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By Jori Smith, CSI, CDT, LEED AP, Southwest Region President

Once upon a time, on a site out in the middle of nowhere … there rose from the desert floor a new college classroom building.  The architects were confident, the owner hopeful, and the contractor diligent.  It was the architect’s first project incorporating BIM - but not all of the consulting team was participating in the model. 

 An interesting thing happened during the submittals process – the structural engineer discovered a 24” mistake for the joist bearing height in the structural design.  He corrected it in the steel shops (submitted as hard copy drawings), marked them Approved as Noted, then dutifully returned them to the contractor through the architect.  The model was never modified or reissued.  The contractor, unaware of any design modifications, was installing fabricated ductwork before it was discovered that there was 24” less height available above the ceiling than expected.  The ductwork re-fabrication cost $40K, and three weeks of lost schedule.

What went wrong?  Was your first instinct to blame the contractor for not recognizing the correction’s implications and alerting the rest of the building team?  Did you identify the owner’s failure to insist on a BIM process that is carried throughout the entire design and construction process, instead of implemented in a piecemeal fashion?  Or, was it the structural engineer’s fault that an ASI was not issued, formally modifying the construction documents with the correction to the bearing height?  The reality is that all of these things went wrong, and represent learning opportunities for every member of the building team.   I make sure to share this story with others when an appropriate opportunity presents itself.  It can be humbling to share our mistakes – but it’s worthwhile when it helps our industry improve.  I’m sure that you have your own stories as well, possibly some considerably more painful.

CSI is not just another professional association.  We combine all the different members of a project team into a single, highly diverse organization.  CSI made a deliberate choice to recognize ALL of our members as building professionals – and to recognize the critical roles we all play.  CSI puts all of us into the same room.  Are you taking advantage of the opportunity to communicate to your fellow members all the lessons that you’ve learned the “hard way”?

Certification programs, continuing education programs and technical seminars, webinars, a technical journal –these are just some of the ways that CSI members teach and learn from each other.  Communicating directly with one another as respected peers is another way – and possibly just as critical.  Participate in whichever way you are able, speak up - Join the Conversation - and help make a difference in our industry.