Technological advances are driving significant changes in the design and construction industry. In the last six months, Lynn R. Axelroth, a construction lawyer at Ballard Spahr, has been asked to participate in more than half a dozen programs evaluating steps taken by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and other trade associations to foster the incorporation of numerous proposed advances.

Ms. Axelroth, a partner in Ballard's Real Estate Department, has extensive experience with the contract documents published by AIA, which for decades have been the industry's most widely-accepted contract agreements in the market. While the AIA has tried to maintain a leadership role by creating new documents marketed as enhancing project collaboration among owners, designers, and builders by utilizing software called building information modeling, a new set of contract agreements also touting multi-party contributions is being promoted heavily by Consensus DOCS, an organization that arose from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Each of these groups claims to eliminate the industry's part practice of inefficient delivery of services, marred by controversy among the various stakeholders.  And while both entities have made some improvements, project participants must remain wary and revise the agreements to reflect appropriate risk allocation and project outcomes.

The AIA began by publishing a guide on a new delivery system called Integrated Project Delivery, which called for using software to increase the efficiency of a project's design, construction and overall operations. Six months ago, the AIA released the first of its new contract documents based on the guide and has been adding agreements to this new family of documents since that time. The new contract documents and the integration of technical and virtual models to the design, testing and maintaining industry raise myriad legal issues for those confronted with these documents. Everything from insurance coverages to determination of who owns and is responsible for the designs must be reevaluated on every project.

In the most recent program, Ms. Axelroth compared the documents created by the AIA, Consensus DOCS and the Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committe (EJCDC) in a day-long seminar sponsored by the American Bar Association's (ABA) Forum on the Construction Industry, titled "THE Construction Contracts Program: Understanding and Negotiating the Clauses in the New Industry Form Document."

Among her other programs, in July, 2008, she moderated and spoke at the ABA's Teleconference and Live Audio Webcast "The Newest AIA Family of Documents: Will Integrated Project Delivery Make Conflict Obsolete?", posing questions to and eliciting comments from the primary outside lawyer involved with the drafting of those particular documents. Other engagements included the "The New A201 Document - What It Means to You," presented to the Professional Women in Construction Capital Region Chapter and "Highlights and Headlines of the General Conditions of the Contract for Construction" at the 19th Annual Spring Symposia of the Real Property Section of the ABA and a "Guide to the Hot Button Changes," live audio teleconference of the ABA Forum on the Construction Industry. Each of these programs covered the significant changes recently made to the most widely used form agreement in the construction industry, which had not been revised for more than a decade. She also was featured in a live telephone/audio webinar titled "Construction Defects in a Time of Financial Crisis," sponsored by the American Law Institute/ABA.

About Ms. Axelroth

Ms. Axelroth represents corporate, institutional, developer, individual and public owners, public/private joint ventures, lenders, prime and trade contractors, and design professionals in all aspects of complex commercial real estate development, the creation and negotiation of cutting-edge design, development and construction agreements, financing, workouts, and alternative dispute resolution. She is the former chair of Ballard's Construction Practice Group and former managing partner of the firm's Philadelphia office. She also was the founder and first chair of the owners' and lenders' division of the ABA's Forum on the Construction Industry.

Ms. Axelroth is an elected fellow of both the American College of Real Estate Lawyers and the American College of Construction Lawyers (ACCL) and serves on ACCL's board of governors, as well as its Contract Documents Committee and Task Force on Building Information Modeling (BIM). She speaks frequently at industry and professional events about, among other subjects, public/private projects, the workout of troubled condominiums, and construction matters ranging from contract drafting to the newest developments in the field, such as the benefits and burdens of BIM and the newly developed, so-called collaborative methods of project delivery. She has had numerous articles published on these and other topics and also has authored chapters on owners' and lenders' considerations in construction transactions for C-level business professionals in Legal Strategies for the Construction Industry (Inside the Minds), published by Aspatore Books, as well as in Fundamentals in Construction Law, published by the ABA Forum on the Construction Industry. Among other public service endeavors, Ms. Axelroth serves on the board of the Independence Visitor Center Corporation (and is its immediate past chair) and serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Overseers of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts of the University of Pennsylvania.

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