How BIM-Generated Electrical Materials Lists Keep Winter Construction Projects on Schedule

Before the advent of Building Information Modeling, electrical contractors built their electrical materials lists by hand. It was a common practice to overshoot just a little to prevent delays on an important construction project. But even with these safety adjustments, minor errors could quickly lead to headaches for electrical distributors.

Like most supply chain issues, this problem is exacerbated by winter weather. When the roads are icy, or a blizzard is causing white-out conditions, even a single shipment from distributor to the job site can be significantly delayed. Imagine what happens when that shipment arrives, and the contractor discovers they ordered the wrong conduit — the delays quickly compound.

So what exactly does BIM have to do with all this? Three words: Electrical materials list.

Electrical Materials Lists with BIM

Electrical engineers and contractors have their own uses for BIM. The 3D modelling and analysis tools allow users to build electrical systems that integrate with the other elements of the building, eliminating costly design changes at the job site. Electrical contractors can use the models to plan jobs and verify the work in real time.

But for electrical distributors, the key benefit of BIM is its ability to export electrical materials lists based on the precise information embedded in the design. This benefit has been slowly seeping its way into the broader electrical construction industry for some years now. In fact, it may already be woven into the way many distributors fulfill their orders.

BIM-Generated Electrical Materials Lists at Work in the Field

In 2014, The Electrical Distributor magazine interviewed Grant Shmelzer, then Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Independent Electrical Contractors group, IEC Chesapeake. Even then, contractors and distributors in Shmelzer’s organization were noticing the power of a BIM-generated electrical materials list.

“We are seeing a lot of activity around BIM,” Shmelzer told The Electrical Distributor. “And BIM is going to help generate that material list based upon the design of the job — so all of that integrating is starting to save time and cutting back on some of the misordering that happens on occasion.”

Then Shmelzer made the point that makes electrical materials lists driven by BIM data so powerful during winter weather.

“Also, we are seeing fewer trips to the distributors, because, thanks to BIM, they are getting it right the first time,” he said. “So we are seeing technology being used significantly more here.”

How Distributors Can Support BIM Use Among Contractors

Of course, it isn’t up to electrical distributors how contractors generate their electrical materials lists. But they can offer support, in the form of value-added services or discounts on orders generated with BIM technology.

Leasing, lending, or selling BIM Carts to contractors can help remove some of the hurdles of adoption. These mobile field offices contain computers and monitors within a heavy-duty steel frame, bringing the power of BIM to the job site.

The important thing is to support this data-driven tool. Because when the temperature plummets and the roads ice over, an accurate electrical materials list can make a world of difference for distributors and contractors alike.


Farooq, Jasim, Paawan Sharma, and Sreerama Kumar. “Applications of Building Information Modeling in Electrical Systems Design.ResearchGate. Journal of Engineering Science and Technology Review, Dec. 2017. Web. 12 Nov. 2019.

Williams, Jim. “Is Winter Weather Wreaking Havoc on Contractors and Distributors?tEDMag. tEDmag, 25 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2019.