AIA releases revised set of digital practice documents

On July 20, the AIA Contract Documents program released new documents in its series of Digital Practice Documents (or BIM documents). The first significant revisions since the 2013 edition include simplified documents and forms, as well as recognition that as the industry increasingly uses project-specific BIM execution plans, it would benefit from the creation of a BIM Execution Plan template.

In developing the new documents, the committee reached out to various stakeholders (including Victor as a professional liability counsel to the group) to assist in drafting a set of documents and forms that would better serve the entire design and construction industry. One issue that has held back BIM model sharing to this point is concern with the risks of using the models as communication tools and, as sometimes requested by contractors, contract documents on which the contractor can rely in the construction of the project. The new BIM documents carefully addresses this concern and related risks. According to the AIA Digital Documents Guide:

The edits embedded within the 2022 documents account for this risk by attempting to engage all participants in a discussion related to model sharing, reliance, and use early in a project’s lifespan, so that all project participants have clarity and understanding as to how their models will be shared, relied upon, and used by all other project participants.

The new documents address a significant change to BIM methodology where owners agree with contractors to enumerate some portion of a design model as a contract document in their prime construction agreement. This change creates a special form of reliance on the information and positions the contractor to use the model information to meet the requirements of its contract for construction. The change also adds model elements to the information that the project owner warrants as adequate for the construction of the project; this warranty should trigger the Spearin Doctrine protection for the contractor, allowing them to claim additional time or money if the model elements are inadequate for their intended purpose. A special sharing document addresses this situation since the design team needs to know about the decision to make the model elements part of the contract documents early in the process so that modeling efforts can be adjusted accordingly.

The new BIM documents follow a performance sequence, with the first step being the selection of a BIM Exhibit (there are four possibilities) followed by a choice of a BIM Execution Plan. Next, the firm will choose a Model Element Table, which could be one of the AIA documents or a custom version.

In future blog posts, we will discuss the documents in detail and provide guidance on the concerns design firms have, or should have, when an agreement characterizes a portion of a BIM model as a contract document. In the meantime, design firms can download the free Digital Practice Documents Guide produced by the AIA Contract Documents program.

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