Moving up a level—exploring the future of BIM

Moving up a level—exploring the future of BIM

How will Building Information Modelling (BIM) continue to assist the construction industry? Sarah Rock, associate in the construction and engineering group at Herbert Smith Freehills, explores the future of BIM.

How widespread is the adoption of BIM across the construction industry now?

It is not as widespread as it should be, but it is certainly picking up pace. The National Building Specification (NBS) National BIM Report 2015 gives a good indication of where we are. The first NBS BIM Report in 2010 found that less than 15% of the industry was engaged with BIM. In 2015, this figure had risen to 48%. Looking ahead, 95% of those surveyed predicted that they would be using BIM in five years’ time. There has certainly been more interest of late and the 2016 government mandate has moved things along, but we still have a way to go.

Are the government’s 2016 BIM targets achievable?

In short, yes. There is a lot of guidance out there for SMEs and large corporations to assist with the uptake of BIM. Remember that these are only mandates for government projects so the rest of the industry can adopt at a pace to suit itself—but it really is catching up to where we ought to be.

While talking about BIM at seminars, I often use the analogy of Lego and Minecraft. Those of us of a certain age used to have to go physically to a friend’s house to build together with Lego. The next generation are building virtual worlds online with friends in other houses, cities and even countries. The Minecraft generation will find BIM a natural process and wonder why we have not been using BIM all along.

Is it only really the bigger players who are adopting BIM level two and beyond?

No, we are seeing BIM adoption at all levels. Not many companies are actually working at level two in its purest sense, but the uptake of BIM generally is increasing. This adoption is across the board with most big hitters now using BIM and many SMEs are also seeing the benefits. Groups such as BIM4SME are a fantastic resource for SMEs.

Beyond the 2016 level two targets, how difficult will the industry find the leap to level three?

It is not a question of difficulty, it is more a question of culture and mind-set. Let us get to level two first and then take a view.

Will there be any contractual implications that lawyers need to be aware of because of the move towards level three BIM?

Yes, level three BIM will be a game changer legally. At level three, all parties will be working on one integrated, shared project model. This will require shared-risk procurement and amendments to appointments to cover issues such as copyright and liability. There is not that much to worry about at level two which replicates existing processes in a digital environment. The use of Employer’s Information Requirements, a BIM Execution Plan and a BIM protocol need to be factored in but existing procurement routes and contracts (with some minor amendments) are generally suitable.

Do you think the increasing adoption of BIM is having an effect on the nature or frequency of claims arising on construction projects?

It is hoped and envisaged that BIM will assist with the flow and delivery of a project and maybe reduce claims relating to design and delay. The next couple of years will be telling. It is arguable that BIM will actually assist with claims, as it will provide an excellent audit trail of the design process. Further digital construction techniques will also come to the fore with regard to disputes—for example, laser scanning can be used in relation to defective workmanship.

Interviewed by Nicola Laver.The views expressed by our Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.

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