BIM People – Martin Marks, Senior Product Specialist at Exactal


Martin has worked as a Senior Product Specialist for Exactal for approximately 8 years. Prior to joining Exactal, he was a Senior Quantity Surveyor with one of the large international consultancy firms working on commissions across a wide variety of sectors.

Previous to that he worked for a national building contractor undertaking both Quantity Surveying and estimating roles. He has an honours degree in Quantity Surveying.

How did you get interested in measurement software?

As a Quantity Surveyor, measurement has always been an important aspect as you would expect. I’ve always been interested in technology too, although when I started in the industry ‘technology’ wasn’t really that advanced. I’ve been lucky therefore to see technology advance from virtually nothing to where we are today. In the relatively early stages of my career, I experimented with early CAD software to perform basic measurement. My interest in measurement software really stemmed from there. Thankfully technology has advanced so much now and we have dedicated measurement and estimating software like CostX®.

Could you tell us about Exactal’s history and the locations of its offices?

Exactal was established in Brisbane, Australia in October 2003 to develop estimating software for the construction industry which integrated the estimating process with electronic drawing files. The resulting product was called CostX® and was launched in Australia in 2004 to immediate acclaim and sales success. Over the following years, the product continued to develop and was launched into overseas markets, with new offices opened to support the increasing sales volume and growing customer base.

Exactal has always recognised the significance and productivity benefits that BIM was going to have, and is now having, within the construction industry. Consequently CostX® was further developed to tightly integrate into the BIM process whilst still maintaining its world class functionality when working in a more traditional 2D workflow.

Today CostX® is used in over 70 countries worldwide and Exactal has 8 strategically located international offices to provide support to our ever expanding customer base. Exactal’s offices are located in London and Newcastle in the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, in Brisbane and Melbourne in Australia, Auckland in New Zealand and Austin in the United States of America.

Could you describe your duties at the company?

My duties encompass a wide and varied range of activities but all are focused on the customer. In the pre-sales phase, I’m essentially involved in meeting with and understanding client’s technical requirements, existing workflows & processes and outputs. Following on from this I’ll provide advice on, and demonstrate the features and use of, the CostX® range of products to achieve and improve their desired workflows and outputs. In the post-sales phase, my duties are generally to ensure customers are using their product in the most beneficial and productive manner, and can include providing general product usage advice and assistance, conducting structured or bespoke training and providing implementation support for customers. I also from time to time undertake technical authoring for the company, including BIM related materials.
Could you tell us about the products Exactal offers clients?

Exactal offers a range of products from the CostX® family.

CostX® is Exactal’s top-of-the-range product in the product family. CostX® is a fully functioning, powerful project costing tool that enables quantity surveyors and estimators to utilise the most advanced electronic takeoff system while embracing BIM to deliver better results to clients. CostX® facilitates taking off of quantities from 2D drawings and generation of automatic quantities from BIM files, and the fully integrated flexible estimating functions allow users to prepare estimates, bills of quantities, tenders and the like easily, intuitively and in a fraction of the time and cost. Quantities utilised within the estimating tool are live linked to the drawings/BIM files, so if the quantities change the costs are automatically updated via the auto-revisioning functionality.

Exactal’s other products in the CostX® family, CostX® 2D, CostX® Takeoff and CostX® Takeoff 2D, are based on the fully functioning CostX® product but provide specific subsets of features, enabling customers to choose the right solution for their needs.

Exactal also has a direct integration tool for Microsoft® Excel® called CostXL. This allows CostX® data to be accessed directly within Excel® and is live linked back to the CostX® database.

What are the main advantages of using CostX products for surveyors and estimators?

One of the main advantages of CostX® is that the user has both 2D and BIM takeoff capability within the same program. This allows a company to transition their current practices across to BIM in a planned manner. At this stage of BIM, surveyors and estimators will likely find that they won’t be receiving exclusively BIM projects – they will still have some projects remaining in 2D only. Additionally, the model may be incomplete and the 2D files are needed to supplement and validate the quantities. In this case, it is invaluable to be able to support the two file types within a single program.

Could you tell us about how CostX can be used with BIM?

CostX® has full 3D graphics capability and can open BIM files in a variety of formats, including DWFx and IFCs. The model can be navigated with an easy to use 3D viewing system, including a view cube for rotating and aligning the drawing, and the ability to move through a building (even through walls) to see the 3D model from any position or angle. The objects within the model can be easily viewed, hidden or isolated using the advanced graphics engine in our software, to enable the model to be fully analysed. The object property data can also be analysed in detail and may be supplemented with additional user data if required.

In addition to the ability to fully analyse and review the model, CostX® provides for automatic quantity extraction from the model data. This generates quantity data which may then be used within the CostX® workbook. I’ve mentioned earlier about the revisioning functions and the live quantity links, this means that changes in a revision to the model can be highlighted, the quantities automatically updated and the costs updated automatically too, allowing for rapid assessment of design changes. Users have the ability to fully customise the data extraction and quantity generation process, and can even measure directly from the model geometry.

Could you tell us about the training and webinars you offer?

Exactal holds regular webinars called the CostX® Coffee Break Classroom sessions, in which each is focused on a specific aspect of the CostX® program. They are open for anyone to view. We also have a number of training video tutorials and other materials available on our website

We can additionally provide private on-premises training to our customers where one of our experienced trainers guides the training attendees through a series of structured training exercises. For customers who prefer to learn at their own pace, or as time allows, we can provide structured training through our online training portal too.

Please describe the range of customers that purchase your products?

CostX® is in widespread use amongst quantity surveying, construction, development, subcontracting and estimating firms, both large and small, around the world. From its first release in July 2004, CostX® sales have grown exponentially and it is now sold and supported in over 70 countries including Ireland, the UK, Australia, USA, UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand and across Africa.

What aftersales services do you offer?

We provide full technical support to our customers who subscribe to our maintenance program. Due to our strategically placed worldwide offices, technical support is available outside of normal business hours.

Exactal also has an extensive on-going commitment to R&D and regularly releases new major and minor versions of the CostX® products. As part of the maintenance program, customers can update their software when upgrades and new product features are released.

Exactal can also provide consultation services to clients for things like customised training or product implementation services.

What do experienced professionals, who would have worked with scale rulers on drawings for decades, think of CostX software?

CostX® allows its users to work faster, smarter and more accurately all within a fully integrated, paperless, electronic environment. It can reduce takeoff time by up to 80%. With the time saved, surveyors and estimators can concentrate more of their time on the value adding aspects of the project, and of course, key decisions can be made much quicker. I’m regularly told by our customers that CostX® is both easy to learn and easy and intuitive to use, and it speeds up their process and workflows. Usually, users are only too happy to put the scale rule away and embrace a better and smarter way of working.
How do you see measurement and estimating software changing in the next decade?

We are already starting to see an increased use of cloud solutions and this will continue to grow. With regards to estimating solutions specifically, these will become further refined. Model data is currently still not well configured for cost management purposes so a lot of work has to be done in auditing the model, filling in the gaps, etc. but as we get better models more advanced data manipulation tools will be needed as it will be a case of managing the data rather than measuring to fill the gaps. Also, BIM is regarded as a transformative technology, but transforming to what? At the moment, it’s just a more efficient way of doing what we already do. As BIM software develops, both inherently and through the application of Lean and other techniques, the industry will move to BAM (Building Assembly Modelling) – modelling the building as an assembly of manufactured parts. Assembly processes will dictate product design and component sourcing. Supply chain linkages will shorten dramatically, new supply methodologies will emerge, and the industry will change to suit. The implication for measurement and estimating is that the issue again becomes more one of information management rather than quantification.


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