Thoughts on construction law from Christopher G. Hill, Virginia construction lawyer, LEED AP, mediator, and member of the Virginia Legal Elite in Construction Law

BIM and REVIT- The Way to the Future

Revit Man Greg ArkinFor this week’s Guest Post Friday, Musings welcomes a new friend, Gregory Arkin. Greg is the Vice President of CADD Centers of Florida and Director of Business Development. CADD Centers is a 25-year old software dealer with exclusive rights in the U.S. to sell over 30 BIM products – the greatest concentration of such products in the world. Mr. Arkin is a 3rd generation General Contractor with an extensive 28 years in construction and building technology. Gregory’s passion and energy drives him to change the AEC world and help others adopt new technologies and methodologies. Gregory’s blog, , is read by thousands and is considered a leading source of information on the subjects presented. Trying to argue with Gregory about how to fix the waste and inefficiency in the design and construction process is useless, so you may as well just agree with him and let him show you the benefits of BIM and IPD. You can find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and via email.

Miami Beach, April 22, 2009, 1:34 a.m.

I sit here struggling what to write about because I’m writing to an audience at a different end of the construction process. I’m thinking back into the details of the over one thousand blog posts I’ve written on, and there is just so much out there which will effect you — the lawyers – but as I type, I’m realizing that you probably care the most about one thing: “How can I make more money in this?” (My wife is a lawyer, and certainly, this is what she would be asking.)

Most construction litigation attorneys make a considerable income filing lawsuits for errors, omissions, delays and poorly coordinated construction projects. This lucrative field of law is going to quickly decline. Why? Well, we call it BIM. It’s affectionately known as Building Information Modeling. Why do construction litigation lawyers make so much money off of the mistakes of the architects, builders, and others who screw up? I’m going to blame it on two things: First, the “software technology” used by architects to create their construction documents is outdated. It’s not that AutoCAD itself is bad; it’s actually a pretty amazing program considering it has been in use for 26 years. In software-years, that’s like saying its 386 years old. But on a basic level, AutoCAD really only draws lines, circles and arcs which can be copied and pasted by the user — that’s it. There’s no inherent intelligence or design capabilities built into the software. This leads us to the second problem with the current system of design, CAD operators. Yup, architects over the last 25 years have replaced designers who knew about real construction issues with geeky-computer-type CAD operators who know how to really zip around AutoCAD, but they don’t know much about steel, concrete, wood, or plumbing lines. Five cheap CAD operators have taken the place of the one $100-an-hour designer.

Why does it matter? Because the set of construction documents that the contractor gets to work with is now incomplete, error prone and uncoordinated. We have not even begun to mention the inaccurate door and window schedules, and elevations that don’t match the floor plans.

“Construction Documents” and Other Inaccurate Idioms
We call them “CDs”or “contract” or “construction documents.” Hmmm. Let’s dissect that. Construction documents are…..documents for construction. Doesn’t the architect sign some standard AIA contract with the owner that requires the architect to provide all of the information necessary to complete the building? I’m sure you’re all now reminiscing about all of the great hourly bills you’ve been paid working on these issues. So, other than the recession, why are you all going to see your yearly income decline? Well, it started in the year 2000 when a new software program called Revit was released. Rather than circles and flat lines, Revit is based around parametric modeling built on top of a relational database. (I’m laughing that I’m using big technical computer words that you will use one day in your impossible to read legal briefs, but back to Revit.) Compared to AutoCAD, it’s like laying toothpicks down flat on a table to graphically represent the plans, elevations, sections, callouts, details and shop drawings versus designing a building using LEGO blocks and straws — what you see is what you get. AutoCAD’s parent company, Autodesk, was so impressed with Revit, it purchased the company for $133 million dollars back in 2002. Since then, Revit has been expanded into three major powerhouse programs: Revit Architecture, Revit Structure and Revit MEP(mechanical-electrical-plumbing).

These BIM-based design tools work together to model the building, design and place the rebar and MEP systems. Now, instead of expecting the human behind the keyboard to find the conflicts and clashes in the building design, the software is actually creating an actual 3-D representation of the structure. If you have ever had a client whose building was cost overrun and delayed for 8 months because the plumbing pipes wouldn’t fit under or around the support beams, you can imagine what the world will be like when the software design tool would not allow for such a mistake. In seconds, what could have been a multi-million dollar litigation was avoided. In addition to Revit, Autodesk acquired another program called Navisworks that can bring in numerous types of 3D objects and do high end clash detection, scheduling and visualization. What does all this mean to you construction lawyers? All that lovely owner-architect-builder contract litigation? Poof, gone in 60 seconds. The AEC industry is undergoing a huge paradigm shift where the BIM technology allows the architects and engineers to design a building that has accurate quantities, is buildable and has greatly reduced deficiencies and errors. That means fewer addendums, RFIs and Change Orders. The building gets built faster and for less money. The GSA now mandates that all new federal buildings used BIM.

Before I go further, let’s make it clear that BIM is not a piece of software. It’s a combination of the software, technology, people, processes and workflow. Instead of the current linear workflow of architects to engineers to bidders to contractor to subcontractors, the BIM database allows numerous people to share the information incorporated in the 3D graphical representation of the model in a way that changes can be seen almost immediately by everyone on the design team and outside consultants. Think of it like your blackberry and Outlook. As soon as you click <accept> on an email calendar appointment on your blackberry, it shows up on your Outlook calendar in the office. Between the hardware, software, technology, workflow, Simply Switch broadband and wireless internet, it works like magic.

Now, let’s go for the bonus round. How do you find business to make up for this shortfall of contract litigation? You become an expert in the newest way contracts for construction is handled, of course. The AIA has released new contract documents around BIM-style design called “IPD” which stands for “Integrated Project Delivery.” IPD is a master document which ad
ministers the separate contracts of the architects, engineers, consultants, contractors, subcontractors and owner forcing all the parties to cooperate under one master agreement. It sets goals of schedule, budget, LEED and quality control. If the project gets done on schedule, everyone gets their share of the profit. If it’s done within budget, another portion of profit gets shared with everyone. You can start learning about this revolutionary new standard by finding and reading the AIA A195-2008 Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor for Integrated Project Delivery. It ends with the AIA E201-2008 Digital Data Protocol Exhibit which defines how the model, data and information are distributed and shared with the project team. No more “it’s copyrighted and I won’t give my DWGs to the contractor” speech from the architect.

So, how can you make even more business for yourself? Learn about a whole new world of construction law based around BIM and IPD. You can help write the contracts. It makes the whole design-and-build process proactive, not reactive. I call the whole IPD methodology “Design to Build.” The key to the way it all works is that the construction company contractor works with the architects and engineers from the very beginning of the design phase. The contractors use their construction experience to help the architects and engineers design the project to be efficient, practical and better constructed. Instead of chaos, it’s a symphony, and the IPD contracts, and hopefully you, get to be the conductor. IPD is dependent on the use of BIM. BIM is dependent on the use of technology like Revit. AutoCAD and the world of 2D design is phasing out. Revit is a 3D modeling tool. BIM design adds the complexity of “4D” for time, scheduling and phasing, and “5D” for costs. “6D” is a term I invented to describe the IPD master contract. Wrap it all up in the contract. Yes, I know, you’re a construction lawyer and you love contracts. Well, IPD is the mother of all construction contracts.

I’ll leave you with a few last tidbits. Owners love BIM. It saves them time and money. They’re starting to demand BIM. I’m working with a number of General Contractors where my company provides a service of converting the AutoCAD 2D plans into a Revit 3D model for preconstruction. Any Construction Manager at Risk benefits greatly from investing money in the BIM conversion to find all of the mistakes on the plans for a fraction of the cost of finding the mistakes after the work has started. This is particularly true in the MEP conflicts with the structure. Additionally, builders now have to integrate the LEED standards for green building. My company is the exclusive dealer for Florida for the two most sought-after and widely used products for green building — Ecotect and IES. Both products allow for building performance analysis which means accurate LEED and sustainability calculations for daylighting, thermal, solar and BTU output. Personally, I think there’s a lot of faking of the calculations in current LEED design, but that’s a whole other post.

Lastly, when I mentioned this blog post to my first-party insurance litigation lawyer wife, she suggested that attorneys should assert professional liability claims against architects who fail to use readily-ascertainable BIM technology to design the building. I can name about 6 major lawsuits for design defects against multi-national and famous architecture firms that I personally know willingly chose not to use the Revit software because they didn’t want to pay $2000 to upgrade their software license. My wife thinks that it is “gross negligence” for a firm to fail to use the widely-known Revit products – most of which come with the AutoCAD program already installed on the architect’s computer – to solve conflicts before they arise. Nobody has asserted this cause of action in litigation that I know about – yet. So think of the products liability billions made from asserting the “$5.00 drain cover simple fix would have kept these kids from dying” when you are drafting your next Complaint. If you’d like more information on any of the above, you can contact me through my blog, To read a great McGraw-Hill report on BIM, visit To learn about IPD, visit If you have any desire to see what the heck Revit is, and how it’s going to ruin your current life but then improve it, take a look at

Well, this was certainly fun. If you work with developers, you’ll want to tell them to require the architects and engineers to use Revit. Then you’ll want to tell them to use the IPD contracts so you’ll get a piece of the action. Thanks for making it through my guest blog post and I’d love to hear from you on your thoughts on all of this. ~Gregory

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3 Responses to BIM and REVIT- The Way to the Future

  1. Gregory,

    I have read numerous articles in the past dealing with BIM, RIVET, IPD and related. I have to tell you, the way you approached this topic and told it as a story, was incredible.

    You dealt with fairly complex subjects, yet made them easy-to-read and follow and for that BRAVO!

    I even have a new appreciation for the design, review cycle all again and how all the parties interact and what the future holds for us in the design, construction and code enforcement. Thank you!

    Chris…well done with this post by Gregory! You did it again.



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