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Unlocking the potential of BIM

Home Insights Unlocking the potential of BIM

Contributed by:

Contributed by: Mei-Fern Johnson, Ruth Egermayer and Glenn Jowett (Beca)

Published on:

Published on: December 05, 2022


This article first appeared in Connect Magazine (by Health Informatics NZ) website here (pages 34-35).

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the process of delivering and operating built assets using well-structured digital information (associated with 3D graphical models) that multiple stakeholders contribute and have access to. It’s a way of working collaboratively, rather than a physical object or an entity – it provides a line of sight from cradle to grave.

The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the design and construction of vertical and horizontal infrastructure is proven to deliver significant value through improvements in stakeholder engagement, reduced design and construction risk, improved safety outcomes, and improved asset management outcomes. This article discusses why you should consider using BIM for your next project and the legal considerations to tick off when doing so.

According to the Value of IM Report published by the Centre of Digital Build Britain in 2021, use of BIM could secure, for every £1 invested in BIM, between £5.10 and £6.00 of direct labour productivity gains, and between £6.90 and £7.40 in direct cost savings (from reductions in delivery time, labour time, and materials).

It also provides evidence of cost savings at various stages of the asset lifecycle, ranging from 1.6% to 18% depending on the lifecycle stage.

As part of a large infrastructure project that Beca delivered with a construction partner, BIM, combined with collaborative contracting and agile thinking, resulted in one of the largest projects of its kind in New Zealand being delivered three years ahead of schedule compared to a traditional delivery model. This was made possible by:

  • Live access to design information on site – reducing the time spent requesting information, ensuring the team were engaged and had a clear understanding of the project requirements.

  • Automated sharing of over 80 3D models – this happened daily over a 12-month period, allowing for daily feedback on the buildability of the design. Automation saved over 1,000 hours of effort.

  • 3D verification of model elements – allowing for faster delivery, rather than waiting for 2D drawings.

  • Accelerated earthworks using model-based machine control – saved three weeks in the earthworks programme.

  • Digital site set-out – allowed elements such as foundations and key equipment to be installed quicker.

  • Progressive building and handover of asset information – streamlined the data handover process and improved operational readiness.

As a principal using BIM in an infrastructure project, you will need to address the following key legal considerations:

  • Intellectual property rights – Ensure appropriate ownership and licensing of intellectual property rights in inputs and information contributed to the BIM by the various contractors. This includes having appropriate provisions in place to account for both new and pre-existing intellectual property related to the project that enables all contributors to be able to deliver. Given the digital nature of BIM, there are a number of ways that intellectual property rights can be managed, and incentivising contributors with the ability to re-use that intellectual property may be a useful driver for the project.  

  • Confidentiality – The BIM is likely to contain (at least some) confidential or sensitive information of contributors and/or the principal, so consider restricting access by contractors to such information on a need-to-know basis, and ensure there are well understood confidentiality protocols on use of such information.

  • Outlining clear responsibilities in the contract – Ensure that the permitted and required use of BIM, and each contractor's obligation to contribute to the BIM (including the nature of the information and the standard of information) are clearly reflected in the contract with each relevant contractor. This facilitates a more accurate BIM, and establishes a contractual responsibility for inaccurate information submitted into the BIM by a contractor and subsequently relied on by other contractors (which may cause 'knock-on' delays and have cost implications, or otherwise result in dispute).

  • Hosting arrangements – The BIM will generally be hosted in a cloud platform, so ensure that the proposed hosting arrangements are fit for purpose. This includes allowing necessary access to all contributors to the BIM for the duration of the project, and allowing ongoing access by the principal, for example, for accessing the BIM post-project completion for ongoing maintenance (for such ongoing access, the Principal should consider contracting for the hosting arrangements directly with the hosting provider, rather than relying on a service pass-through by the BIM supplier, to ensure those arrangements continue beyond construction of the project).

  • Procurement – Consider procuring the BIM separately from appointment of the prime contractor, as the skillsets may not reside in the same supplier. If you are investing in a BIM, you may want to consider appointing a BIM expert.

BIM is a worthwhile investment, including in improving collaboration, creating efficiencies, and reducing risks. When adopting one, make sure you also tick off the relevant legal considerations beforehand, so that your project is set up to unlock the full value that BIM can offer.

This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice. If you require any advice or further information on the subject matter of this newsletter, please contact the partner/solicitor in the firm who normally advises you, or alternatively contact one of the partners listed below.

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