David Greenwood Senior Associate and Nigel Blundell Partner Pinset Masons law firm

BIM ‘one of the great enablers’ of collaboration in construction

Building information modelling (BIM) is one of the great enablers for the collaboration that the UK construction industry needs to succeed in a changing climate.

David Greenwood, Senior Associate (L) and Nigel Blundell, Partner (R), Pinset Masons law firm write about BIM as one of the great enablers for the construction industry.

With the UK construction industry coming to terms with the impacts from a number of exceptional events, such as the war in Ukraine, and construction companies having to meet new, stiffer obligations around sustainability and building safety, the need for collaboration is greater than ever.

BIM is one of the great enablers for that collaboration. If used properly as a process, BIM brings with it the advantages of collaborative up-front design integration, a golden thread of accurate as-built information via the BIM model and vast amounts of building / operational data – including on carbon and building efficiency.  The building efficiency data to ensure an optimum solution is going to be increasingly important in times of cost inflation.

Use of BIM

The UK construction industry is increasingly adopting a digital approach when it comes to designing, building, operating, and integrating the built environment for a major asset. This is because digitally-enabled transformation of the full lifecycle of the built environment will increase productivity and safety as well as improve economic and social outcomes in the construction and infrastructure sectors.

BIM is not a new concept, with level 2 BIM being mandated on all [UK] Government contracts since 2016. However, we are now seeing ‘level 3 BIM’ being implemented more widely on many projects. This is likely a result of a mixture of government policy and encouragement, greater availability of BIM-enabling software, the move towards modern methods of construction requiring an industrial approach and a recognition of the advantages that collaborative up-front design integration brings.

Indeed, we now appear to be at the tipping point where use of BIM will be the norm rather than the exception. The drive towards net zero and the ever louder calls for a golden thread of accurate as-built information following the Grenfell tragedy has given increased impetus to the adoption of BIM, and, with it, collaboration more generally.

As a result, our clients are starting to up-skill in terms of their BIM knowhow and offering; and are seeking answers to the new questions posed by digitisation, BIM, collaborative contracting, and the growing influence of tech companies in the infrastructure sector.

Understanding that BIM is a process

BIM is about much more than 3D CAD drawings. Whilst a 3D model may be one of the outputs of using BIM, at its heart, BIM is a process. It involves the structured sharing and coordination of a building’s digital information throughout its entire lifecycle – from design; procurement; construction – right through to the operation and maintenance stage.

Understanding the asset information requirements for each component is important, as is having the right practices and supply chain in place to deliver quality data which can be shared and integrated; and careful contracting to ensure you protect your intellectual property (IP) and take only the correct level of risk in circumstances where others are feeding into the overall output. 

Undoubtedly there is a need for collaboration to successfully deliver a project using BIM – whether that be via a Level 2 federated model or the Level 3 fully integrated model. 

We have previously explored how a project’s data strategy needs to create an environment that incentivises and encourages active collaboration around data and provided a guide to what good data sharing looks like.

BIM and collaboration

There has been discussion over the role of BIM as an enabler of greater collaboration for some years now, including in leading reports published in 2016 and 2017 by Pinsent Masons. That debate continues today. It is our view that BIM brings a number of opportunities but also creates some hurdles that could cause a project to fall down if BIM is used half-heartedly such that the older, non-collaborative practices are allowed to continue. 

For example, use of BIM means much more detailed design is being done up-front, and it is becoming harder to change fundamental design elements later in the process. This contrasts to traditional design and build models, where detailed design is often completed throughout the construction phase and there are often opportunities for value engineering. The mismatch could easily give rise to confusion and disputes.

In addition, BIM results in a more heavily specified approach to design, making it more difficult to pass responsibility for that design down the supply chain. Parties are now also looking to use BIM through to the operational stage, as that is when you get the most benefit out of a so-called digital twin. This means updating the information model with the as-built information, driving a much more intensive approach to defects identification at completion. If the process is mismanaged, then there is the risk of sudden delays and claims at the very end of the project.

The obvious way to overcome these potential hurdles (or pitfalls) and get the most out of using BIM is through even greater collaboration – at the outset and throughout the project. Therefore, BIM not only enables collaboration but also requires collaboration to work effectively as a process.

Provided BIM is used properly, where contentious issues do arise, the transparency and accuracy of digital information via a joined-up BIM model is likely to provide the parties to a project with a far greater understanding of the root cause of those issues, so liability may be much clearer and therefore disputes may be able to be resolved more rapidly. The sharing of data and digital information through BIM therefore has the potential to help parties to avoid disputes as well.

Republished with permission.

Email: david.greenwood@pinsentmasons.com
Email: nigel.blundell@pinsentmasons.com

See original article HERE

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