Joe Sferrazza, BIM specialist with Lake Architectural, Charlotte, says one example of BIM’s momentum is the rise in membership of Charlotte’s Revit User Group. “In the last year and a half, membership has grown to well over 300 members, he adds.
“Charlotte’s Revit User Group is an excellent resource for AEC professionals interested in BIM, he explains. “You can get unbiased answers to your questions from actual users, not just someone trying to sell you a piece of software.” Lake Architectural has been using BIM software since 2004.
“BIM files create several other investments beyond the scope of 3-D software, one of which is a more robust information technology infrastructure,” says Zane Sharpe, who manages NextPlans, a subsidiary of Winston-Salem-based Sharpe Images. “Facilitating the communication and exchange of this information is what we’re built for.”
NextPlans’ web-based system manages construction documents from schematic design to project closeout, Sharpe adds.
With significantly larger electronic files that BIM entails, NextPlans helps all involved transfer information back and forth.
Marveling at BIM and its capabilities is Ned McNaughton, an attorney at Charlotte’s McNaughton & Associates, which focuses on construction law.
“BIM is a wonderful tool from an engineering and construction point of view,” McNaughton says. “I think it’s really going to improve construction and decrease defective construction.”
Currently, some harbor inflated expectations for BIM, McNaughton believes, based on 3-D modeling they’ve seen in Hollywood offerings such as “The Matrix.”
Though he hasn’t been involved in lawsuits involving BIM, McNaughton anticipates he will. He sees two BIM problems in need of solution.
“The first one is just figuring out who’s responsible for the design and who owns it,” he says.
“BIM is a cooperative system where everybody puts in their design,” he explains. This includes the trades such as HVAC, plumbing and electrical.
“But somebody needs to be responsible for the accuracy of that information and keeping it up to date,” he says. Who is that? “Well, that’s what we’re trying to find out. The logical place is whoever is in charge of the design element. Usually the architect.”
The second problem involves making what is built match what is drawn. If an HVAC firm installs ductwork in an unspecified spot, that usually results in adjustments in the field.
BIM is different. “When you have a BIM system,” McNaughton says, “you have to up fit with the computer model. It can have a ripple effect on the entire project. There’s a higher administrative cost.”
When something does go wrong, finger-pointing is based on who knew what and when, the attorney says. With dynamic, multi-sourced 3-D modeling, that’s going to be harder and more expensive to ascertain.
The federal Spearin Doctrine and its North Carolina sister “implied warranty of plans and specifications” will eventually factor in, McNaughton speculates. Both essentially hold that the contractor has a reasonable expectation that if a structure is built to specification, it will work. But if the contractor, subs and others participate in the design, that “just following orders” defense is harder to mount.
Matters such as that generally get hashed out in the courtroom.