INTRODUCTION

Building Information Modelling ( "BIM") has become a widely recognised working method in the global construction industry and is being increasingly used in different types of projects, ranging from the construction and renovation of buildings to complex infrastructure projects and even ground investigation.  BIM is also being considered as a more user-friendly alternative to traditional delay analysis techniques for assessing extensions of time and additional cost claims.

Japanese construction companies have been using BIM in the design process for several years and BIM continues to receive positive support from the Japanese government. Since 2013, for instance, the Facilities Division of the Japanese Ministry of Justice has been using BIM for the design of correctional facilities.  More recently, in March 2014, the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism ("MLITT") published a set of "BIM Guidelines" applicable to projects involving the design and construction of government buildings.

This is the first of a two part newsletter which explains what BIM is and the different levels at which BIM can be used on a project. The second part of this newsletter, which will be published next month, will address the key legal issues for parties to consider when negotiating construction contracts which anticipate the use of BIM.

WHAT IS BIM?

There is no standardised definition of BIM.  The BIM Task Group, a UK Government funded group which supports the Government Construction Strategy and the requirement to strengthen the public sector's capability in BIM implementation, describes BIM as: "value creating collaboration through the entire life-cycle of an asset, underpinned by the creation, collation and exchange of shared 3D models and intelligent, structured data attached to them"1. 

The MLITT definition is more specific: "The construction of a building information model which combines 3D shape information and attached building information relating to the names and area of rooms, specification and performance of materials and components and finish".2

In basic terms, BIM is intended to bridge communications between the various project parties, i.e. the design team, contractors of various tiers, and through to the owner's team.  It allows each party to add discipline-specific data to one single model.  That model recognises related data such that if one topic is amended, then dependent ones will also be revised.  As such, how the term BIM is used will depend on the specific requirements of the project and the level of sophistication with which BIM is to be used by the project parties. 

That said, the BIM Task Group has established the following levels of BIM "maturity"3:

Click here to view table.

INCREASING USE OF BIM

A number of jurisdictions are close to achieving widespread Level 2 working of BIM particularly in the sphere of public projects.  In the UK, for instance, the Ministry of Justice has mandated the use of BIM Level 2 since 2013 and all central government construction projects will require BIM Level 2 working in 2016; while the US government has mandated the same by 2016. 

Norway, Finland and Denmark have been implementing BIM strategies for public procurement since 20077.  In Asia, we see public sector use of BIM increasing in Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, with a roadmap for broader adoption for BIM by 2020 in Malaysia8.

ADDRESSING BIM USE IN CONTRACT DOCUMENTS

The common view is that minimal change is required to existing standard forms of construction contracts to facilitate working at BIM Level 2.9  However, as the achievement of BIM Level 2 becomes increasingly common, many contractors and consultants will be looking to, or will have already started, laying the foundations for implementing Level 3 BIM; not only from a technological perspective but also from a contractual standpoint.

In this regard, contracting parties should bear in mind that, in adopting a fully open, collaborative and integrated working method, as is anticipated at BIM Level 3, there will be greater scope for the allocation of certain risks and responsibilities to become blurred unless appropriately addressed in the contract. 

In our next edition, we will consider some of the key areas to which parties may wish to pay special attention when negotiating contracts which anticipate the use of Level 3 BIM (or equivalent).