Lawsuit teaches valuable lesson on BIM and communication

February 27, 2013 |

While browsing through some magazines on a recent flight, I read a cautionary tale about one of the first BIM-related lawsuits. The parties involved in this university building project kept their identities private, but it’s been reported that they settled out of court for millions of dollars. The crux of the issue centered on the lack of communication between the Architect, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Engineer and the Contractor.

The story goes that the Architect and the MEP Engineer used BIM to design the placement of the HVAC system into the ceiling plenum. In order for this design to fit it required a very specific sequence for installation. Not having communicated this information to the contractor, he installed as normal, ran out of space and was unable to finish his part of the project. The contractor sued the Owner, the Owner sued the Architect and the Architect’s insurer sued the MEP Engineer. 

As we begin to see how beneficial BIM can be in facilitating meaningful collaboration, especially during the design phase of a project, we also see the potential pitfalls. As powerful as BIM can be to save time and money in needless reworks during the building process, it’s still only as good as our ability to communicate critical data to all stakeholders, prior to construction.

Where do you weigh in? Do you see a benefit to having contractors brought in early to further flush out the design discussions in BIM or do you prefer the old notification method downstream? Either way, it brings back memories of the CYA lesson I learned early on... paper trail or electronic trail, just make sure you’ve got a trail to cover your... well, you know how the saying goes. 

While browsing through some magazines on a recent flight, I read a cautionary tale about one of the first BIM-related lawsuits. The parties involved in this university building project kept their identities private, but it’s been reported that they settled out of court for millions of dollars. The crux of the issue centered on the lack of communication between the Architect, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Engineer and the Contractor.

The story goes that the Architect and the MEP Engineer used BIM to design the placement of the HVAC system into the ceiling plenum. In order for this design to fit it required a very specific sequence for installation. Not having communicated this information to the contractor, he installed as normal, ran out of space and was unable to finish his part of the project. The contractor sued the Owner, the Owner sued the Architect and the Architect’s insurer sued the MEP Engineer. 

As we begin to see how beneficial BIM can be in facilitating meaningful collaboration, especially during the design phase of a project, we also see the potential pitfalls. As powerful as BIM can be to save time and money in needless reworks during the building process, it’s still only as good as our ability to communicate critical data to all stakeholders, prior to construction.

Where do you weigh in? Do you see a benefit to having contractors brought in early to further flush out the design discussions in BIM or do you prefer the old notification method downstream? Either way, it brings back memories of the CYA lesson I learned early on... paper trail or electronic trail, just make sure you’ve got a trail to cover your... well, you know how the saying goes. 

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