Womble Carlyle Construction Industry Blog

Following the construction industry and related legal topics in the United States.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

BIM FORUM Drafting an Addendum to ConsensusDOCS

hThe BIM Forum meeting in Boston (see my prior post on the Forum here) was preceded by last month’s initial release of ConsensusDOCS, the standard form contract software series created through the collaboration of Associated General Contractors of America (“AGC”) along with a host of other owner, surety, contractor, and subcontractor-related trade groups. (The American Institute of Architects, which is releasing the 2007 version of its own standard form contract documents within the next few weeks, elected not to participate in the drafting of the ConsensusDOCS.) While the impact of ConcensusDOCS on the design and construction marketplace is, of course, yet to be determined, given the range of interests represented in their drafting, they are likely to be influential.

The BIM Forum’s legal subforum met during the Boston conference to continue its work in drafting an addendum to the ConsensusDOCS that will address BIM-specific concerns. In those meetings, experienced contractors and architects set out with construction and surety lawyers to draft an addendum that is balanced for all parties concerned and which employs best practices – as opposed to those which might favor one group of project participants over others. The group is dealing with such things as the legal definitions of various forms of models, risk allocation, the control and security of the models used, and the proprietary and intellectual property issues related to use of BIM. The committee’s work is ongoing.

The next working meeting of the BIM Forum is in March of 2008, in Phoenix, Arizona. (This entry published by David Roberts, a member of Womble Carlyle's real estate development and construction practice group.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Leading Construction Lawyer Identifies Ten “Industry Transformational Trends”

Patrick J. O’Connor, Esquire, the outgoing editor of Under Construction, the newsletter of the ABA Forum on the Construction Industry, wrote an interesting article in the August 2007 issue of Under Construction. In Mr. O’Connor’s view, the next ten years will be the most exciting time to practice construction law in a generation, because the industry will be undergoing transformational change.

Mr. O’Connor sets out ten trends that he believes are likely to transform the industry:

  1. Sustainability
  2. Integrated Project Delivery
  3. Building Information Modeling
  4. Modularization
  5. Globalization
  6. Work Force Constraints
  7. Organic Dispute Resolution
  8. Lean Construction Techniques
  9. Alliance Arrangements
  10. Rational Risk Allocation

To obtain Mr. O’Connor’s article, contact the American Bar Association Forum on the Construction Industry, 321 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60610, Attn: Editor, Patrick J. O’Connor, Jr. (This entry published by Karen Carey, a member of Womble Carlyle's real estate development and construction practice group.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

BIM Forum Discusses Implementation Strategies

The BIM Forum, a remarkable group of construction industry professionals, convened October 11 -12 in Boston to discuss delivery of design and construction services in the digital age – and, in particular, the role of building information modeling (“BIM”) in that process.

Several speakers described their firms’ specific approaches to implementation of BIM and lessons learned in their efforts. While space here prevents a complete description of the individual presentations (which were uniformly excellent and thoughtful), notable among topics raised, or the points made, by the speakers were the following:
  • A phased approach to “Full BIM” is the prevalent BIM implementation strategy among design and construction firms – many of which begin their first BIM projects by establishing goals specific and limited for that project, then elevating and expanding those goals with each subsequent BIM application.
  • Several participants indicated that the anticipated “learning curve” was real – but somewhat overstated, with the costs and inefficiencies attributable to inexperience being sharply reduced with each subsequent use of BIM.
  • Although 100% BIM usage in project delivery is rare, it appears that the ramp up to BIM is typically more rapid than expected. One company reported that it first “discussed” its possible use of BIM in 2005 – but by 2007, it was using varying forms of BIM on no fewer than 22 projects, with a combined construction value approaching $1.4 billion. Ultimately, with governmental agencies like GSA and the Army Corps of Engineers mandating the use of BIM models, the question has become “when” architects and contractors will fully implement BIM – not “if” they will.
  • Design and construction firms reported varying degrees of success when incorporating data from their historic cost and scheduling programs into BIM applications. Once incorporated, however, it was common for those firms to use integrated forms of that information in their future BIM applications – as opposed to their maintaining separately applied cost and scheduling databases independent of BIM applications.
  • Among the benefits of BIM reported by speakers are: (a) readily accessible estimating quantities; (b) earlier and more accurate visualization of the planned structures or projects (by team members and by building owners and customers); and (c) enhanced ability to handle design and specification changes during the pricing and construction process. Some firms also report distributing color printed versions of the models in the field. The additional information conveyed by color is apparently useful to the delivery team on-site.
  • Many “lessons learned” were also presented. For example, firms recommended against allowing individual project participants to manually override data inserted into, or supplied by, BIM software. Others strongly encouraged involving of both architects and structural engineers from the outset of each project – discouraging their staggered entry into the BIM process.
  • One universally accepted principle important to successful implementation of BIM is the involvement of experienced, field-seasoned, constructors in the BIM process. Teams that effectively involve people with decades of field experience side-by-side with technically savvy (typically younger) BIM software experts are more likely produce digital models that are more useful to constructors. This principle applies to all aspects of design and construction delivery.
  • Fundamentally, BIM should be viewed as a “process” and not as simply a software solution.

This entry published by David Roberts, a member of Womble Carlyle's real estate development and construction practice group.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Architects: Business Conditions Strong, But Slowing

A recently published survey of business conditions by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) concludes that business conditions remain relatively healthy in most regions in the country. Geographically, strongest business conditions were reported in the Western Mountain, Texas and Middle Atlantic regions. Weaknesses were reported in Michigan and in the Florida/Caribbean and Ohio Valley regions.

The survey also reported on market sectors. A fairly large decline in business conditions was reported in the residential sector, with the exception of the Middle Atlantic region. Commercial, industrial and institutional sectors reportedly remain generally solid.

The demand for architects remains generally steady. The survey reports that the highest demand is for experienced architects with 8-10 years of experience. The demand for architects is successively weaker for architects with 3-6 years experience, managers/senior managers, and intern architects.

To see the summary report of this survey in AIA Architect This Week, Volume 14, October 12, 2007, click here. This entry is published by Ken Michael, a member of Womble Carlyle’s real estate development and construction practice group.

Monday, October 1, 2007

LEED for Neighborhood Development

The U.S. Green Building Council recently announced that 238 development projects throughout the nation will participate in its pilot program for LEED for Neighborhood Development. The Neighborhood Development Rating System "integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism, and green building into the first national standard for neighborhood design."

Commercial Real Estate Week notes that the one-of-a-kind standard has a flexible definition of "neighborhood," allowing for project sizes to vary widely, from small, mixed-use infill projects to entire urban communities. The Neighborhood Design Rating System considers a variety of issues, including land use, environmental impact, public health and transportation patterns, and is intended to focus on the incorporation of buildings into a neighborhood.

The pilot program participants are not guaranteed LEED certification. Projects will be evaluated by the USGBC as it does under its other rating systems. But being a program participant is beneficial: it opens up a dialogue between developers and the USGBC, provides developers with a significant amount of feedback, and introduces them to new technology and design principles.

There are over a dozen pilot participants located in the Washington, DC metro area, including The Yards, a mixed-used development in Southeast D.C. located near the site of the new baseball stadium, the Solea in Columbia Heights, the old convention center site, and NoMa (short for North of Massachusetts), a neighborhood in Northwest and Northeast D.C that straddles North Capitol Street.

The pilot program is expected to conclude in 2008. It will be followed by a public comment period to gather feedback, and the LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System will be launched in 2009.

Sources: Commercial Real Estate Week; USGBC

International Code Council and U.S. Green Building Council Form Strategic Alliance

The ICC and the USGBC recently entered into a memorandum of understand (MOU) memorializing their agreement to work together on public policy issues on which the interests of both organizations are aligned. The MOU acknowledges the ICC’s leading role in fostering safety for the built environment and the USGBC’s leading role in advocating sustainability in the building marketplace. Within these separate areas of expertise, the organizations have pledged to identify areas of mutual interest, to work together to leverage that interest, and thereby to maximize the efficient use of each organization’s resources.

The organizations have agreed to explore and implement business opportunities that could benefit both organizations, for example, joint training activities, certification programs for inspection personnel, and marketing efforts. Specifically, they intend to explore the joint development of “code compliance packages” to address designs and materials which present ongoing code approval problems in plan review or inspection.

The first initiative coming out of the MOU is an agreement to co-author and publish an introductory work on the subject of building codes and sustainability. The publication goal is December 2007. The entire MOU can be found here. (This entry published by Karen Carey, a member of Womble Carlyle's real estate development and construction practice group.)