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Reprinted with permission from BIG BIM 4.0: Ecosystems for a Connected World.

little-bim Authoring

Little-bim is the part of BIM that has passed the tipping point to become a commodity product. Yet, carefully selecting a little-bim platform is vitally important and deserves careful consideration. In this arena, brand name recognition means less than one might think.

Any of the vendors that sell Industry Foundation Class (IFC) certified products can sell you a little-bim solution that will get the job done. These vendors develop all types of strategies for getting people to purchase their products. They try everything from reduced feature limited versions to giving away updates for non-BIM legacy products, to subscription services. Ignore the vendor hype and forget the marketing that surrounds the little-bim authoring tool market.

Too many of those that have tried to implement BIM tools based on their legacy systems or vendor recommendations have seen suboptimal results. In fact, depending on how one defines the term, many of them have failed. Such an approach to BIM tools can be an excruciating experience.

Sometimes the vendors are more interested in making a sale than in imparting the truth. Battles for market share and dominance among software and hardware vendors leads to messages designed to put products in the best light. Sometimes reality gets lost in the hype. BIM Washing is rampant. Find products that are a comfortable fit and which enable you to be productive.

In a world of interoperability, the monolithic approach favored by most little-bim vendors is old-school. Based on their experiences with legacy products, many professionals continue to believe that a single product line is needed to do BIM—Not so. In fact, no single project line or individual tool can do all the tasks required.

The real winners from monolithic product lines in this area are the vendors, not the users. Today you should aim toward using the best tool for the job at hand, rather than using the same tool, or product line, for all things. Find the product that lets you do work, as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Your selection should consider such elements as:

  • How much training will be required to be productive? How intuitive is the interface?
  • How much will it cost annually to stay up to date?
  • How much storage capacity, of what type, will be required to archive your work safely? Can you keep your files on an encrypted drive for increased security?
  • What workflows are standard? What workflows can be done using either workarounds or add-on products?
  • What file-exchanges are standard? What data-interchanges are standard? Do they work in both directions?
  • Are appropriately trained people available for surges, should you get busy and need short-term help?
  • Are senior staff and non-techies able to use the tool, or is it only for the technical at heart?
  • And, much more.

Communication, Connection, Interoperability, Knowledge, and FACTS drive BIM. Focus on creating the most efficient and effective way to support your needs. Once you start to improve your processes and begin to see success, you can then widen your reach. If you are like others that have taken this path, you will, over time add more and more capabilities. You will create greater value in the built environment.

The better one understands the underlying needs of any business, the easier it is to find one or more BIM solutions. Take it a step at a time. Make the changes in the way that works best for you and your customers.

Most users focus on the graphic modeling capabilities with some steps into clash detection and other analysis built into the system. Remember to also seek opportunities to exploit the I of BIM beyond schedules and other internal uses.

Data Rot

Data rot is almost a fact of life for many today. Whether one saves electronic files in the cloud, on a local server, or on digital media; stores paper in file cabinets or cardboard boxes; or archives rolls of prints, the information may not be current, and may not be valid. Authoritative data needs to live.

Desktop little-bim authoring systems are typically file-based, welded together software applications with the data tightly embedded. Data is usually internal rather than able to interface with external databases. This data is relatively hard to access and subject to data rot. Both may limit your long-term benefits.

Some vendors are making strides toward greater access to the information in the models created using their systems. The ability to fully capitalize on the information side of little-bim systems isn’t mature. Data interchange via IFC and COBie can be quite advanced, but be aware that no two tools have the same capabilities in this area. To fully use the information side of little-bim solutions requires expertise and training. Simplicity and clarity are often missing.

Each of the major little-bim authoring tools has a different approach to BIM. Each does some things exceedingly well and others not so well. Dig deeply and you will see that each has pros and cons that will likely impact how one works. Find the tool or tools that most closely aligns with your workflows, strategy, and philosophy. Your projects may require any number of processes unique to your organization. You can improve any of them with a BIM solution. Finding the right product may take some trial and error.

Testing little-bim products

Put your preconceptions aside. None of the noise matters to your decision. If the software does not improve your process and provide you long-term connected data, don’t buy it. The costs of little-bim software products pale in comparison to the direct and hidden costs of a 12-month trial that turns out to be a mistake. The following approach to testing little-bim products has worked for others:

  • The first day you download a little-bim software trial version, go through the product tutorial, step by step.
  • Alternately, sign up for the vendor’s one-day introductory course.
    The second day, begin a new project. It should be a project that is typical for your business, whether a new facility or a renovation. This should be something real, not something from the tutorial. Do not select the project for simplicity. You want to make this a real-life test.
  • By the end of the third day, your model should include—floors, walls, roofs, doors, windows, stairs, toilet and kitchen fixtures, and a basic ground plane. As a minimum, you should have produced photo-rendered images, presentation-grade plans, and elevations. These images should be at a quality level that is good enough to present to customers, with no apologies.
  • Extract the areas for all spaces with quantities and areas of doors, windows, and wall and roof surfaces. Some people going through this process have also produced a virtual reality model or tested their model on mobile-oriented systems such as BIMx™ at this point.

You have created your first prototype. You have had a productive three-day exercise much of which should be billable. If you are comfortable with the product, you may have found your modeling tool. If you cannot achieve at least this level of work-product by the end of the third day, try another modeling tool!

Explore how real-world practice changes when BIM enters the equation: Read Finith Jernigan’s BIG BIM little bim—The practical approach to Building Information Modeling—Integrated practice done the right way! Dana K. (Deke) Smith, FAIA, said of BIG BIM little bim: Finith’s writing and speaking have positively influenced the entire construction industry. His first book hit a home run for all practitioners of BIM. It is relevant to both the neophyte just making the BIM decision as well as the mature BIM organization looking for what is next.


SALISBURY, MD, USA— Finith Jernigan, FAIA, wrote BIG BIM 4.0 – Ecosystems for a Connected World, to show that advanced technology tools and proven business processes can help professionals lead their companies to a successful future. His efforts were recognized with 2017 Global Ebook Awards for Business, Leadership and Professional/Technical Non- Fiction.

The book was also named a finalist by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group, which held the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the largest not-for-profit book awards program for independent publishers and self-published authors. Catherine Goulet, Co-chair of the 2017 awards, said, Our program has become known as the Sundance of the book publishing world.

Finith Jernigan, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, said, It is an honor having “BIG BIM 4.0” recognized as having an impact in so many areas of business. Traditional business processes are becoming Connected Age processes that give professionals more independence and more value. So, winning independent book publishing awards feels appropriate.

Building Information Models are not confined to buildings. At the US Coast Guard Academy in New London (CT) models capture information about ships, how Cadets use space, and enable live master planning.

“BIG BIM 4.0 – Ecosystems for a Connected World” is the latest exploration of Jernigan’s view on how Building Information Models can dramatically improve the built environment. Building things in the virtual world before making them in reality is a powerful way to improve business results.

Every dollar we spend on infrastructure results in only ten cents of value at the end of construction. We aren’t getting enough value for our money. Government experts predict that by reducing the waste in the building industry to the level of other American industries, we could save over $585 billion dollars every year. Waste, disconnected processes, lack of adequate planning, inadequate cost controls, and other issues are rampant, and the building industry is in crisis. We all see the problems in the condition of the infrastructure that is receiving so much attention today.

Building industry leaders are embracing the use of building information models (BIM) and integrated processes as the way to overcome the losses and waste that is now a fact-of-life in the building industry, says Jernigan.  Without such changes, the industry may never overcome the problems we now face.

Rich Data at an infinite number of LOD

From step one, the model is computable. It can compute areas, show relationships, generate pie charts and plans showing metrics. You can visualize blocking and stacking. Project costs are overlaid with a timeline to enable to improve understanding of the overall concept. Will the facility fit on the site? Can we afford to move forward in this direction? Can we use this approach to satisfy mandate X?

“BIG-BIM 4.0” helps readers understand what they can do with today’s technology to help stop the waste and inefficiency. The book includes step-by-step examples of how we can successfully use today’s tools to improve our entire built environment—buildings, bridges, roads, energy systems, water services, planes trains, automobiles or anything we build.

Each of us has a role in today’s app-focused world. We live in a world where things are becoming more connected every day, Jernigan says. In this “connectedness” lies the solution to many of the building industry’s problems. We are finding ways that each of us can rise above the confusion that comes when technologies begin to overshadow the people issues that are driving today’s transformations.

Finith Jernigan has lived and worked in Salisbury (MD) for more than 30 years and is one of the foremost experts in modern information management in the architecture, engineering, construction, ownership, and operations industry. He uses proven systems and technology in new ways to help people move toward a more sustainable and connected world. He is a visionary architect whose unique style bridges the gap between novice and expert and an expert whose creative writing style makes technical material transparent.

Finith is president of Design Atlantic Ltd, a Salisbury based architecture, management, and planning company he founded in 1996, and 4Site Press, his Indy publishing company. He has designed and managed over 400 technology-focused projects, primarily in the medical, non-profit, and educational fields, for clients including NASA, the US Army and Marine Corps, and numerous schools and healthcare organizations on the Delmarva Peninsula and nationwide.

Processes described in BIG BIM 4.0 are enabling planners to understand and control complex projects to achieve superior results in situations where time, money and people are critical to success.

Finith has long embraced community participation as an intrinsic part of his service. He has served in roles that encourage economic development, youth leadership and helping others. His volunteer duties have ranged from executive board level leadership to the recruiting and training of volunteers, fundraising, strategic planning and leading high-adventure treks at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

BIG BIM 4.0—Ecosystems for a Connected World, is available in most ebook formats and softcover from amazon.com, createspace.com, smashwords.com, and most other retailers.

Projects images, book cover, and author headshot with captions can be found at http://wp.me/P1M330-148

If you would like to schedule an interview with Finith Jernigan, please call him directly at+1.410.430.9415 or via email at finith@designatlantic.com.

Without having to write code or design electronic circuitry, this book will show you how to work with others who are transitioning from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Industrial Age tools to a world of connections between the cyber and physical realms.

The simple idea behind LOD in all its forms (Level of Detail/Levels of Detail/Levels of Data/Levels of…) is critical to providing benefit to Owners in today’s connected world. Managing the complexity of systems in the built environment, without such organizing structures is difficult at best. Yet, the controversies, arguments, water-cooler discussions, and positioning for personal gain related to the concept seem never ending.

The excerpt below from BIG BIM 4.0: Ecosystems for a Connected World, is an attempt to define the context in which LOD functions to support Owner needs in a BIG-BIM Ecosystem. Often, the simple ideas behind LOD have been ‘tweaked’ to support the needs of little-bim. These ‘tweaks’ have tended to create new silos of data, rather than fostering connected information that supports the longer term benefit to Owners and society. They enforce contractual requirements, limit thinking to narrow slices of the bigger picture, and take us on tangents to the real issue.

The real issues are simple to use, accessible, decision making information, when and where we need it. At a cost of time, money, and energy that we can afford, TODAY. That is what LOD is really about.

BIG-BIM 4.0, Chapter 5: Assets, Not Projects, pages 177-181

Level of Detail Origin Story

On the morning of January 15, 2004, on an airplane headed to Cleveland, Ohio, Kimon Onuma sketched out what was to become known as the concept of Levels of Detail (LOD). In the sketch, he referred to the idea as Data Repository Model, Level Definition.

The idea was to describe a sequential model development process implementable in a fiscally constrained environment. It involved first connecting existing information and making it computable. Step-by-step, over time, information was added in ways that required little new funding. As facilities changed, the process was captured to make the information in the model more complete. Until the model grew to become a virtual representation of the real-world condition.

1st LOD Sketch

Over time, the LOD conception has evolved to be a foundation of BIG-BIM and the basis of our ability to integrate data in ways that enable connected decision making.

Since the release of BIG-BIM little-bim in 2006, many have written about Levels of Detail, Levels of Development and similar structures for making Building Information Models. When you read their material, you understand the various positions that different organizations and systems have taken. For example:

Most focus on LOD as a prescriptive requirement. LOD is used to define what must be included in the model to conform to a contract or team working requirement. Others focus on LOD as a measure of capability. In this view, LOD divides users and companies to assess their competence, much as one might use a qualifications exam. Another segment uses LOD to describe the stage in the development of the model. This approach most closely aligns with the early vision.

There are also hybrid approaches that try better to define LOD and the inherent complexity of information models. These approaches either break out information from the virtual model or create new acronyms that, in their view, better describe the process of developing models.

None of the approaches accurately represents what is happening as the model develops. Each is a rough approximation of what is taking place with little-bim. In a BIG-BIM ecosystem, LOD has almost no value. There are near infinite levels of detail for many possible metrics and data in BIG-BIM.

Little Red Blob hierarchy

For most currently accepted LOD definitions, the Red Dot model would at best be the lowest level. Most LOD scales ignore the data, even though the data is arguably the most valuable part of the model, by far. The data could represent everything about the Red Dot model, up to and including the data for drawing a highly detailed graphic representation of the object the Dot represents.

Use LOD as you must. In some situations, you will have no choice if you wish to participate. Keep in mind that LOD is little more than a mechanism for assessing, controlling and paying for work modeled in desktop authoring tools. The real value and most of the power falls in other places.

You can create information models in steps, with little or no data loss in the transitions. By setting up a concept that defines a long-range plan for data, information models can be implemented much like one might implement a contacts database—over time. In a BIG-BIM environment, this is the preferred means of moving from zero to a resilient and fully realized enterprise model system.

BIG-BIM becomes beneficial very quickly, especially when created in an agile development environment that isn’t sequential, and it can be added to continuously as asset conditions change and new information becomes available.

You start with a container or little-red-blob on the site. You then collect and connect existing data. Then you add massing, then some spaces. You tag areas for costs, metrics, and type. This, and that are added because they are available, or it seems like the data might be beneficial. You throw everything you have into the little-red-blob that is quickly becoming a data rich information model.

Rich Data at an infinite number of LOD

From step one, the model is computable. It can compute areas, show relationships, generate pie charts and plans showing metrics. You can visualize blocking and stacking. Project costs are overlaid with a timeline to enable ta better understanding of the overall concept. Will the facility fit on the site? Can we afford to move forward in this direction? Can we use this approach to satisfy mandate X?

BIG information models progress through a nearly infinite number of Levels of Detail. Arguably, the graphic representation is one of the less important items on this scale. Models at any LOD can be (and are being) used to manage assets and portfolios in some of the largest enterprises. In a BIG-BIM environment, even the lowest LOD model can give an owner the ability to do capital asset planning, work order management, scenario planning and much more.

Why use sequential processes when we live in a rich multi-faceted world; and have the tools to work with the richness?

The sequential processes at the heart of most uses of LOD harken back to the siloed workflows that most BIM experts seek to eliminate. Is a step-by-step process that mirrors workflows where each trade builds their model the best way? Is this the best way to manage the life cycle of facilities?

LOD has little value beyond helping to describe processes that use little-bim authoring, analysis, and collaboration tools. Only when confined to the control of design and construction operations is LOD necessary. In this arena, LOD helps to control the sequence of events, the scope of work product and contract compliance. Outside of this area, LOD quickly falls by the wayside. LOD assumes a sequential process in the development of information models, as occurs in design and construction, some of the time. The reality is that things are complex and messy. Most of the effort does not happen sequentially.

Look at each task and stage of the BIM process. Understand that, contrary to many publications, Levels of Detail is little more than a coarse-grained approximation of what is taking place. There are too many LOD to count. This is where BIG-BIM comes to the rescue. Embrace the fact that models at all stages can simultaneously be maintained as live assets. BIG-BIM enables the data and models to be used when and where they are needed to get the job done. Across the lifecycle of built environment assets.

Explore the little-bim subset of BIG-BIM, and understand the complexity and nuances of how the connection economy is impacting the built environment and professionals everywhere. Get your copy of BIG BIM 4.0: Ecosystems for a Connected World at Smashwords, Createspace, Amazon, or the iTunes/iBook Store.

BIG BIM little bim in Chinese

The Chinese version was released in late April 2017, with the Chinese ISBN of 978-7-112-20477-9. Link to the book in Simplified Chinese at http://www.bookschina.com/7468845.htm

We are proud to announce that our partner in Beijing, China Architecture & Building Press have finished the translation of BIG BIM little bim v2 into Chinese. China Architecture & Building Press (CABP) is the earliest and biggest national press in the Chinese architectural industry. CABP devotes itself to the publication of academic books, teaching materials, standards and norms, architecture, and planning.

The goal of this effort is to make Finith Jernigan’s seminal book for the facilities industry accessible in the fast paced and ever growing Chinese market. Internationally recognized as a leader in BIM, Jernigan shows how to leverage resources, compete in a worldwide market, and become more efficient and productive in the planning, design, construction, and operation of assets.

The Chinese version of BIG BIG little bim explores the big changes happening every day in the world of BIG BIM with expanded coverage of the practical applications of BIM for the entire construction industry. The phenomenon of the worldwide BIMStorm is highlighted. The book gives user-friendly approaches that architects, engineers, owners, builders, facility managers, educators, and students can understand and apply today.

4Site Press publishes content that stresses built environment working practices, methodologies, and behaviors to help people leverage resources, compete in a global market, and grow more proficient and productive in the planning, design, construction, and operation of built environment assets.



On May 3 we received the wonderful news that BIG-BIM 4.0: Ecosystems for a Connected World, by Finith Jernigan and, published by 4Site Press, was named a Finalist in the Business Category of the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards (NGIBA).

Readers of BIG-BIM 4.0 learn new and exciting ways to use their strengths to thrive in the revolutionary changes emerging in the built world. Written from the perspective of BIG BIM, this book expands the concepts in Finith Jernigan’s, award-winning BIG-BIM-little-bim—The Practical Approach to Building Information Modeling to connect readers to the power and opportunities of the ecosystems that are emerging.

Filled with workflows, case studies, and anecdotes from the front lines, BIG BIM 4.0 leads readers toward understanding and using BIG BIM to create a more sustainable and resilient world. This book reveals the big picture approaches used by many large companies, institutions, and government entities, and used by smaller, agile businesses. Develop confidence using a variety of tools inside that ecosystem—in a matter of days—Not years.

BIG-BIM 4.0: Ecosystems for a Connected World is available in paperbound and most ebook formats from Createspace, Amazon, Smashwords, Apple and other resellers.

The Next Generation Indie Book Awards is the largest not-for-profit awards program for independent authors and publishers. NGIBA awards books in 60 Categories, with monetary prizes totaling more than $10,000 in cash, for the best fiction and non-fiction books worldwide. Winners and Finalists are listed in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Catalog which is distributed to thousands of book buyers, media, and others, and are listed for a full year as a Winner or Finalist at www.IndieBookAwards.com. Winners and Finalists are also invited to attend the Gala Awards Reception held at a landmark location in New York City. Books selected by NGIBA also receive a medal and may display a Finalist or Winner gold award seal to alert readers to the book’s status.


At 2 AM, November 3rd, 2004, the rules changed.

Later that day the press (after becoming exhausted from reporting the election of the new president) buried the notice below the fold on page 18 of the Daily Times. The building industry missed the event entirely.

For the next four years, travel agents, bankers, book publishers and many others complained and cried foul, yet within the decade each and every one suffered the upheavals created by the new rules. Each is now well into the change.

The building industry carries on, oblivious to change.

Behind the scenes, a few brave souls have volunteered their time and energy to the cause of building industry efficiency. With members scattered across the world, they work to create ways for the sector to adapt to the new rules. Whether the building industry likes it or not.

Over the years, the volunteers have created two visions for the solution. 

The first group (little-bim) continues the work of visionaries of 20 years ago. These experts continue the approach chosen in the days of the Information Age. They create welded together, feature-rich tools and processes designed to allow experts to create new and fantastic buildings. Most design and construction professionals have come to realize the inevitability of little-bim.

The complexities imposed by the new rules have limited what little-bim can achieve. Especially outside of design and construction. Little is said about the fact that to embrace little-bim one must also embrace the fact that little-bim will only comply with the new rules at some future date (TBD), once we have some new (as yet unknown) resources, and many more standards are in hand. Today, workarounds are still the norm.

The second group (BIG-BIM) realized that the new rules would need a much different approach. They started by analyzing how the new rules might best work, industry-wide, given the “first principles” that drive the sector. Anything could change if the modification improved conditions, now and in the future.

Their solution embraces the work of little-bim experts while enabling others to participate without experiencing the behind-the-curtain complexities. The tools and processes create new things at the intersection of many ideas.

For the building industry, BIG-BIM is the heart of life in the Connected Age.

BIG-BIM gives us the ability to respond to the needs we know while allowing the building industry to pivot to meet the needs of an unpredictable future.

BIG-BIM adds context and purpose to the data that surrounds us. To get people the information they need; when they need it; to do what needs doing. Rules link curated repositories. Semantic consistency and access controls are part of a framework of sophisticated standards that enable innovation and resilience across the built environment.

BIG-BIM is a strategic approach to the future, with immediate benefit to design, construction, maintenance, operations, recapitalization, disposal and acquisition sectors. By embracing this direction, we can be at the forefront of BIM innovation, avoiding the inevitable retooling that underlies little-bim.

American Institute of Architects Pre-Convention Conference, in Orlando. Florida.

26 April 2017: The roundup of experts includes:

And, best of all, five lucky attendees will walk away with a copy of BIG BIM 4.0: Ecosystems for a Connected World. Everyone that attends will also receive a coupon for a 40% discount on the print book from 4Site Press.





Check out Digital Built Britain’s website and the recently released Level 3 BIM Strategic Plan. It is a 2 MB download.

There are aspects of the report that give hope. Some in Great Britain are thinking beyond the long held reliance on file-centric tools and the rigidly controlled processes that underpin the current design and construction focus of BIM. The concept that, “someday everything BIM will be worked out and we will achieve BIM nirvana” has gotten old. It is not necessary to wait, and some are not waiting. It is too bad the report did not take a “get it done now” approach.

The report has some significant flaws. The document continues to focus on IFC as the base for all things BIM, without a real path to how IFC will move to the 21st century and away from the file-exchange (20th century) approach. It also seems to continue the focus on high-complexity 3D graphic representation as the center of BIM.

The document does not offer a direction that will end the siloed processes that now exist. Most of today’s BIM processes seem to add new silos. We are replacing old silos with new, more efficient silos. Rather than eliminating them all together.

None of this is new.

There are islands of hope in the document. It takes an asset focus, rather than merely talking projects. It mentions the need for tools that anyone can use, rather than relying on experts for everything BIM. It seems to recognize the possibility that other open-standards are required if BIM is to move to cradle-to-cradle live data. It acknowledges that systems may already exist that have moved beyond the current approach.

Some of the material appears to be a direct parrot of the things Kimon Onuma has been presenting and doing for years. Unfortunately, most of the document continues the current trajectory, although this likely is more to do with politics than with capability.

There are people and organizations that are already fairly far down this curve in the evolution of BIM. Perhaps the authors should explore some of the things that are being implemented in this space already.

If anyone wishes to understand what is happening, here are links to a couple of videos that will get them started:


(4:27 minutes. This video addresses the interconnection of GIS/BIM/FM.  Video by Kimon Onuma. Good overview of the logic and issues associated with creating BIG BIM ecosystems. Note: at about 3 minutes Kimon addresses the need for enabling files-based exchanges until many current BIM tools catch up).


(23:36 minute. If you watch only one, this is it. This video describes what is happening in the world of life-cycle asset management in the built environment today. Mind the Gap by Kimon Onuma.)

Ten years of actual projects for major clients supports this approach. Is anyone else doing BIM that keeps owner data live for 1000’s of buildings at the same time, for large, multi-facility clients?

Many miss is that there are other ways to do the entire BIM thing that focus on assets and data, today. It is possible to leverage everything that has developed to date and to achieve the promise of BIM, right now. The industry does not have to stop at design and construction. It does, however, have to make real changes.

In the 1980s/90s, some started to wrestle with the same issues that many are just now beginning to see. Some of them are already doing a larger process. The tools and methods they use have gone thru multiple proofs-of-concept and are in productive use, today. Design and construction BIM using file-analogs is only a small part of the equation.

Makers of the Environment was written to show how people in a small, depressed rural county can pull together to take advantage of the opportunities to become world leaders in the management of information to change our world. With systems and processes such as Makers describes, we for the first time in history can define and manage real-world assets. The book’s central design future forms the backbone for three scenarios showing how to use information to improve the world. The design futures include rich information, show how to take advantage of existing tools, and allow just-in-time decision making, but they are not yet fully realized. The individuals in these scenarios are archetypes of the people that manage similar issues today.

The following is excerpted from Makers of the Environment (ISBN 0979569966, https://www.createspace.com/3503060).


In the building industry, contractors are faced with a catch-22. They face an expectation that they need to use information models. This expectation has made modeling a requirement for most large projects. In some markets, the modeling requirement has made a limited set of modeling processes a commodity service that is delivered at wildly varying levels of quality. In an effort to protect their self-interests, some constructors agree to these requirements, having no real idea of how to deliver on their promise. Next, they face increasing demands to move data into the facilities operation and management system via such tools as COBie. This creates a confusing and complex interface that needs industry action. Currently, commissioning requirements, legacy facilities management tools, and highly stovepiped resource management systems all contribute to a confusing situation that must be resolved to achieve the long-term benefits from information models. False expectations, poor compliance, and outright fraud are the result.

Elle recognized the impact of technology on a fragmented industry. For some reason, the industry as a whole did not seem to believe that the remedy would not come from technology alone, it was a business and people issue. The issue was about the way that people work and how to get things done. Elle knew that at Cork Point they must understand the big picture and become nimble enough to respond to change. Technology might be a key to curing the fragmentation, but other things were much more serious.

One critical decision facing Elle was the structure of the delivery team. The virtual enterprise network gave her many options. Since the system was designed for collaboration and integrated working practices, many of the traditional reasons for selecting one methodology over another might not apply. Whatever method was chosen, the network would work collaboratively with Cork Point to create pain share/gain share relationships. Elle’s board of directors was adamant that contracting relationships be resolved prior to proceeding. They also required that agreements be clearly understandable and enforceable. They expected that Elle and her team would be able to put the process in context and justify the costs, benefits, and work efforts. Multiple options were under scrutiny because of this requirement.

With the right value system in a perfect world, any delivery method could deliver superb outcomes: outcomes where all share equally in the risks and rewards; outcomes where the constructor is paid for the work completed, with a reasonable profit; outcomes where the owner pays fairly for what was delivered, nothing more and nothing less. This is the way that most of us would like to think that design and construction works. Unfortunately, it is rarely so.

Delivery methods, such as design-bid-build, design-build, construction management at risk, agency construction management, and integrated project delivery, are someone’s idea of how to most closely achieve a perfect project. The sad truth is that none of them actually achieves these goals. Some come closer than others. Some may have worked once upon a time, and are no longer effective. It is not too hard to understand the basic differences between these options. The subtleties and complexities are more difficult.

Each option would be molded to involve collaborative work processes. Because of the necessity to build upon traditional delivery methods, each of the options would achieve this goal a bit differently. Some were, at their core, not collaborative at all. Some were relatively easy to convert. Each of the options required Cork Point management and control at a different level. Each imposed a slightly different cost structure. Each required a separate investment from Cork Point in time and money. Each option had been used widely for many years. As Elle evaluated her options, she knew that the process needed to foster collaboration, transparency, and shared information. Each must be understood in that context.

The first option involved Cork Point assigning full responsibility for project delivery to a developer. In this option, Cork Point would monitor the developer’s progress and participate throughout. The developer would be responsible for all activities required to provide a complete project. The developer would hire a general contractor. At project completion, Cork Point would retain the option of operating and managing the facility themselves or retaining the developer and leasing the project. This was Cork Point’s most expensive total cost option, adding about fifteen percent over the lowest-cost option. The fees and markups for the developer accounted for much of the added cost. Cork Point staff involvement and personnel cost were low, at about 3 percent, in this option.

Design-bid-build was perhaps the most traditional option. It allocated liability between Cork Point, the architect, and the general contractor. This option was arguably the most difficult to restructure to be collaborative and integrated. Case law and established standards of care were clear in this option. Unfortunately, adding technology to design-bid-build has been shown to result in conflict and people working at cross-purposes. The effort required to overcome these issues is significant. Some find this to be counter-intuitive, believing that design-bid-build offers the only way to be sure of the lowest possible price. This belief has been shown repeatedly to be false.

Design-bid-build has long held favor in the government world and for public bidding. It would seem as though this is the best way to assure everyone that you are getting the best price for your project. For many years, the truth has been much different. This method has produced more sub-par quality work, more lawsuits, and lower productivity than any of the other options. In this day and age, design-bid-build is almost a promise of unplanned change orders and litigation. In fact, many agencies budget believing that litigation is coming from day one. This option added about 4 percent over the lowest-cost option. Cork Point’s direct costs were a total of about 29 percent in this option.

Next was design-build. This option placed responsibility for all design and construction operations on the design-builder. Cork Point would bear the cost of fees, financing, legal, and accounting. Design-build has become increasingly popular over the last thirty years. This method can deliver on its promise of a single-point responsibility. In many situations, this single-point responsibility has led to compromised design solutions and shoddy workmanship. These issues are generally local. Local contractors, styling themselves as design-builders, offer prices too low, based on imperfect design documentation. They then drive quality to the bottom to deliver.

Recently, processes where the owner retains designers to create documents that become the standard of the design builder’s performance, have become more prevalent. This approach has been proven to overcome many of the quality issues. As a hybrid approach where the designer would develop information models for design-builder use, this method could achieve many of the benefits that Cork Point sought. Outcomes would depend on good intentions and ethical behavior. Substantial opportunities would still exist for participants to create benefits for themselves while harming others, without anyone actually knowing what occurred. This option added about 5 percent over the lowest-cost option. Cork Point direct costs were approximately 16 percent of the total cost.

Construction management at risk was the fourth option. This option could also be called developer-entity construction management since responsibility for the entire project is similar to the first option. The key difference is that usually, a large general contracting firm would act as the developer in this option, eliminating one layer of organization and associated costs. Construction management at risk is favored by many for large projects. In this method, the construction manager has control, much as in the design-build method. The construction manager supports the owner while retaining responsibility for delivering the design support and construction. Cork Point would contract with a single entity and a single surety bond could be provided.

After experiencing the construction management at risk choice in other hospitals, Elle realized that a surety bond or any other warranty did not add integrated delivery benefits. In her experience, construction management at risk retained many of the fundamental flaws associated with the traditional design-bid-build approach to the process. The construction manager usually did not hold contracts with the architect and engineers, who worked in an advisory role to the owner. Usually, the construction manager was required to bid the trades and then consult with the owner and award trade construction packages. Once past this point, the construction manager at risk assumed full construction liability.

On the surface, the construction manager at risk offers an improved model of a single point of responsibility. The reality can be quite different. As the design progresses and construction starts, the construction manager at risk is no longer required to share financial details. Suddenly, detailed negotiations with trade contractors, the actual value to the owner of change orders, and the cost of project support staff become an issue. Even with a guaranteed maximum price, the owner is often harmed. Savings that should accrue to the owner too often accrue to the construction manager at risk. The construction manager at risk, in strict compliance with the contract, has too many opportunities to enhance project outcomes to his or her company’s benefit. This option added approximately 1 percent over the lowest-cost option. Since costs flowed through a developer entity, Cork Point management costs were minimized.

Integrated project delivery is seen to be the way to correct these issues. Integrated project delivery offers incredible possibilities. Much energy has been spent to determine how integrated project delivery works and how relationships should be structured. Collaboration, information sharing, openness, and transparency are essential to the process. Sharing risk and reward is a worthy goal. The problem with integrated project delivery is that, in most cases, it departs from procurement standards. Many find abandoning the traditional checks and balances between the owner, designer, and constructor to be difficult. A small number of owners have been willing to take the risk, yet lack of legal precedents and a significant early-stage investment in time and money to negotiate collaborative agreements continues to make integrated project delivery a goal that is rarely reached.

Agency construction management was the last and arguably the lowest-cost option under consideration. Cork Point would become the contracting entity between all parties, assisted by the construction manager. The agency construction manager would not hold any contracts. All contracts would be direct with the owner. This would require that the owner be a direct party to many more agreements than in most of the other methods. Contracts and surety bonds would be managed by the agency construction manager in the owner’s interest. Since the agency construction manager was not the contracted entity, he or she would include the requirement for surety bonds to come from the project’s trade contractors. The construction manager would manage costs in Cork Point’s interest to ensure that payments to contractors occurred at a pace that minimized the risk of default. Since costs would be managed by the construction manager, Cork Point’s additional management costs would be minimal.

Agency construction managers work as an extension of an owner’s staff. They are the owner’s agent. In this role, the successful construction manager becomes the advocate for the owner’s needs. Since the agency construction manager does not hold any contracts, the ability to create windfall profit opportunities is limited. In their role as the owner’s agent, the construction manager has little reason to keep information close. Short of integrated project delivery, agency construction management offers the most transparent and collaborative strategy for project delivery. The contractual underpinnings of this method lead to an open and free exchange between all parties. With a construction manager acting as a trusted advisor to the owner and a design team contractually obligated to share and collaborate, agency construction management offers a significant step toward integrated project delivery. Combining information modeling, model servers, and proven agency construction management techniques create a system that balances traditional delivery with state-of-the-art technology to do better work.