We need to break down the divide between the BIM ‘tech’ people and the lawyers. [Winfield Rock Report 2018]

As a contract writer and construction lawyer, I confess that I have been guilty of sticking my fingers in my ears and looking at my feet whenever Building Information Modelling was mentioned.

I had wrongly pigeon-holed the topic into a technical, technological, design or ‘other’ issue that didn’t need to concern me. There are a smattering of construction lawyers who did get it – Sarah Rock and May Winfield (who researched and wrote the Winfield Rock Report 2018) and also Andrew Croft (who wrote the CIC BIM Protocol 2018). But I was not one of them!

As someone who created a collaborative 500-word contract (which confirms that it is an agreement under which ‘the employer and the contractor have agreed to collaborate on a project’), who started to consider how contract processes could be improved or mapped using a contract process maturity model, and someone who wondered why banking has gone digital but not construction, BIM should have been on my radar.

My interests in digital contracts, technology, process and collaboration should have lead me directly to BIM… but it wasn’t until I started to get involved with the COMIT Community that I realised how BIM might revolutionise construction contracts, as well as the project and asset lifecycle.

Key BIM Themes

Although there is no universally accepted definition of BIM, BS EN 19650-1 says it is

use of a shared digital representation of a built asset to facilitate design, construction and operation processes to form a reliable basis for decisions

Both BIM and contracts are tools to facilitate the construction process. Like most tools, success only comes when used effectively. I read SCL papers, articles, standards, protocols and a wealth of government reports and my notes, thoughts and threads settled into 4 core themes which seem essential for success with BIM:

  1. collaboration across the project partners
  2. data-sharing during the lifecycle of the asset
  3. based on digital technology
  4. as a process not merely a deliverable.

BIM is a way of managing information through technology, rather than modelling that information (what Ross Dentten of Bentley Systems calls Better Information Management).

BIM doesn’t have to be all-encompassing.

Even ISO 19650 recognises that the full width and depth of BIM is not necessary for every project: the [BIM] concepts and principles… should be applied in a way that is proportionate and appropriate to the scale and complexity of the asset or project. Its use depends on the client’s needs and its information requirements.

Of course there are other forms of BIM that are not the paradigm (in the same way there are contracts written on the back of napkins that aren’t quite what I want for my clients) such as Hollywood BIM, lonely BIM or off-the-shelf BIM – see explanations below. The 4 threads will produce the biggest benefits of BIM.

In a series of blogs, I want to explore each of these themes in a little more detail, particularly how they impact contracts.

Explanations: Hollywood BIM is using 3D modelling solely for tendering. Lonely BIM is where a project partner uses BIM internally but without sharing data. Off-the-shelf BIM is where the technology required for BIM is used but no other aspects are involved e.g. collaboration, data-sharing and process.

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