The news coming out of Greenbuild includes the announcement of a partnership between Autodesk and USGBC. This is excellent news for smaller projects interested in applying for LEED certification, but at the same time will present liability issues for design teams, particularly with respect to Building Information Modeling (“BIM”).
Autodesk and the Green Building Council report that they plan several joint indicatives to encourage sustainable design, including development of an educational curriculum for architecture and engineering students. The two will also investigate ways to integrate Autodesk technology with the council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. Other potential areas for collaboration include consulting, joint development of new technology initiatives and industry education.
“We hope the relationship between Autodesk and USGBC will help democratize sustainable design by creating an industry-standard technology platform for green building,” said USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi. “We believe this collaboration will enhance our ability to further the Green Building agenda and pave the way for a cleaner and healthier future with more environmentally responsible buildings.”
What caught my attention in the Autodesk press release were the following statistics. Over the next five years:
- 43% of surveyed architects expect to predict and evaluate solar heating, up from 12% who do so today;
- 47% expect to evaluate solar lighting, up from 17% today;
- 45% expect to explore alternative building materials to maximize energy performance and minimize environment impact, up from 22% today.
- 53% expect to conduct energy modeling and baseline analysis, up from 25% today.
BIM, of course, promises design professionals the ability to perform these types of analyses both more efficiently and cost-effectively. USGBC’s willingness to embrace the technology offered by a company like Autodesk will prove to be a long-term boon to design professionals. However, there is risk associated with BIM that designers must remain aware of as the technology begins to enter the mainstream.
First, the potential exists for design professionals to be held to a higher standard of care than at present (which is defined as the skill and competence exhibited by a typically skilled member of the profession within the design professional’s community). This is because BIM provides the design professional with the ability to access all of a project’s information at an unprecedented level of detail. Second, because BIM assembles all of project documentation into one database from which various models of the building and its systems are created, the potential exists for disputes over ownership of drawing copyrights. Third, and most importantly, this is mere speculation- nobody is really sure what BIM will mean with respect to these issues. Design professionals must thus take steps to adequately protect their interests by negotiating favorable contract language up front, before a project employing BIM proceeds and enters entirely uncharted legal waters.
USGBC has taken positive steps at this Greenbuild by recognizing the specter of BIM on the industry’s horizon, but design professionals should not think that the new technologies entering the market are doing so with no strings attached.