Every now and then I get asked, "So Steve, how long before we just deliver a model for construction instead of drawings and specifications?" Since my nickname is Nostradamus, NOT...I smile and reply, "Next week...next year...next decade?" It usually turns into a nice discussion, all off topic from training, and eventually we have to get back to work!
Just the other day I was speaking with a few students and one of them is working on a project that is under construction and it started out in Revit. Typical construction practice, drawings and specification are the contract documents and the model is available for reference/information. So in this wild future where someday we will use the model more than relying on drawings...turns out this wild wacky future is the past, as in it has already happened sort of.
The subs have apparently been using the model more than intended and ignored the documents, where they shouldn't have, and that's created some trouble. Turns out that walls in the model don't all represent the actual construction conditions, meaning they don't all go to the underside of the deck above etc. The model is sufficient to provide complete documents. The documents very clearly define each wall type and provide the requisite detail to know how to install and finish each wall. Trouble is they didn't pay all that much attention to the documents. They liked seeing the model and those walls aren't the same as the docs. Uh oh!
So the sub-contractors preferred to see the intentions in the model, rather than by studious review of each and every relevant document. My reaction? No kidding! I would too! Why wouldn't they? The contract says they were supposed to but they didn't. When I heard all this I couldn't help but think about every time I read or heard comments about custom arrowheads, where leaders start on multi-line text, the appearance of section and elevation heads, hand-lettered fonts, title block styles, the good-old-days when drawings were art, elevation depth planes, dimension styles and others.
Drawing and documents are a means-to-an-end but they are also a language and not everyone is comfortable with this arcane and, a bit, stuffy language. A model is more democratic because you see it, I see, they see it and practically anyone (who has walked around or inside a building) understands what they see much much faster.
I've been thinking and saying, respectfully, to people for a long time now, "Does any of those things matter when drawings don't matter?" I get laughed at or sometimes seriously angry attitude in response. If the model matched the documents there would be a different story. No formal expectation that the model would reflect the documents precisely existed. Yet the contractors inferred that it did because the model exists. The model IS more important, not in the future, now. We are still in transition, more like confusion, but it is happening here and there, all around us. The sooner everyone figures out how to live in this wild frontier the better.