The Evolving Role of Technology in Project Delivery and Contracts


From project procurement to means and methods, the AEC landscape today is evolving at a rapid pace thanks in large part due to today’s more collaborative technology. For architects, engineers, and contractors, it’s an adjustment that likely creates some unease and perhaps distrust.

While there’s still plenty of risk aversion and apprehension about sharing models, for instance, due to intellectual property and liability concerns, the industry is adapting, and realizing impressive results.

Here are a few ways that technology is transforming the AEC industry.

Beyond BIM Basics

In the early 2000s, building information modeling (BIM) was primarily seen as a tool for 3D modeling, visualization, and clash detection—and there was skepticism about its actual benefits.

As the technology has advanced and standards (more on this later) were established, BIM has become a project enabler. It’s now recognized by many as a platform for collaboration, helping to break down traditional data silos that are common between designers, builders, and other stakeholders. It’s a collaboration solution that enables dispersed project teams across disciplines to work together on a shared digital model in real-time. BIM has made it possible for owners to engage trade partners and contractors earlier in design where their specialized knowledge can help optimize solutions. It’s essential to more collaborative project delivery approaches such as design-build. Contract documents like ConsensusDocs and AIA Contract Documents support digital delivery concepts.

Many owners now view BIM as strategic for improving long-term facility management through its ability to capture asset data and performance metrics. Critical to a successful lifecycle use of BIM has been an emphasis on Level of Development (LOD), or the standardized framework outlining the model detail and accuracy, and the second invaluable element of the industry’s technology transformation.

A Specification of Purpose

LOD specifications provide a standardized framework for communicating the reliability and intended use of model elements. But this framework is about more than just geometry; it’s a framework that drives communication. LOD specifications were developed to provide clarity around what portions of models different parties could rely on—and have significantly helped reduce risk aversion issues.

The standardized framework of LOD specifications allows project teams to clearly define what portions of a model can and can’t be relied upon. Subsequently, this framework supports increased collaboration and coordination by enabling contractors, fabricators, and other downstream teams to understand what model information they can utilize in their own workflows and decision-making. The granular nature of LOD specifications means reliability doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” assessment—individual components can have their reliability qualified separately.

Like BIM, LOD specifications help mitigate risk aversion by giving designers a way to define limitations and assure teams. When used properly, LOD specifications streamline communication and reduce the chance of ambiguity.

Field Focused and the Cloud

The pandemic pushed the industry to expand its communication possibilities. While in-person communication will always have a place, the need to share insights and information remotely is now integral to every project. It’s now possible to engage a more geographically diverse range of expertise, compared to strictly co-located teams.

Cloud-based collaboration platforms allow dispersed teams to access and work on a shared digital model in real-time from any internet-connected device. Communication technologies like video conferencing facilitate virtual meetings and coordination between remote stakeholders. Mobile access to modeling tools and documentation supports flexible work-from-anywhere workflows for designers, contractors, owners, etc. File sharing and version control features streamline the digital exchange of project data between remote teams.

These remote solutions are changing project team structures and workflows by facilitating more dispersed collaboration between designers, contractors, and other stakeholders.

The Reality of Metrics

One of the biggest challenges often noted when it comes to committing to BIM, LOD, field-based project management tools or even cloud-based collaboration platforms is the inability to quantify the benefits of the technology. It can be very difficult to directly compare projects delivered with and without the benefits of these solutions.

However, analytics and frameworks are emerging to help quantify the benefits of BIM and other technologies through metrics like reduced errors, costs, and time savings. This helps with adoption.

By developing better ways to measure results, analytics are helping to translate qualitative benefits into quantitative returns that stakeholders can understand, thereby strengthening the business case for new collaborative technologies and processes. Finding ways to turn the quantity of data created from job to job and turn it into actionable insights is important to the increasing role of technology.

To hear more about the evolving role of technology, and the specific solutions outlined above with insights from industry leaders Jim Bedrick, FAIA, Principal at AEC Process Engineering and Brian Skripac, DBIA, CM-BIM, Director, Virtual Design & Construction at DBIA, tune into the webinar: 2024 U.S. AEC Outlook: Evolving Role of Technology in Project Delivery and Contracts – U.S. CAD – Design Build Solve.

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