Architectural project delivery goes back to the future

H. Maynard Blumer, FAIA, FCSI
An active CSI member since 1962, I spent years authoring articles in my local chapter’s newsletter, based on what I had learned while writing specifications and managing an architectural studio—sharing knowledge with my peers in the old-fashioned spirit of the Construction Specifications Institute. Now, a few decades later, I’m ‘coming out of retirement’ to write one more article after I sat in on a presentation at a chapter meeting given by a contractor about building information modeling (BIM).

This is because it became clear how BIM could help answer many problems I had worked to solve over my 50-year career. The technology improves architecture and construction, increases value, and reduces costs.

By incorporating BIM into a system of project delivery documents, architects will return to being the designer, the specifiers, and the arbiters of tradition, rather than computer operators. Shades and shadows will return to design; there will be watercolor, charcoal, and pencils. Contractors armed with BIM will work with their subcontractors. Graphic portions of shop drawing submittals will replace architect-generated detailed construction drawings. Materials suppliers with manufacturers and subcontractors will employ detail designer-draftspersons who will move their employment closer to real construction—perfecting details, eliminating duplication, and reducing construction costs.

Architectural services will provide the starting place with design concepts, complete specifications, and pilot details, constituting the control documents. Contractor-provided BIM documents will replace shop drawings and will be monitored by architects for concept and specifications compliance. Change orders will keep documents in contractual order while incorporating supplier and subcontractor suggested economies. We will be back to the traditional architectural project delivery. Design will have been snatched from the computer and returned to the architect.

By attaching American Institute of Architects (AIA) A201, General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, to appropriate agreements, insurance attorneys and bondspersons know who is covered and who is responsible in accordance with construction case law, as it has been for these years. Ethics and intellectual property will be not be confused. Supplementary Conditions can be provided to cover who does what, as needed, to any project delivery system.

More than a quarter-century ago, I wrote two pieces for The Construction Specifier—September 1989’s “Brand Name Specification” and April 1986’s “Prior Approval” (for materials substitutions). I believe those concepts, along with BIM and AIA A201, provide the keystone for ethical and competitive construction documents that deliver value-added projects when incorporated within any architectural project delivery system.

Maynard Blumer, FAIA, FCSI, is a retired architect and landscape architect living in Paradise Valley, Arizona. He received his bachelor of architecture from Oklahoma State University (then Oklahoma A & M College) in 1953. Blumer directed the production studios of GSAS Architects for 20 years, and practiced as a consulting architect for 27 years in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached at

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *