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Subcontractor Performance Risk

Considerations for Turning over Construction Technology to a Building Owner

Damon Ranieri | June 21, 2024

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A construction crane in the midst of a construction site at sunset

Transferring a contractor's technology to an owner requires attention to the technology vendor's commitment to assist, ownership of intellectual property, and design of the technology's implementation with the intent of serving multiple stakeholders. It seems the positive advantages of passing project knowledge, data, and systems from stakeholder to stakeholder is a "no-brainer." In fact, the sales pitch used for decades by technology companies and service providers has been "get us in early and our tool could benefit the designers, builders, and, ultimately, the owner."

For example, if a general contractor (GC) is using a cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) system to prevent major water damage claims, why wouldn't the team leave that system in place to manage similar risks for the owner? It is what a good partner should do, right? The same idea could be applied to the building information modeling (BIM) used to coordinate the trades; why not take the model a step further into a digital twin for facilities maintenance and asset management? Of course, this does not happen as often as we would expect. What are we missing? If it were that simple, it would happen on a more regular basis.

The reality is, even for issues pervasive throughout a facility's life cycle, problems that technology could solve for construction companies are different than solutions building operators look for. Building turnover, in general, is a complex operation, but layer on transfers of technology ownership, and there are more items we ought to plan for.

Vendor Assistance

The fact is, even if clear contract language is crafted to smoothly incorporate a technology solution into the contractor's scope of work or is added at a later stage of the project through a change order, the devices could have been programmed to react to events that are typical during construction. In the case of a plumbing system, the operation of the system completely changes once tenants begin making use of the building—morning showers, washing machines, etc. What to do? AXA XL Ecosystem's preferred partner, WINT Water Intelligence, is developing procedures that would be put into action for a project, specifically addressing the transfer of a WINT system as a contractor's tool during the construction process to one for maintaining the value of the asset. According to WINT, the system could be set to begin learning new building behaviors at the point which the building is turned over to the owner. What's more, this operation could be done remotely with no change in the infrastructure and, in most cases, without additional installations.

Intellectual Property

Many of the construction technology tools leveraged during buildout collect volumes of data and store this information on a software as a service or cloud service. Just as with items such as on-site photos, contractors may feel that unless it is mandatory to share information with the client, then not sharing such data may shield them from potential postconstruction claims.

If a system were to be transferred from the contractor to the owner, would all of the cloud data be required as part of the transfer as well? Or would such a system have the same value if only the IoT and 3D data were included? According to Niko Suvorov, CEO and cofounder of AXA XL Ecosystem's preferred partner, SiteLink, such a transaction would typically entail a master service agreement initially purchased by the GC.

One approach to this handover could be passing along subscription costs with any other items included on an application for payment. As the project approaches completion, the GC would add representatives from the owner's organization as administrators. The GC would notify SiteLink that invoices related to the project should be sent to the owner's organization. At that point, the owner may simply delete the GC's users from the system. If instructed to do so, SiteLink would delete and destroy any of the GC's data before making the transition. Archives would be made available to the GC as well, if requested.

This approach may be applicable to other tech solutions. Discuss this handover as you explore tech solutions, so there are no surprises later. Currently in development, SiteLink will be rolling out a feature that would create discoverable 3D records of contemporaneous events. This would allow either party to retrieve data at any future point in the event of a dispute.

Understanding where the servers are located and who owns the data once collected ought to be a consideration, especially if the solution uses services such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. Both the contractor and owner should ask what procedures the technology vendor will agree to and get the plan in writing, ensuring only relevant data necessary to the future value of the system is turned over.

Design Intent

Typically, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design engineers are not promoting IoT systems to the architects and owners, only considering these solutions when requested as part of the owner's requirements. Some of the skepticism revolves around how platforms driven by artificial intelligence deal with random events that occur as part of normal building operations—events such as cooling tower chilled water blowdown or morning shower surges. A plumbing engineer from Chicago-based Grumman/Butkus, Chris Sbarbaro, P.E., recalled being involved in the design of an early attempt at such a solution, which ultimately was decommissioned due to an abundance of nuisance or false alarms.

A successful implementation would anticipate the needs of multiple stakeholders, but this does not happen without thoughtful design intent. For environmental monitoring IoT, the system needs to extend beyond the work included in the contract documents to cover temporary waterlines and circuits installed for use during construction. The contractor would need to coordinate with the IoT vendor to step in at handover to decommission temporary legs of the system and possibly expand the sensor array for fully operational building systems.


If these and other considerations have been executed well, the benefits of handing over active technology during construction to the owner are significant. The cost of design, implementation, installation, and troubleshooting would have already been absorbed by the following.

  • Ensuring that the solution vendor remains involved during preparation and execution of a system being handed over. The best vendors have a "client first" culture and would be ready and willing to work to make the handover process a smooth one.
  • For solutions focused on data, both parties will want to pay particular attention to what data is collected and stored on the platform. If the data were to be turned over to another stakeholder, would it drive the outcomes salient to that stakeholder? In some cases, a more selective approach may serve all involved more effectively.
  • Be sure, from an early planning stage, the design of the technology implementation intends to address contractor and facilities maintenance needs alike. In this way, plans can be set in place that will not interfere with the existing complexities of project completion and building turnover.

Thankfully, these challenges are manageable with proper planning and foresight. Ownership of assets and property is transferred all of the time, and construction technology does not need to be any different. Many of the problems the contractor is looking to solve are going to be like those faced by an owner. A system that is continuously utilized throughout the stages of the building life cycle will enjoy the benefit of many months and years of shared experience and improvement, as well as contractors having one more avenue for building partner relationships with their best clients.

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