Safeguarding Your Project: Why Licensed Software Matters When Hiring Construction Partners

The construction landscape is rapidly evolving, and most of this development is thanks to technological advances in the industry. Building Information Modeling (BIM) software like Revit and steel detailing software like Tekla Structures are continuing to transform how major construction projects are planned, executed, and brought to fruition. However, the ever-growing reliance on sophisticated tools introduces a hidden risk: construction partners and subcontractors using unlicensed software. While the initial cost savings of working with a firm that utilizes unlicensed software in construction (either knowingly or unknowingly) might seem attractive, the potential consequences can be detrimental and costly in the long run.

The Dangers of Unlicensed Software in Construction

There are several reasons prioritizing licensed software use by construction partners is critical.

  • Project Delays and Cost Overruns: Unlicensed software can be riddled with compatibility issues. Imagine crucial data from a BIM model not integrating seamlessly with the steel detailer’s software. This can lead to rework, communication breakdowns, and significant delays that eat into a project’s timeline and budget. A 2019 report by McKinsey found that the construction industry suffers from substantial productivity gaps, with rework and inefficiencies costing trillions of dollars globally. Unlicensed software can significantly contribute to these issues.
  • Security Vulnerabilities: Pirated software often lacks essential security updates, leaving project data vulnerable to malware and cyberattacks. A 2017 study by Ponemon Institute found that construction firms were a prime target for cyberattacks, with data breaches costing an average of $3.8 million per incident. Unlicensed software exposes a project’s sensitive details, financial information, and intellectual property to these threats.
  • Compromised Project Quality: Missing functionalities or bugs within unlicensed software can lead to inaccurate or incomplete models and detailing. This can translate to errors in design, constructability issues, and potential safety hazards during construction. A bridge collapse in China in 2007, suspected to be linked to pirated software use, serves as a tragic reminder of the potential consequences.
  • Limited Technical Support: Licensed software comes with invaluable technical support. If challenges are encountered with BIM or steel detailing software, having access to dedicated support channels, training resources, and online communities can be a game-changer. This ensures the software’s capabilities are maximized, and issues can be resolved efficiently.
  • Legal challenges – Major software vendors now have software compliance teams working around the clock to reduce software piracy. This includes random onsite audits, virtual audits, file inspections and potentially noticeable watermarks across the construction drawings produced by the software. The penalties for persons or companies found using illegal software can be in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Verifying Licensed Software Use

While it can be difficult to definitively determine if a subcontractor is using licensed software for all their users, there are steps to be taken to mitigate the risk.

  • Request references and certifications: Ask potential subcontractors for a list of past projects and request permission to contact references. Inquire about the software used on those projects and any relevant certifications they may hold.
  • Request a sample model: Having a subcontractor provide a sample model created with their software allows for a basic functionality check. While it doesn’t guarantee licensed software, a poorly formatted or incomplete model could raise red flags.
  • License verification through vendors: Most software vendors, like Tekla, offer services to verify the legitimacy of licenses.


Building a Culture of Trust and Efficiency

By insisting on licensed software use by construction partners, the project’s construction lifespan is built on trust and efficiency, allowing for:

  • Enhanced Collaboration: Standardized software like Revit and Tekla facilitates seamless data exchange between modelers, architects, engineers, and fabricators. This improves communication, reduces errors, and streamlines project execution.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing partners are using secure, up-to-date software provides peace of mind. You can focus on project goals without worrying about data breaches or compatibility issues jeopardizing the project’s success.
  • Supporting Innovation: Licensed software revenue allows developers to invest in research and development, leading to more advanced features, improved functionality, and better integration between different software programs. This ultimately benefits the entire construction industry.


Investing in Project Success

By prioritizing licensed software use and eliminating unlicensed software in construction across the project ecosystem, the investment in the overall project is safeguarded, ensuring project quality and timely completion, and fostering a collaborative environment that drives efficiency and innovation. Don’t let unlicensed software become the hidden risk that undermines a project’s success.

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Written by Andrew Lockwood, IT Manager at DBM Vircon