It is nearly three years since the Government Construction Strategy was published and well over half way to the Strategy's requirement of using 3D Building Information Modeling (BIM) on all centrally procured government construction projects by 2016. BIM will be mandatory for all such projects, irrespective of their size and will apply to contractors and other construction professionals.  The message is clear for those involved in public sector construction projects: use BIM or lose the work.

BIM not only contains designs of buildings, but also data regarding the properties of building components, construction and ongoing maintenance.  A core principle is information sharing and, in theory, it comes with benefits such as improved design, better co-ordination, shorter construction periods, reduced costs, improvement to the environmental impact of buildings and easy access to information on an ongoing basis.

However, fundamental problems remain. There is no industry standard BIM software so it is likely that different teams will be using different and possibly incompatible software. Whilst this may be less of an issue for the large contractors, will a smaller of firm of professionals be able to cope? 

Using BIM introduces a new consultancy role, the BIM Information Manager.  No standard form appointment currently exists for this role, so we are likely to (at least initially) see a range of contractual terms in appointments and encounter difficulties in documenting how this role interacts with the rest of the project team.

BIM is split into four levels; the Government's 2016 requirement is for Level 2 BIM.  It is accepted that the standard form building contracts (e.g. JCT, NEC) will not require substantial amendment to be Level 2 compliant, but as BIM becomes more common and increasingly moves to the more advanced Level 3, significant amendments will need to be made on issues such as transfer of liability, insurance and IP.

Increased use of BIM is inevitable in both public and private sector construction projects, but as we move ever closer to 2016, serious consideration needs to be given to how the industry can successfully turn the use and potential benefits of BIM into reality.