you about the start and finish date of that activity in that location. And you just enter the dates and check completed and the cell immediately turns green. You do not have to manipulate tasks and activities or a complicated web of different views. You can just click on the chart and you immediately see the result. 


Q: Where can we do market research on actual projects and their ROI's? 


A: A recent newsletter certainly contains the data on the ROI of BIM and it recommends many of our webinars for additional proof points. These webinars feature our customers who received tremendous ROI on their BIM projects. But, of course, we would also recommend going straight to the source... The McGraw Hill BIM SmartMarket Report.  We have both the 2009 Report and 2010 Report available as archived webinars: 2009 - Year of the Contractor and 2010 - Getting BIM to the Bottom Line. 


Q: What advantages does Vico have versus Navisworks? And what are the main differences between the software? 


A: They are very different systems. Navisworks, as part of the Autodesk family, is a partner of ours. The key for Navisworks is the coordination software and it really has a great ability to automatically detect collisions between different models as you put them together.


Vico Office is really focused on managing construction... Not only documenting where there are constructability issues, but then being able to takeoff quantities for the estimate and being able to schedule the project.  After all, what good is preconstruction coordination if it doesn't positively impact the schedule and the cost to do the job?  Learn how it's so much more than finding clashes in our webinar, The New Preconstruction. 


Q: Where do you establish points from the Total Station to maintain vision to all points? For example the embeds at a metal deck for exterior skin. 


A: You place a point marker in the model itself and you can set a reference point in the model for northing, easting and the zenith. And as you place the points, the BIM model will automatically report those coordinates. When you export a CSV file for each point you can then identify those points in the field controller using an ID number. So an ID number will reference to every single point that you placed. Then you can stake out your reference points on the field and then start using the laser guided controller to guide you to the next location... to the locations that you select on the field controller palm viewer... It guides you through the process... When you're over a point it beeps and you place the point with a bolt and go to the next one.


If you would like more information you can view the Fridays with Vico Trimble and Vico webinar. That goes through a live demonstration. 


Q: We have made some models in Revit for architectural and structural but our MEP engineers are using Vico Constructor... What do we do next? 


A: You can publish all those models to Vico Office for viewing, constructability analysis, quantity takeoff, location breakdown structure, scheduling, estimating, and reporting. 


Q: Is this a Microsoft Windows only software? 


A: Yes, it is. 


Q: Do you typically recommend multiple BIM models by the architect, GC, etc. as opposed one central model shared by all?


A: I think we would all like to see a central model shared and one way to understand how that can happen would be to read the AGC's BIM Addendum. It is a document that has a good description of different roles for a model - how it can be used and how to share it without extending liability and risk from the design team to others downstream... That would be the preferred way. You can also have separate models, I don't think there's anything wrong with that but you need to have a good plan that you lay out in advance about how you'll coordinate these to make sure you're not doing re-work. 


For further discussion on one model versus many, please read through Mark Sawyer's blog post on the subject.  Don Henrich also chimes in after reading that one GSA project will have over 200 models. 


Q: For college students do you offer examples of 3D, 4D and 5D models? Do you have examples of simple structures that could be used in a computer lab environment?


A: We would recommend you to our network of professors across the world who are teaching Vico in the classroom. They certainly have plenty of models available as well as models that are used in competition such as the Reno BIM Competition.  And just for a small boast, students teams using Vico Software have won the ASC BIM Competition for the past three years in a row.


Q: I recently requested an architect for their BIM model. They refused but gave all of their DWG files for the project. How would I work around this barrier?


A: You can bring in the DWG drawings as a background and using a BIM-authoring tool like ArchiCAD trace over them like you would trace over drawings with an on-screen takeoff application. So instead of creating 2D information you would be creating 3D information yourself which you could use for construction quantities, calculating construction quantities and create your own construction model at that point. If they will give you their drawings as vector-based PDFs you can use those as effectively as DWGs.


Q: Have you used Vico Office Scheduling Solutions in any types of civil works (roads, bridges etc.) or is this strictly for commercial buildings?


A: It's primarily focused on buildings. There is the option to use it for horizontal construction, but it is really set up to work most effectively on buildings.


Q: Does this process start with the architect in preconstruction or is it typically converted later? Does the architect have to have Vico Office to start his design with it or to have it for conversion later?


A: It depends on the project type and delivery method the architect has with the owner as well as the skill set of the team.  So if everyone is well-versed in using 5D BIM and the owner has an integrated or design build contract then it starts with the architect using their BIM software (it doesn't have to be Vico they can also use Tekla, ArchiCAD, Revit, etc.)  They can generate their design and then define how those models get used by the general contractor and subcontractor later. 


But if the team is not very experienced in BIM and you do not have an IPD contract... You only have a preconstruction relationship with the owner and the owner has a separate relationship with the architect then conversion is probably a better way to go. Because you as a GC don't have that much control over how the model gets created and you might need to add detail to that model later.  So again it depends on these factors: skill set of the team, type of contract, and the tools that everyone uses.


Q: What sort of modeling time is typically incurred by adding the intelligence to support all of the Vico projects?  Can we use the hospital example if everything was provided in 2D AutoCAD format... just lines no intelligence.


A: In our experience with GCs building a model is comparable to the amount of time you spend working with the drawing set. So if you're not going to use a BIM model and have a doc set from a design team, you can typically spend many hours with your team going through the drawings, looking for changes, trying to understand how the steel comes together, and comparing systems and looking for problems. That time is really what you would put in to modeling because to model you need to create that same level of understanding. All you're doing is instead of looking at it with your eyes and deciding that the drawings are ok, you're actually documenting your thought process in a 3D model.  So the time is very comparable to the preconstruction time that is spent pouring over drawings. As a matter of fact that's what most of our clients tell us. 


Q: I work for an A&E firm that designs mostly hospitals. What would be a good way to get Vico implemented at my office? 


A: It depends on what our A&E firm you're trying to do. There are two things that you can get in to a discussion with others at your firm that would be helpful to them. One is to begin to understand how to model early on to help the GC have information come out for estimating and scheduling more easily. To do that you really need to have a model progression specification to document what level of detail the model should be at for each phase of design.


The other thing is if you're using it to perhaps take off quantities to help with your cost consultants then that would probably be getting in touch with us directly and we would help you understand how to take off quantities from your existing models. So you could give those quantities to your quantity surveyor or cost consultant.


Q: You mentioned that you didn't see architects charging more for BIM at present. BIM for most architects seems to be limited to using a BIM program to generate 2D drawings. What services do you see architects providing at the same cost?


A: I would agree that generally they are not charging more... they're using BIM to create a design model and the design model helps automate the creation of the document set which is plans, sections, and details of the BIM model. It also does provide a beginning for the coordination so if that model is made available others can use it for coordination purposes. And the A&E firm themselves can use it to bring in other 3D information and make sure the design is well coordinated.


Q: We are building ArchiCAD models for our projects. How do they flow into your process? How is the construction detail typically added? Is there extensive reworking to the initial model?


A: If you have an ArchiCAD model and a Tekla model and you wish to start to work on them for preconstruction purposes then Vico Office is perfect for you. There is little to no reworking of the model needed... You simply publish the model and bring it into Vico Office for coordination and constructability analyses, quantity takeoff, location breakdown structure, model-based scheduling, model-based estimating, and production control.


Q: Does each user within a company have to have the software to do the modeling estimating and schedule?


A: Vico has floating licenses so if you would like to purchase let's say three licenses for a base of eight users and you figure that each user would use the license 1/3 of their workday that's perfectly fine and we can go through that if you want to get in touch with us.


It is important to note, however, that each user will need one copy of Vico Office Client.  This is the mandatory license for publishing, viewing, workflow, and reporting.


Q: Does Vico offer actual classroom training for individuals?

A: Yes, we offer both classroom training and on site training on demand.


Q: How long has Vico software been on the market and how widely used at this point?


A: We've been doing this for about 5 years. So the customers that started with us back then have been using this software for that whole period. I would say we probably have over 200 clients globally... More than 100 GC's in the U.S.  There are more than 1000 trained users in the U.S.  In addition, our Vico Construction Services Team have guided over 400 BIM projects around the world.


Q: Can all of the additional modeling occur in the Vico product?


A: No, any changes to the models need to be done in their original program.  Then, you simply republish the latest version of the model to Vico Office.  The Model Management feature in Vico Office ensures that all project stakeholders are working with the correct version of the various models.


Q: Is Vico used for 3D modeling of the building like Revit and ArchiCAD or is it for 4D scheduling and 5D estimating only.


A: Vico Office is perfect for combining models from various sources (architects, enginners, GCs, subs) and in various formats (IFC, Tekla, ArchiCAD, Revit, CAD-Duct, etc.).  Once inside Vico Office, you can perform clash detection and constructability analyses on the models, perform a quantity takeoff and then use the quantities to drive the schedule and estimate.  You don't do any 3D modeling in Vico Office - that occurs in the BIM-authoring system.  But we do have a tremendously skilled 3D BIM Modeling Team who can help you product architectural, structural, and MEPF models in any system that you prefer.


Q: What trades would typically utilize the Total Station and what are the main advantages? Would you only export the modeling information for that specific trade?


A: It would be typically used by concrete, steel, and drywall. Typically it is broken up by trade so you would have embeds for concrete, the steel erection points, and drywall layout points all separated out. So all these trades can be identified with different ID numbers and exported into the field controller to be used for layout purposes.


Q: How does Vico Office compare to Digital Project?


A: I would say the major difference would be the ability to be independent in terms of where the data comes from. Vico Office allows you to use any authoring environment and bring those models together in Vico Office where Digital Project is more focused on data created in Catia.


Q: As issues arise are you actually modifying the working documents or only conveying the need for modification back to the respective parties?


A: Typically you would convey the need for modification back to the respective parties so you would have every single project stakeholder modify their own models. That way you can insure that there is no information lost, but what is important is that you have to check the resolution at the end so that's why it is important to track these issues in a document such as a spreadsheet and make sure that you get the resolution back from every single stakeholder.


Q: Does Vico employ trainers or tech support reps that can travel to different GC offices for on site support?


A: Vico works with the GC on site when you engage with us in a project or implementation process. We have a traveling construction team called on-site constructions managers. They have construction background and they work with the GC to make sure that they can utilize the information created by Vico.


Q: What are the most common coordination problems that contractors are experiencing in regards to adopting the 4D and 5D workflow?


A: We have an archived webinar, The Path to 5D BIM, which documents the typical route our customers take from paper-based construction to model-based construction.


Q: I’ve been bidding projects that require Bently Microstation. The Corps of Engineers seems to have a non-flexible requirement for this. What’s the difference? Is it just a different branding?


A: Bentley Microstation is one of the major BIM systems and is the modeling engine that the Corps of Engineers is requiring. Vico Office does not have a direct publisher for Bentley at this time. However, we do have an IFC Importer which will work quite well with Bentley. The IFC Importer will allow you to use Bentley models either from the design teams or on your own and do the rest of the work (coordination and constructability analysis, quantity takeoff, scheduling and production control with flowline, and estimating) inside Vico Office.


Q: In a company of 100 to 200 people, how many would be needed to use the Vico product approximately?


A: That would depend on a couple of items. One in particular would depend on the type of company so I’ll assume this is a GC.  In that case you would look at equipping your preconstruction team close to one to one with software. Then your operations and project management team in a similar fashion so I would say it is something like ¾ of the population of a GC would benefit from either scheduling modules or constructability modules as well as Vico Office cost planning, etc. But it does depend on the company (the way they’re organized, how they manage their projects). If you would like to contact us separately we’d be happy to learn a little more about your company and give you better answers.


Q: What’s the minimum project size you handle?


A: I can tell you that the smallest project we’ve done was $4M and the largest project to date has been $1.2B. Typically the average project size is $70,000,000 – $100,000,000 and those owners in particular are very interested in using BIM. When it’s a smaller project a lot of our clients prefer us to train them and we do it in house. We don’t necessarily have a size limit but sometimes the costing structure makes smaller projects not as easily outsourced than done internally.


Q: Are there steps an architect can incorporate in their design intent models in preparation for their models to also be used in conjunction with construction intent models?


A: Absolutely, and that’s the goal of the model progression specification. It’s important because even though you may have a preconstruction relationship on a project it’s not unusual for the Owner to already have been working with the architect. So it’s important for you to educate the clients that you work with to say “Hey, get the model progression spec in place early, even if it’s just you and the architect because that’s exactly right… you can establish some milestones, some specs, and protocols.”  It’s not difficult for the architect to take advantage of and not a stress on their fee structure so that you have a better model to use and progress as a construction-intent model.


Q: What is the value of using BIM on horizontal construction such as site work and utility infrastructure?


A: We have some pretty good war stories about steam lines that were incorrectly laid out in site utility plans etc.  I think the same value that applies to the structure itself as you begin to go up…understanding excavation and excavation plans.  You can even quantify the amount of excavation that you need to pull out utilizing the model. But I think the most important thing is that the underground utilities get vetted out and validated properly in the 3D model because coming out of the ground is one of the most important times on a project. It can really trip you. To us, where we’ve had good experiences is where we’ve found problems and fixed them in modeling underground utilities in the site.


For more information on site work please refer to the Swinerton – Valley View Casino project webinar.


Q: If we build our own model, how do we manage the ongoing changes to the architect’s model?  I thought the use of a shared model was supposed to make this problem go away.


A: I think the model progression specification is the best way to make sure that the shared model is handed off correctly, but I don’t think that your going to be able to prevail upon a design firm to generate a construction-intent model in the time frame that you need to build your estimates to the level of detail that you need to build them to.


We most often use what we call a parallel modeling methodology where we actually build a parallel model to the design model. There are points that you can early on (conceptual stage in particular) use that shared model because the gross square footage geometry that your going to take out of it is good enough.


But as you begin to get in to more and higher levels of detail it is important that the construction manager take over that aspect of the model. The way that you do that and the way that you know how to do that is the model progression specification. So that the architect or design side knows exactly what they’re going to hand off and when they’re going to hand it off and you know exactly what you’re going to get and what you’re going to have to do with it when you get it.


Often times, particularly now (and it’s still a little early in the game) even when a design firm is modeling, at some point in time they will stop working in 3D and shift back to 2D to generate construction documentation.  And at that point in time it becomes incumbent upon the CM firm to update the model based on the changes to the drawings. This is why Vico created Doc Set Manager which is an automated software that takes two sets of drawings and automatically determines exactly what has changed from one rev to the next; identifies it so that you can see exactly what you need to change and update in your model.


So that’s one way model progression specification can help in how the model is going to be progressed, who’s responsible and exactly what you have to do. So at some point in time there can be and often is a shift over to 2D documentation at which point the CM will typically pick that up into the Doc Set Manager system to see exactly what has changed in the 2D drawings.


Q: Does Vico support the Lean Construction process where things are things are scheduled for just in time delivery and installation?


A: In fact, the scheduling methodology that Vico supports is very tailored to Lean Construction principles. Again, lean construction principals are dependant upon workflow and effective and efficient workflow. You are able to not only visually see, but you are able to manipulate flowline schedules to take advantage of efficiencies from either space allocation, delivery time, etc., so it is the most Lean-friendly scheduling system out there today.


Q: What’s the most cost effective way for the sub community to access the BIM model in concert with 2D documents so as to provide a price proposal or budget information to the GC’s?


A: If the architect or design team or GC is issuing a model from which they would like the subs to bid, all the Subs need are the Vico Office Client and Takeoff Manager. This way they can interrogate, filter and read those models and be able to extract quantities from them and that’s what they typically use to price their projects. Of course, we would like Subs to also create cost plans and schedules from those models for their bids, and they can do that with Cost Planner and Schedule Planner.


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? 



Q: How does Vico Office capture all of the information that is going on simultaneously in the GC's office?  What about pulling in data from past projects?


A: We knew we couldn't let past project data go to waste, so we developed Excel Import and Compare and Update to help move that 2D project data into Vico Office.  Additionally, because Vico Office is a database, and we can query/report from that database, GCs can organize a wealth of project data. 


Here's one way of looking at the problem and the solution that Vico Office provides:



If each recently-completed construction project represents your firm’s most up-to-date intellectual property, wouldn’t it make sense to harness those means and methods for the next similar project?  Because Vico Office is a database of all your construction projects, you are able to do just that. By leveraging each department's expertise and combining the visual nature of the 3D BIM with the construction means and methods knowledge, GCs can consolidate their firm's intellectual property and elegantly present it to Owners.


Q:  How is the data stored in Vico Office?  Where is all the project data kept?


A:  Vico Office uses a database developed by the Versant Corporation.  The Versant database is an object-oriented database which provides the speed and flexibility that is needed for model-based integration within the Vico Office modules.


We would welcome the opportunity to explain the Vico Office architecture in depth with your CIO, but the short answer is that each live project is contained within its own database structure.  Then all your projects are contained within the larger, over-arching database.


One of the benefits to you is that no data is ever lost and you can continue to pull in data from non-model-based projects with Excel Import and make the figures relevant in a 5D environment.  One of the downsides is "fast clicking."  We run into this situation with our university students who can click every cell on the screen in less than 4 seconds.  It's important to know that because Vico Office is a database, every click is a transaction.  So double-clicking, or fast clicks, means multiple transaction processing for the database.  We recommend to our students to be deliberate with their clicks and wait for the transaction to process.


Q:  From an owner’s position, what approach to bid procurement of professional construction services for BIM is available?


A:    I believe this question is asking “is one contract type better than others?” We don’t really advocate one system versus the others but we do advocate that a construction company is participating in the project from the earliest possible phase. So from concept design or even prior to concept design because they can provide so much information about the cost and time. So it’s less valuable if it’s just a pure hard bid situation where you’re brought in at the last minute. You need to at least be hired as an advisor earlier on. But that can be done as negotiated bid, IPD, CM… All the different contract types can support that. What we think is important is that you are involved early on.


Q:   Is there any empirical data showing any reduction in claims through the use of BIM?


A:  Yes we do have some case studies and some of the case studies are actually documented on the website. We have projects for example where information has already been approved and we have analyzed it and identified huge problems that would have resulted in claims, probably lawsuits and huge amount of wasted cost. So we do have some examples but unfortunately you can’t get a comprehensive case study because construction is a complex environment and you can’t build a building using conventional techniques and the same building using virtual construction and compare the difference.  But we do have a lot of specific examples where we have been able to document big savings.


I always like the example of the Mission Hospital. There could have been a huge claim in regards to mold and patient safety. Another one is that there was an edict handed down by the owner saying “There will be no change orders on this project. We’re going to get everyone involved in the design of these operating rooms and nurse’s stations.  We’re going to design the casework, order the right equipment and there will be no change orders.” It was interesting to get the doctors and nurses involved in the design of their own rooms.


And we do have some customers that are willing to serve as references so if you would like more detailed information please contact us and we’ll see if they are willing to take a call.


Be sure to see Vico Office in action.

Training: Vico Office Video Training Series