The Digital Transformation of Risk in Building Design

Digital Transformation

Equitable risk allocation and risk management in the construction space is a complex topic – one that for architects and design engineers can evoke immediate concerns about accountability and liability.

Historical Risk Structures Make Sense… Or Do They?

From the earliest lessons, architects are typically taught to beware of and limit the information shared with owners and contractors. We’re taught to push risk away—and that perspective had some validity in the more conventional “means and methods” approach of project delivery. Our traditional processes were established from less automated practices, namely paper drawings or even PDF files.

As the industry has moved to CAD and 3D solutions like Revit, and more recently the cloud, those same risk-averse perspectives have remained. In many cases, these 3D tools have been treated more like an iteration of traditional paper-based workflows, rather than a new, better way of doing business and collaborating with project stakeholders.

It’s a perspective that, particularly in today’s more digital environment, has resulted in a loss of power and influence, and subsequently less profit for the architectural community.

The reality is that our adoption of technology has greatly reduced risk for all parties—we just need to acknowledge it. Technology is changing the way that we collaborate, the way that we share information, and the way that we track data. In today’s increasingly digital data environments, we know what data was shared, when and with whom. We also have the ability to audit a full history of a project. In reality, given the accessibility of historical project data, there’s less risk today than ever before as it’s distributed amongst all parties, incentivizing everyone to collaborate more effectively for better project outcomes.

With technology, we can overcome our fear of sharing information and sharing design models. Contractors are now an integral part of the design/preconstruction conversation and have a stake in the game—and any concerns about integrity or constructability will get resolved in that virtual environment earlier on. Bottom line, in today’s digital environment, a project should be all about sharing risk and accountability. It’s about collaboration, transparency, and the improved data workflow and the upsides are tremendous.

Leveraging Better Contracts and the Zero RFI Quest

When we remove our risk-averse attitudes and embrace collaboration, the familiar antagonism that results from pushing risk down the line is removed. Let’s look at RFIs for instance. RFIs have developed a negative connotation by all parties. They continue to be utilized on projects today in ways in which they were not intended. These RFIs don’t just hurt one party—it’s proven to cost all parties—the owner, architect, and contractor—more money. On the flip side, there are cross-functional project teams that make a promise to each other to have zero-RFI projects to great success. They do this by leveraging contracts to fit the current technology-driven model of collaboration rather than forcing technology to adhere to outdated contract terms.

It’s time to holistically evaluate the project workflow, and the technology pieces, particularly on the design side, with an eye on building a foundation of trust across the project lifecycle.

How are you realizing risk? How are you using technology to reduce risk and create a more collaborative environment?

For a complimentary consultative look at your business or to understand how U.S.CAD, an ARKANCE Company can help improve business outcomes for your architecture or engineering business, see the success planning brochure or contact us.

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