Dialog Box December 2007

30 Nov, 2007 By: Cadalyst Staff

Readers have their say.

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Cadalyst Dialog Box

Readers Comment about the AGC-AIA Dispute
Jerry Laiserin makes some excellent comments in "AGC-AIA Dispute Represents Deeper AEC/O Rifts." Few people really understand all of the issues, especially the issues surrounding the A201 document. As a construction manager, I often end up drafting a new General Conditions document that, in my opinion, is fair and reasonable for all of the parties. I often merge the intent of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) documents with those of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Associated General Contractors (AGC), and excerpts from the building owner's general conditions in order to create front-end documents that balance the roles, risks, responsibilities, and requirements as you described. I enjoyed reading such a well thought out and insightful article.
—Samuel R. McCuskey, PE, construction manager
McCuskey Group, Escondido, California

One important issue you failed to mention in your article is the fact that the AGC and 20 other construction organizations (none of them are architect or engineer related) recently have come out with their own version of construction documents. They are being called ConsensusDOCS. Refer to the ConsensusDOCS Web site for additional information.

—David Trudell
Holland, Michigan

Because the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) is an umbrella organization for the construction industry, this is an excellent opportunity for CSI to establish an ad hoc committee to gather the industry together and create construction documents (General Conditions, Change Orders, Contracts, etc.) that would be acceptable and usable by all. I would be willing to serve on such a committee.

—David Brandt
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A lot of construction defects found with new buildings after occupancy can be detected with nondestructive imaging technologies before the final inspection is completed. If used as a means of quality assurance rather than postoccupancy problem diagnostics imaging, the risks can be reduced significantly. Roof and wall leaks, electrical distribution system hot spots, mechanical problems such as duct leaks and bearing lubrication, and defective insulation work all can be found early with thermal imaging, if employed proactively rather than reactively.

—James Davidson
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

As Laiserin states in his article, the AIA has sought to minimize the risks and responsibilities of its members for 150 years; where those risks and responsibilities are shifted is of paramount concern to all constructors in the industry. If you look back at the history of A201, this increased shifting of risk has traditionally been imposed on constructors and has been widely discussed in industry circles but remained unspoken by AGC until now. The truth is [that] all anyone wants is to have fair and balanced risks (thus contracts). No one group should try to impose or shift risks to others where they don't belong, but rather as the author suggests, we should all be working together collaboratively to deliver the best possible projects for our mutual clients. This starts with a complete and thorough set of contract plans and specifications and earnest coordination among designers, followed by proper planning and execution by constructors. When this occurs, all involved are better off and our respective mutual clients will be smiling as they become the true winners.

—Richard Behn, AIC, CPC
Sarasota, Florida

National association tensions over contract document risk assignment are similar to tensions within project teams. AIA documents reflect architectural practice as defined by training, licensing statutes, liability insurance limitations, and case law -- rather than by the interests or assumptions of members of other industry associations. The AGC and COAA documents that form the basis for the new ConsensusDOCS must avoid provisions that are outside of typical architectural practice scope and architects' liability insurance limitations.

Owners hire architects in part to obtain coverage under architects' liability insurance provisions. For example, to require architects to assume contractual responsibility for reviewed contractor submittals as contractors often request would require increased architect staffing, increased liability insurance premiums, and increased fees -- something owners will likely resist. Keeping this responsibility with the contractor that prepared the submittal initially continues to appear the most economical way to assign the risk for errors and omissions in submittals.

Collaboration is a worthwhile and promising industry development. So was partnering in the 1980s. It can be accomplished under any reasonable set of contract documents when undertaken by competent professionals with integrity. But let's be aware of the underlying self-interests of the parties and not gloss over them with marketing jargon. For the project team members: profits, fees, and risks. For the national associations: member interests and document fee revenue. With those interests out in the open, we can talk effectively about collaboration and maybe accomplish some.

—Phil Kabza, FCSI, AIA, CCS
Charlotte, North Carolina

The dispute between AGC and AIA over documents is healthy in one respect and dangerous in another. New AIA documents maintain a near-status quo balance of industry interests; whereas the AGC ConsensusDOCS return significant duties and accountabilities back to the architecture and engineering industry -- for which owners will pay dearly -- good for the architects and engineers who are willing to take on a more challenging role. On the downside, owners facing difficult choices will likely turn to lawyers for assistance in deciding which contracts to use. Lawyers typically lack fundamental knowledge of industry roles and responsibilities needed to counsel owners informatively, so they base their advice on probabilities and depth of defendants' pockets. The need for skilled architects, engineers, and builders will not go away. When owners confront the real cost of doing business with the AEC industry using A201/B201 or ConsensusDOCS, I'm betting the AIA's time-tested formula will win by a mile.

—Richard Corner, AIA, CSI
Virginia Beach, Virginia

BIM and the Small Architecture Firm
Congratulations to Bill Badger and Badger and Associates ("A Small Firm Switches to BIM" by Heather Livingston). It's always good to see small firms that are jumping in and starting to take advantage of the technology represented by today's modeling software. Small firms still make up the lion's share of the business. If they don't step up and use the tools, small firms are going to become more and more marginalized. Since Badger and Associates made the leap a couple of years ago, I suspect that they are already wrestling with the larger picture of how to effectively integrate the technology into their business practices to get the most bang for both themselves and their clients. You might want to look at my new book, BIG BIM little bim (4Site Press, 2007) to see how other small firms are maximizing the benefits and improving their projects.

—Finith Jernigan
Salisbury, Maryland

I find it interesting that builders use the 3D images produced to build from rather than detailed drawings. While I wholly endorse Mr. Badger's switch to 3D, I find it curious that he (apparently) doesn't follow through with complete 3D details. I wish he would come to my state and teach some of these dolt architects how to express themselves properly.

—Thomas Irvin, architect, certified construction specifier
Middleton, Wisconsin

I am trying to shift into BIM and not without difficulty. I am 53. A few things come to me easily, and multitudes of others do not. This article made me feel better because I thought that I just didn't understand the new programs. I have tried going to seminars and viewing Webcasts only to find that there are some things the computer can't do in three dimensions and back to two dimensions. I find that if I resort to the pencil to solve an issue, it is only a crutch that needs to be thrown away. I started out with manual drafting implements and now have progressed to pushing electrons about a monitor screen. The paper and reproduction costs have been almost eliminated, but the confusion factor remains.

—Bill Crane
Newport, Rhode Island

I found this article to be refreshing. Our office is transitioning into BIM from AutoCAD 2002, and although we are all very versed in 3D software (Form-Z, 3ds Max, and Google SketchUp), these are not BIM platforms. We have been researching the market for the best BIM application suited for our company and have narrowed the search to VectorWorks and ArchiCAD. It is nice to hear an unbiased opinion about either of these software packages and the learning curve from a firm of our size.

—Ricardo Ramos
Arcadia, California

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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