In general, building teams are still getting their feet wet regarding BIM use, agreed attendees. Of late, disputes involving BIM center on the designer's standard of care, which is no longer clear or objective, said Gregg Bundschuh, a partner of Greyling Insurance Brokerage, Atlanta.

He cited one dispute, settled in arbitration, that involved a $250-million health-care project in the Midwest. The insurance company that described the dispute to Bundschuh would not provide any specifics or identify the parties involved.

As Bundschuh told it, the architect's deliverable for the project was a traditional set of 2D construction documents. The general contractor converted the drawings into a BIM and ran clash detection, identifying several thousand clashes. The contractor asked the architect to address the problems before the start of construction. The architect failed to do so in a material way, said Bundschuh.

The contractor submitted a claim in arbitration for delay and direct damage costs associated with the architect's failure to resolve clash issues in a timely manner. The arbitration panel awarded the contractor damages. “I understood that the award was based on the architect's failure to meet the ordinary standard of care for professional design services on a comparably sized project,” said Bundschuh.

Following the workshop, on May 25-26, the lab held a symposium to present ongoing research at Georgia Tech. One project, partly funded by constructor Skanska and the National Science Foundation, involves development of a BIM-derived, rule-based automated checking system for site safety planning before construction begins. “The goal is to test for potential safety violations before work is executed,” said Jochen Teizer, an assistant professor of engineering and Eastman's co-principal investigator on the research, which is an effort of Georgia Tech's DBL and its RAPIDS Laboratory.

The envisioned product would be similar to a clash detection tool. However, the safety tool would provide users with hazard locations, type of hazard resolution, installation schedule for protection, 3D visualizations and a time-lapse simulation of protection installation.

The research also includes fall protection. Following federal safety rules and guidelines, the safety-rule checking tool is able to identify automatically, for example, openings and temporary holes in slabs and walls, said Teizer. The tool then virtually “applies” the proper safety protection: cover, guard rail or safety net.

The DBL—at on the web—has nine partners. Each has made a three-year commitment to provide to the university an annual contribution, which is tax deductible. To become a senior partner, a firm makes a $50,000 contribution. General partners give half that, and associates give $10,000. To date, software developer Tekla Corp. is the sole senior partner; Skanska is the sole general partner. The lab's four-person staff is bolstered by 19 associated faculty from the Georgia Tech colleges of architecture, where the lab resides, computing and engineering.

At the dawn of computer-aided building design, Eastman predicted advances would enable engineers to easily evaluate different structural schemes (ENR 10/11/84 p. 12).

That has happened and then some. But progress aside, Eastman believes there is still lots of room for digital-tool growth. “I think we are just at the beginning,” he says. “We have a long way ahead of us.”