BIM’s Evolving Double Standard of Care

Holly Hunter: You totally crossed the line with that piece….

William Hurt: It’s hard not to cross the line when they keep moving the little sucker, don’t they!?

Broadcast News, 1987

Here’s a conversation I overheard the other day between a guy and girl on the inbound platform while awaiting a train, late due to mechanical malfunction.

SHE: Well, I have higher standards of care that you’re expected to follow.

HE: Define your terms.

SHE: Simply put, what I expect of you. What others expect of you based on your supposed intentions.

HE: I don’t get it.

SHE: It’s the degree of care required of guys like you who are recognized by others as being serious about their intentions and purpose. It’s the degree of caution that a reasonable guy would exercise in a similar situation so as to avoid screwing up.

HE: So why do you call it a double standard of care?

SHE: Because you want to boast of your capabilities but not to the point where you actually take responsibility for what you produce in terms of its ultimate result. You guys are all alike – you want to have it both ways. That’s your double standard of care.

HE: Why do you think we act this way? Because we can’t commit, right?

SHE: You guys claim you’re not benefitting any more to do what’s required to meet our higher expectations.

HE: So why do you say it’s evolving?

SHE: Evolving, moving. Whatever.

HE: Moving? Where’s it moving?

SHE: Where it’s headed – we’re only just now starting to get hints of. That it is moving is a foregone conclusion. We used to let you guys get away with having your cake and eating it too. What’s that line you used to use – Why buy the cow when you can milk it? Well, no more, bucko. Now – if you want to dance – you have to come to the wedding. (Train pulls in.)

This got me thinking about a talk design professionals need to have with their contractors and with their clients.

What’s in it for me?

Architects are by nature – or choice – risk averse. They operate in pencils, not bricks. Owners and Contractors don’t much like risk either and make it their goal by day’s end to make sure risk is doled out, wherever possible, evenly amongst others.

Most by now recognize that there are benefits and there are benefits. While the technological, business and social/cultural benefits of Building Information Modeling (BIM) are legion – and most of these benefits are seen by Owners and Contractors – design professionals are also seeing their fair share.

Some benefits are well-known by now:

  • Design visualization, analyze and visualize project digitally before it is constructed
  • Increased coordination with clash detection, resulting in fewer RFIs and change orders
  • By starting earlier in the process, everyone at the table day one, design input occurs earlier in process
  • Improved cost control
  • More integrated buildings

Other benefits are perhaps less top-of-mind because they’re the result of social impacts brought about by BIM and the collaborative work-process enabled by it. In my forthcoming book, BIM + Integrated Design (Wiley, 2011,) I call these co-benefits because they are indirect social results of the more familiar technical and business benefits. To name but a few:

  • Recent graduates work alongside experienced designers and train them, resulting in emerging professionals just starting out learning how buildings come together earlier in career
  • These emerging professionals as BIM operators are the canaries in the coal mine, learning of clashes, conflicts and unintended design results before anyone else
  • The mutual training and informing between the two results in mentoring up and down

Other related benefits include

  • Increased productivity, cut man-hours and manpower by reducing team size
  • Takes less time overall, resulting in more time to design and compressed construction
  • More assured decisions provide basis for more accurate fabrication

BIM’s most important benefit

One major benefit to design professionals – acknowledged and recognized but not often mentioned by design professionals – is that by working in BIM, design professionals are able to stay in the game.

By working in BIM design professionals are able to stay design professionals and not, say, consultants to contractors.

So they work in BIM. Design professionals, to garner new business, are promoting their BIM experience and expertise. As well they should. And yet this is where the double standard comes in.

BIM and its own evolving double standard

Where the standard of care (SOC) is moving will be determined in large part to precedents that are set in court. Case in point: Laura Handler’s excellent reporting earlier this year in her BIMx blog on the first batch of BIM Claims presented at a recent BIMforum session. We now know the general direction that the SOC is moving – toward greater expectations on the part of the architect.

BIMSOC –Building Information Modeling Standard of Care


BIM2SOC – Building Information Modeling Double Standard of Care.

Design professionals, take heed. Along with the boasting of BIM capability as a competitive differentiator come the double entendre of BIM responsibility.

Because with the responsibility come some other things design professionals don’t want: exposure, added risk and liability.

But also this: their having to come up with the value proposition – and subsequent conversation with their clients concerning the additional work required – to build virtual models to this new standard.

A crucial conversation

So here’s the crux. BIM’s Double Standard of Care isn’t so much a legal, liability or even responsibility issue as one of communication. Design professionals need to have a conversation with their clients about getting remediated

  • to hire the staff capable of meeting this higher standard,
  • to properly train to meet this higher standard, and
  • to produce virtual models to this higher standard.

As implied in the reporting on BIM Claims presented at BIMforum, had the designers been adequately compensated they would have attempted to meet the higher standard.

Because the designers balked – when the contractor requested that they verify their work – due to not being compensated to do so, it apparently became a question of motivation.

In the past, conversations of this sort went something like this:

Design professional tells owner that the contractor expects a higher level of detail in the model than the architect is used to providing. The owner says they always expected that level of detail, thought that that was what they were getting in the past and if they weren’t getting it, why not?


In the future, if design professionals are to survive, this crucial conversation must start with the contractor – early on in the process – about their expectations and needs for the virtual model.

For the crucial conversation with the owner to have a different result, the design professional has two choices: They can have this conversation on their own (see checkmate above) or moderated, in the venue of marriage counseling – with the attendant referee and rule book.

In other words, in the Integrated Design process.

This is why Integrated Design is so important: because it creates a structure whereby these conversations will happen, when they ought to happen – early and often – where everybody is in the same room at the same time from an early date hammering out these issues.

Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is my gift, my curse.

BIM is the marriage of conceptualization with construction. The stitching together of creating and constructing Joshua Prince-Ramus alluded to a previous post.

BIM requires one to be more – and think more – like an architect and a contractor.

No more Architects are from Venus and Contractors are from Mars.

No more You Just Don’t Understand with architects wanting one thing and contractors another.

No more misunderstandings between the players arising because architects like to connect emotionally through design while contractors prefer to impart construction knowledge. Like the sexes, contractors and architects are essentially products of different cultures, possessing different – but equally valid – communication styles.

Design professionals and contractors essentially want the same thing. It’s how they get to these results – and the roles that they play, not the amount of responsibility each is willing to cover– that differ. Neither want to be ultimately responsible and so, in lieu of passing the responsibility – and along with it the liability – around, they agree to share it, mutually.

BIM is the great equalizer and Integrated Design the safe haven where working together collaboratively – if it is ever going to happen – is most likely to happen.

Integrated Design’s the right place for this marriage. I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

BIM. This is our gift, our curse. Let’s own it.



Filed under BIM, collaboration, design professionals, education, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, process, Uncategorized

2 responses to “BIM’s Evolving Double Standard of Care

  1. Joe Roberts

    thanks for your blog
    question, as an ACAD draftsman, BIM is new to me.
    Can a BIM drawing be converted to ACAD (.dwg )
    and if so, how?
    please respond

    • randydeutsch

      Hi Joe
      Thanks for your question. Since a BIM is a virtual model of the building any drawing is really just one view of the model – whether elevation, plan or section. It’s a question of converting vs. importing/exporting the BIM model into CAD. Most BIM software allows CAD files to be imported into the BIM file AND – as you are asking – models to be exported to CAD so other groups such as consultants that are not using BIM can coordinate. As to the specifics concerning software, file type and how this is achieved it is probably best to pose the question to your software vendor or a reliable site such as AUGI. Thanks for stopping by and asking!

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