Lawsuit teaches valuable lesson on BIM and communication

February 27, 2013 |
Sasha Reed

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. 

Sasha Reed | Digital COM
Bluebeam Software

About the Author: Sasha Reed has over 12 years of experience working directly in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) market. As VP of Strategic Alliances at Bluebeam Software, Sasha interacts directly with AEC leaders to better understand the long-range goals of the industry and help align Bluebeam’s technology partnerships. In addition, Sasha is acting Chair of the Construction PDF Coalition.  The purpose of the Coalition is to establish Guidelines to provide Architects, Engineers, Constructors and Owners (AECO) with a common framework in which to create and maintain Construction PDF Documents. Sasha has been featured as the keynote speaker at the 2014 Bentley Florida User Group and spoken at numerous industry events including the American Institute of Architects’ DesignDC Conference, NTI Danish BIM Conference, the International Highway Engineering Exchange Program and the International Facilities Management Association Conference. Sasha has also contributed articles to numerous national publications and authors the Digital Com blog for Building Design + Construction magazine. Before Bluebeam, Sasha was a Project Manager for M3, a Herman Miller dealer, where she learned ?rsthand the challenges faced by the AEC industry from project conception to completion. 

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