The "Gap" Between Design and Build

Recently, we spoke in depth with an architect about BIM, constructability analysis and preconstruction modeling. It was a frank conversation about both the promise of this new workflow and the challenges of adopting it. This is the first in a series of articles exploring that conversation.


In the agreement between a client and their architect, the architect warrants that their work will meet a level known as “Standard of Care”. This is defined to mean that the architect will exercise the same care and diligence in performing its duties as other architects engaged in similar work would.

Errors and omissions are to be expected and viewed as honest mistakes; perfection is not the standard or expectation. Often, those plans contain a number of errors and omissions, some significant. This is because it’s simply not possible for the architect or engineers to foresee every possible detail that will be needed or conflicts that will be encountered between the design, structure, systems and assemblies. This is beyond the typical scope of work of the design consultants as well as their level of expertise.

When the design team has completed the plans, and the owner signed with a builder for the project, the owner is providing an implied warranty to the builder that the plans and specifications are adequate for the construction of the project. According to a ruling by the US Supreme Court “…the contractor will not be responsible for the consequences of defects in the plans and specifications.” (United States vs. Spearin)

Between the imperfect plans of the architect and the legitimate expectation the contractor has that he or she can build the project from them is a gap that the owner is obligated to cover. Which means that the owner is responsible to pick up the additional cost, and compensate the builder, for plan errors and omissions that get built into the project, requiring rework to correct.

Add in the work of the other design consultants (structural, civil and MEPS engineers) and the customary practice of the owner having separate agreements with each of these (to mitigate the architect’s exposure), and the owner is on the hook for significant additional costs beyond the agreed budget.

This “gap” between the information within the design documents and the responsibilities of the builder is usually not well understood by the owner.

And the contractor’s typical 5% contingency is often inadequate to cover these unforeseen costs.

When one considers that rework adds 10% (or more) to the cost and 20% time to the schedule of a “typical” construction project, the added expense to the client to get their home built can be substantial.

Pre-construction analysis and modeling is the way to mitigate these additional costs. By constructing the project in a 3D model, following the plans and specifications, those issues that would be so costly to correct in construction reveal themselves in the model, where they’re a lot easier to investigate and correct. This allows the field crews to build the project correctly in the field the first time.

Protect your clients, and yourselves, from potentially costly mistakes and rework. Contact us to get started incorporating this powerful workflow into your design or build process.