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A New Era of BIM

Building Information Modeling has been a large part of the architecture, engineering and construction communities since the early 2000s. It has been heralded as a hallmark of systems integration and simplification. It has also been challenged for increasing the risk imposed on design professionals and for being overly complex. Many full-service glass companies might not bother seeking out the tools to respond to an architect’s RFP for a project involving BIM. But it might be time to change that.

In mid-2017, the American Institute of Architects, released revisions to its design and construction forms. AIA E203-2013 is the Building Information Modeling and Digital Exhibit. E203 requires that parties create a data protocol if BIM is being used on a project. The 2017 revisions to General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, A201, now require that the parties agree on the protocols set forth in E203 and its forms. E203 also announces if the parties cannot agree on the use and reliance of BIM, any party using it does so at their own risk. This downstream waiver may equally extend to trades like glaziers.

This change at the AIA reflects an increasing comfort with BIM and some of the risks that required balancing as it entered the marketplace. When BIM first appeared, there were many risk exposure questions regarding ownership of the dataset, completeness of the constituent functional parts, and control over revisions and common access. As technology has improved, many of these practical concerns have been addressed through software. In addition, and as the recent AIA amendments show, increased experience with the process has identified early negotiation points that can help ensure that issues in the BIM process do not need to immediately result in change-order battles or litigation.

These growth factors for BIM are not surprising because the practical goals for its use remain the same as they have always been. Increased efficiencies in design, evaluation of interfaces, project sequencing, elimination of waste and even the ability to simulate performance before construction have real, hard-dollar benefits. 

However, when looking to projects using BIM, do not lose sight of the fact that the model assumes perfection—perfect manufacturing, perfect installation, perfect sealants. Humans still put the buildings together and mistakes can happen. So, when submitting a bid on a BIM project, acknowledge that the digital model, while close, might not necessarily be identical to the final product.

BIM’s spread into smaller projects also remains strong. Owners are always looking to increase efficiencies to keep project costs down. Builders, especially those dealing with a shortage of skilled labor, are looking to allocate resources in the most efficient way. BIM can help achieve those goals. Consider too that, as modular construction methods begin phasing into traditional site-built practices, the ability of BIM to model and plan those integrations will be key to all trades, including glaziers.

In addition to increased efficiency, glass companies who use BIM can help manage their legal risk. For example, during bidding, BIM can assist with takeoffs and ensure count accuracy. Required product ratings and specifications are often also embedded within the model, so there is less opportunity to miss something.

BIM can also help scheduling. A detailed schedule based on the model can be used to clearly establish upcoming expectations of performance, delivery and workforce allocation needs. Careful management of these items can help limit delay and the potential cost-exposure that comes with it.

Communication between trades and builders can also be improved through BIM. Status reports, scheduling and even RFI/CO responses can be built in so the status of the project is known and surprises are avoided.

None of this is to say that BIM is without its problems. But as BIM does not show any signs of going away, it might be time for glaziers of all sizes to revisit how they can benefit from its use. 


Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson is a member of The Gary Law Group, a Portland-based firm specializing in legal and risk issues facing manufacturers of glazing products. He can be reached at