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BIM Me Up, Scotty:
Navigating Risk in Digital Practice

By James B. Atkins, FAIA & Andrew D. Mendelson, FAIA

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is rapidly becoming the central platform for design, construction and building operation. But like the transporter of science fiction star adventures, BIM can appear uncertain and mysterious at first glance. A single delivery contract and open access to the architect’s Building Information Model can quickly raise one’s risk alert level to red. Although there has not yet been a proliferation of claims, risk management can be preemptive. This paper addresses issues that can be beneficial in managing risks in digital practice.

Beginning with BIM’s defined levels of development, the use of the 2013 AIA Digital Practice Documents is reviewed with explanations of what they are intended to accomplish. Practice considerations for transitioning from 2D CAD to BIM are explored in the design, production, quality management and IT practice areas. Suggestions for fostering collaboration with consultants, the contractor, and the owner are also included.

The paper concludes with a look at risk assessment and the risk sensitive areas of the BIM process. From control of the model to the standard of care, risk areas are examined based on current industry practices. A BIM Execution Checklist is provided to guide BIM explorers in their digital practice endeavors.

James B. Atkins, FAIA is an architect providing litigation support services through his firm, Atkins Consulting Solutions, He was a Principal/Owner of a top ten international A/E firm, and he has served on the AIA Documents, Risk Management, International Practice and Architect’s Handbook committees as well as the AIA Trust. Jim speaks and writes extensively, and his specialty is the architect’s standard of care.

Andrew D. Mendelson, FAIA is Chief Risk Management Officer of Berkley Design Professional Underwriters. Andy joined Berkley DP in July 2013 after 36 years of diverse architectural practice including serving as a market leader, contracting officer, CFO, and director of practice management for large A/E firms. He was recognized as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 2011 for his leadership in professional services contracting and contributions to AIA Documents Committee.

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