Over the last year we have been doing many onsite meetings showing how our Builterra cloud and mobile platform manages the data workflow from design take-offs to progress payment reporting. Part of the process involves the creation of a standardized Bid Item Catalog to streamline bid table preparation and cost estimating. We normally discuss the value of having enhanced bid item properties to enable very accurate cost estimating. Builterra allows the user to enhance the standardized bid item properties (like a GIS system) to allow designers to connect directly with the design model object or CAD Entity and streamline quantity extraction direct to the bid item list.

This all sounds wonderful in the perfect world of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) asset management. Builterra was designed from the ground up to handle this requirement, hence bridging the gap between BIM and GIS during contract administration and project delivery.

As we grow and meet new engineers and owners, we get to understand how they are currently building their bids and tenders, specifically for infrastructure (Road, Sewer, Water) projects from Halifax to Vancouver. Recently, we have been meeting new customers in the USA, and it turns out that they do the exact same process as the civil engineers and public/private owners do here in Canada! From land development to municipal infrastructure to utility construction, unit-based bid lists and cost estimating from submitted construction companies is a process no different south of the border.


the Technology Gap between design and as-built GIS data submission. This is what we call the “contract administration” process at civil engineering firms throughout the US and Canada.

“BIM-Like” Object Data Enhancement for AutoCAD 2D-3D Entities

As discussed, part of the process of implementation requires us here at Builterra to build standard bid item catalogs for both private and public clients. This implementation process requires us to have the client send us historic master bid lists or old projects that we can glean for past item information. Land development engineers really understand the concept of BIM and GIS and are open to tweaking their historic item lists to ease the data extraction process using our Builterra Design Connect extension for AutoCAD Civil 3D. The “Property Set” styles feature now available in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2017/2018 makes adding enhanced properties to any AutoCAD entity simple and easy for any user. It seems that Autodesk finally understood that the powerful AutoCAD Map 3D class definition workflow was just too much for the average firm to manage or implement.

From first glance, it seems like we are all set and can finally bring enhanced intelligence to the CAD objects designers create all day long. No longer held hostage by layering alone, we can associate true custom properties to any 2D or 3D object. Even the Autodesk Navisworks Manage product can list attached object properties for 3D visual inspection and information display.


Typical DOT style bid list showing item code, description, unit type and average unit pricing. Cost Estimates are based on the unique item code, and possibly a project location.


For public owners, like State, County, City and Towns, they already have standard bid item catalogs and 20 years of legacy data to support cost estimating and bid preparation. This is a workflow where Excel is the tool of choice and standard lists are reviewed and released to the engineers who need them for bid preparation. The standardized bid item consists of just three (3) properties: Unique Item Code, Description and Unit Type.

The lists are large and, in most cases, have tens of entries for what we in the BIM world could consider the same object. If you take a typical precast sewer pipe, we can envision over 10 diameters, at least 3 material types, 4 class types as a minimum that would require over 120 unique items to allow for accurate bidding and cost estimating. This does not even cover, depth of pipe range, bedding type, or if it’s in rock or not. You see where we are going with this conversation?

Bottom line here is that upon review of every published State DOT Bid List, the current bid list(s) posted online do not support the BIM philosophy beyond design for the sole purpose of bid preparation and accurate cost estimating.


Jeff Lyons

With over 20 years of experience in the municipal and land development sector, Jeff Lyons is dedicated to creating innovative civil engineering software solutions. As a founding partner and Director of Platform Innovation at Builterra, Jeff is a sought-after instructor and guest speaker who regularly engages with clients and associations to share insights that drive the industry forward. Jeff received his diploma in mining engineering technology from the Haileybury School of Mines (Northern College), and his diploma in geological technology (geophysics) from Sir Sandford Fleming College.