Building Information Modeling

Providing a concise description of BIM and the issues it raises has proven to be a challenging task. There are scholarly and detailed writings on the subject.  Interestingly much of the discussion is from the UK and Australia suggesting that interest in and use of BIM may be progressing faster outside of the U.S.  This is one take on condensing some of the BIM information and providing a platform for dialogue on the topic. If readers feel there are inaccuracies or have suggestions for improving this post, this could be the start of further discussion.

What is BIM?

BIM is computerized project modeling to depict the design, components, construction, operation, maintenance and eventual dismantling of a building or other facility project. It is done in a manner to enable collaborative effort by the various project team members.

Other definitions and more detailed discussion can be found at these websites:

History

Design and construction processes have been evolving for a long time.  As computers have evolved the use of computers to facilitate construction has also evolved through stages that included performing repetitive computations to creating construction documents including contracts and CADD plans and specifications. Later steps in this evolution have brought us to BIM.

More detailed discussion can be found at:

 Collaboration Facilitated

 As in other kinds of efforts where linked computers facilitate collaboration, BIM enables multiple contributors to collaborate in modeling complex systems that make up modern buildings and other kinds of facilities.

Associated with this latest implementation of the design, build, operate, maintain, and retire process are changes in the relationships of the various contributors. Project owner, developer, planner, designer, project manager, contractor, subcontractor, materials supplier, financer, regulator and others all have roles. But those roles may now need to fit into a changed process of bringing a project from concept to a functioning reality.

Challenges include clearly defining those roles, how they relate to each other, how their participation can be facilitated and made more efficient and, yes, how they can be held accountable for their contributions to this approach to turning project ideas into reality.

Those relationships need to be conceptualized, defined and implemented through modernized contracts. And in an imperfect world, where things go wrong, risks need to be provided for in ways that encourage conscientious performance and discourage excessive risk taking.

The law, which is largely based on precedent and applying lessons of the past to current issues has been slow to adapt to technological change. And technological change has been accelerating. The question we now have is how law has been adapting to BIM.

Issues

With the foregoing introduction we come to discussing the focus of this website:  Architect and Engineer Issues. Some of the specific BIM related issues that have been identified are listed here.

  1. Model Ownership and Control
  2. Project Team Relationships and Contracts
  3. Risk Allocation
  4. Applicability of Professional Liability Insurance
  5. Standardization
  6. Professional Standard of Care
  7. Intellectual Property
  8. Compensation of Contributors and Aggregators
  9. Software Problems and Liability
  10. Reliance on Data
  11. Accountability of Collaborators

More detailed discussion of these issues can be found at these websites:

Litigation

Where there are issues there are likely to be lawsuits addressing and interpreting those issues. There has not been much litigation reported to date. BIM related litigation observations include:

  1. Perhaps what is considered the first BIM related lawsuit in the US addressed and extra cost claim alleging that the BIM model did not inform the contractor of the specific required sequence of installation of a university building project HVAC system. The suit settlement incorporated a confidentiality agreement.
  1. BIM arguably may be setting a new “Standard of Care” for future lawsuits. The argument is that a BIM model should alert the project team to construction problems.
  1. There are risks in using a new technology like BIM. And where there are risks there are likely to be lawsuits.

More detailed discussion of BIM litigation issues can be found at:

  1. Lawsuit teaches valuable lesson on BIM and communication | Building ...
  1. World's First BIM Claim | Construction Law Signal
  1. BIM Lawsuit Offers Cautionary Tale | 2011-05-19 | Architectural Record
  1. BIM Emerging as Construction's Legal Standard of Care
  1. Did Someone Say Lawsuits? - Epic BIM
  1. First BIM Lawsuit Settled | Owner's Toolbox

Future of BIM

BIM continues to evolve. Computer hardware and software get better and less costly.   The use of computers to improve design and construction efficiencies is also evolving and BIM is on the leading edge.  Here are some thoughts on the future of BIM:

  1. The Future of BIM - SlideShare
  1. 10 predictions for the future of Building Information Modelling
  1. 5 tech trends transforming BIM/VDC | Building Design + Construction
  1. The Future of BIM | Architect Magazine | BIM, Software, Technology
  1. The Future of BIM Will Not Be BIM—and It's Coming Faster than You ...
  1. 3rd Annual Future BIM Implementation Qatar | Home Page
  1. Explainer: what is BIM and is it the future of construction?

Summary

BIM has proven to be a somewhat different topic from most of those discussed at this website.  Much of the other material is based on 35 years of experience in dealing with the many kinds of Architect and Engineer professional liability issues.  BIM is leading edge and forward looking.  Some of what can be learned from 35 years of experience can be extrapolated and applied to what can be expected as BIM use moves forward.  But BIM and any likely successors to design and construction processes that it enables are likely to take Architects, Engineers, and their attorneys in new directions.

 

Are there more BIM related issues you would like to see discussed?  We are interested in your comments.

This article expresses ideas for consideration and should not be taken as recommendations applicable to any specific situation.  When making a decision on how to address a specific situation consulting with an experienced attorney is recommended.

© 2017 John Wersyn, All Rights Reserved


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