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The Construction Contract Administration Knowledge Community (CCA) has been established to help our members better understand the issues, actions and resultant impact of the decisions required in this often neglected part of Project Delivery. It is our goal to provide clear answers to issues of concern to the Institute’s membership and share case studies and best practices. We further hope to provide guidance and direction in developing guidelines for new and evolving approaches to Project Delivery as well as guidance in the continuing education of our emerging young professionals.

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Digital Files for Contractor Use

  • 1.  Digital Files for Contractor Use

    Posted 01-22-2018 04:41 PM
    I'm wondering if the AIA has any sort of official position on a CCA issue, and I thought this may be the place to start asking:
    Is there a position on the increasing trend of Contractors assuming that they have a right to obtain the Design Team's digital files of Contract Documents, for the purposes of submittal generation?  
    On one hand, I understand that the construction process is moving towards BIM and the collaborative opportunities that such a thing affords.  In that environment, the Contractor is encouraged to use the BIM model (as generated by the design team) for construction purposes, including layout, detailing and shop drawing generation.  
    On the other hand, this feels like a de-valuing of our work as design professionals.  I've encountered Contractors who assume that the hundreds of sheets (and thousands of hours taken to create them) should be given away at no charge, so that the Subcontractor(s) can swap out a title block and have instant-shop drawings with minimal effort on their part.  All the while, the Contractor is charging the Owner for "Submittals" as listed on the Schedule Of Values.
    My biggest concern is that this practice can easily short-circuit the intent of shop drawings - to have the builder provide a detailed and accurate document that represents actual field conditions and coordination with all related construction trades.  If a Contractor submits back to me the digital file that I provided, why would I need to review the drawing that I drew in the first place?  Instead, I've always thought/been taught that the shop drawing process is to promote coordination among the trades, and to take the Contract Documents that represent the goal and intention of the design, and translate them into a representation of what can and will be built to realize the design.
    I've yet to find an official position on this from the AIA or other represenation of the profession.  What are the legal issues of this practice (my firm has the standard release-of-liability statement, but is that sufficient?), or the extents to which this should be done or not done?  For example, I'm fine with providing floor plans that have been stripped of notes, dimensions, etc, and allowing the Contractor to fill in the blanks.  But should specific details be provided?  Where is the line of "intellectual property" in this discussion?  How much responsibility is the design-team assuming, and how much responsibility is the Contractor trying to dodge?
    Anyway, lots of questions and curioisity about how the "industry at large" is addressing this issue.

    David Bell, AIA
    PJHM Architects, Inc.
    Laguna Hills CA
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  • 2.  RE: Digital Files for Contractor Use

    Posted 01-23-2018 05:54 PM
    Have you looked as the Digital Document Transfer forms?
    As to the level of detail you provide I suggest consultation with both your Carrier & Counsel. This is an evolving area.
    It is ok a pioneer do long as t he wagon train has appropriate escort.
    I know that sounds hokey but it is the best analogy I could think of. Ok to travel a new road but just not alone. 
    Hope this helps

    Sent from my Samsung Office Smartphone 
    Burton Roslyn, FAIA, FARA, DBIA-Architect 
    Roslyn Consultants, LLC 
    (O): (516) 484-4771
    (M): (917) 642-7287

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  • 3.  RE: Digital Files for Contractor Use

    Posted 01-23-2018 06:07 PM
    This has been an issue for as long as we've been able to copy drawings. I remember contractors making sepia reproducibles of our drawings back in the late 80's when I was starting out, applying their titleblocks and other information, and submitting them back as shop drawings. Printing out our digital files is no different from that - and isn't a shop drawing now any more than it was then.

    Just as you say, a shop drawing should show exactly what is being provided - and that it has been coordinated with field conditions and other trades. I'll give them the base model, but not my sheet files and they'll have to create their documents from it just as I did.

    Thomas Bank AIA
    Principal Architect
    Simply Stated Architecture, P.C.
    Lemoyne PA

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  • 4.  RE: Digital Files for Contractor Use

    Posted 01-23-2018 09:20 PM


    I would say that a good place to start is in your Division 01 text.

    Paragraph 3.12 of A201 says that shop drawings are prepared by Contractor, sub-contractor or suppliers.  You could simply direct them to what they bid on, the literal preparing of those from scratch.  Later on, as I recall, MasterSpec's text says that contract drawings are not to be just drawn on top of (I think that dates back to an earlier time, when shop drawings were drawn by hand, but since bid documents are commonly distributed as pdfs these days, it is pretty easy to re-purpose them, especially if the pdf was created with independently manipulatable layers).

    Some owners - even 15 years ago - expected us to give away the files.  Now, contractors will tell the Owner "everyone else does, please twist your architect's arm a bit for me".

    in the Div. 01 section dealing with submittals, I'd suggest laying out the process.  Tell them what you will give them: plans only? bare graphics only? Tell them who you will give it to (I'd suggest just one copy to the General Contractor of each file you're willing to part with - let them spend the time passing them along to subcontractors).  Require that GC to sign off on a release form and to indemnify you for whatever their subcontractors/suppliers might do with the file, and state that you have no control over how they might use, copy, alter, etc. the material.  And, unless the Owner-Architect Agreement includes the additional service of making copies / translations of those files as something you're getting compensated for, estimate how much time you will spend per file requested, and get the payment up-front.  Might even want to arrange for that to be paid/credited to Owner, and Owner to pay you, to get a longer arm's length separation from the Contractors' use of the files.

    In the old days the contractors had to account for the cost somewhere.  Now, if they want prints, they have to buy their own (when bid docs are distributed as pdfs).  Not too unreasonable that they should at least cover your costs to make something for them special.

    I would draw the line at giving them details - although, if your details are sound, it could help in the "why can't you build what we drew, since you copied it in the submittal to show me that's what you are going to do" discussion.

    Joel Niemi AIA
    Joel Niemi Architect
    Snohomish, WA

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  • 5.  RE: Digital Files for Contractor Use

    Posted 01-24-2018 12:13 AM

    I have being working extensively in the construction industry and i understand what David is talking about.
    Well i do not know AIA stand in this but with the ever evolving designs and complex buildings, going digital in the construction stage is the only way forward. One thing i understand about construction is that it's all about cost saving and the contractor will find all possible means to save cost including asking the designer for the digital file if required. Contractor knows that setting up a BIM team or outsourcing to a BIM company to develop the model from scratch to the required LOD is costly.

    My stand on this is contractors should generate the required model from scratch using the IFC and specifications for the sake of coordinating all trades and proper understanding of the overall design intent. This method might be costly but on a long run prove effective if the model is developed to the required Dimension.

    Oseremen Anika Assoc. AIA
    Pivot Engineering + Contracting Company WLL

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  • 6.  RE: Digital Files for Contractor Use

    Posted 03-06-2019 11:37 AM
    Wow, what an interesting topic. I really do not see anything wrong with a sub-contractor generating a submittal from Architect's electronic files. the purpose of construction documentation is to obtain a final product: a building or improvement thereof. and the use of the documents is restricted to the single building for which the services were hired.
    The role of the Architect and consultants is to review said submittals for compliance with the design intent. if they originate from the Architect's drawings, how can the intent be wrong? and if the Contractor charges the Owner in the SOV, then the Architect in his CA role has quasi-judicial saying in this.
    Alternatvely, the Architect and related consultants should have first right of refusal to execute submittals, at or below the price set by the contractor in his SOV.
    But as it turns out, Architects, lack the patience, and many times the technical know-how to perform such subsidiary drawings, and many times do not even provide CA in their services, nor charge for submittal review. which is regrettable and further undermines our profession.

    Ivan Contreras, LEED AP, AIA
    Qualifier | Director
    Miami FL

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  • 7.  RE: Digital Files for Contractor Use

    Posted 01-31-2020 08:05 PM
    The architect can control this through is power to accept or reject shop drawings/submittals. I would provide the base model in AutoCad, for example, but require that the shop drawings be generated by the supplier is much greater detail than my digital model contains. I did this back in the pre-cad days, when a supplier would copy my drawings onto a tracing and submit them. I would reject them, pointing out that heshe did not provide the details of what heshe was proposing to provide. That usually resulted in a sit-down, face-to-face, and I would tell the supplier's designer exactly what I expected. I would then send a letter (this was pre-email) documenting what I had told himher, with a copy to the Owner. Problem solved.

    William Wheatley AIA
    Wheatley Us Limited
    Bala Cynwyd PA

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  • 8.  RE: Digital Files for Contractor Use

    Posted 02-03-2020 05:41 PM
    ​You can alter this in your specifications.  The language in Masterspec  states this:  "Do not base Shop Drawings on reproductions of the Contract Documents or standard printed data unless submittal based on Architect's digital data drawing files is otherwise permitted.  (Masterspec section 013300 1.7 Submittal Requirements, Art. C "Shop Drawings".  )   My office is even more explicit in saying this:  "The Architect/Engineer's digital data drawings convey design intents and are not considered construction drawings. (text left out here)  .. Submission of the A/E's digital data drawing files in lieu of shop drawings is strictly forbidden."  In short, shop drawings are supposed to reflect the actual details and assemblies that are being used on the project, not a diagrammatic representation of them.  We would typically specify around a basis of design, allowing several other equivalent manufacturers on the project; there is no guarantee that the contractor has selected the system that we used as the basis of design, and therefore our drawings may not be an accurate representation of the construction.

    Anne Whitacre, Principal; FCSI, Associate AIA,
    San Francisco CA

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  • 9.  RE: Digital Files for Contractor Use

    Posted 03-22-2018 02:26 PM
    ​While I understand the point of the contractor developing their own BIM model for construction, the lead time to develop pone, and cost of redoing the model that the design professionals have  undertaken becomes a burden on the owners.  Developing a new BIM model based on the POR's drawings then can infringe on the copy rights of the designers - who is then responsible for design errors and omissions.

    Hassan Nagendra AIA
    CSI New Orleans
    New Orleans LA

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