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
Vice President of Strategic Development

As Vice President of Strategic Development at Bluebeam Software, Sasha Reed collaborates with leaders in the architecture, engineering and construction industry to guide Bluebeam’s technology, partnerships and long-term goals. She joined Bluebeam in 2007 and co-created the Concierge Approach, a distinctly branded process of customer engagement, product feedback and solution delivery to which much of Bluebeam’s success is attributed, and which today is replicated at every organizational level.

Sasha is known industry-wide as a “conversation facilitator,” creating platforms for exchanges necessary to digitally advance the industry, including the BD+C Magazine Digital COM Blog, which she authors and manages. She’s been a featured presenter at numerous national and international conferences, including the 2014 Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), Federal Project Delivery Symposium and NTI Danish BIM Conference. Sasha also co-chairs the Construction PDF Coalition, a grassroots effort to provide a common industry framework from which to create and maintain construction PDF documents, serves on the City College of San Francisco BIM Industry Council, and is Advisor to the Board of Direction for the National Institute of Building Sciences BuildingSMART Alliance.

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