At a packed International Contract Users’ Conference held in London on 5–6 December 2017, FIDIC finally unveiled the second edition of the 1999 Rainbow Suite, Red, Yellow and Silver Books. You can find details of our initial thoughts on the changes to the FIDIC form here.

FIDIC had produced a pre-release version of the Yellow Book at the end of 2016. This naturally enough had created much comment. One striking feature was the absence of any mention of BIM. This has now been addressed – to a limited degree at least. Whilst there is still no specific mention of BIM in the General Conditions, there is now a special Advisory Note within the Special Provisions which deals with the use of BIM.

The FIDIC form of contract has been used in over 160 countries. This means, as the Advisory Note acknowledges, that there is a wide range of understanding and usage of what FIDIC terms the “varying degrees of complexity” associated with BIM. This is something FIDIC needs to address and probably explains, in large part, the time FIDIC is taking to finalise its position.

" FIDIC has indicated that it is currently preparing two documents – a “Technology Guideline” and a “Definition of Scope Guideline Specific to BIM” […] intended to provide further detailed support for the use of BIM on projects that use the FIDIC form. "

Instead of setting out a particular approach, FIDIC has chosen to highlight the issues that those working with BIM need to consider when using the FIDIC contract. For example, although FIDIC notes that many projects use a BIM Protocol, FIDIC has not prepared its own Protocol or recommended the use of any particular one. Instead, FIDIC has indicated that it is currently preparing two documents – a “Technology Guideline” and a “Definition of Scope Guideline Specific to BIM”. These are intended to provide further detailed support for the use of BIM on projects that use the FIDIC form.

As FIDIC notes, BIM is:

“founded on a team approach and successful projects utilising BIM encourage collaboration”.

FIDIC also recognises the value of the early proactive engagement of all parties to the project. Here, one potential problem with BIM is managing expectations. This is recognised by FIDIC, which notes that any Request for Proposal should outline what an employer is anticipating in terms of goals and benefits.

FIDIC has also identified the key risk areas on any BIM-enabled project:

  • misunderstanding of scope of services;
  • use of data for an inappropriate purpose and reliance on inappropriate data;
  • ineffective information, document or data management;
  • cyber security and responsibility for “holding” the models or data; and
  • definition of deliverables, approval and delivery.

In other words, everyone must understand exactly what they are being asked to do. The reference to the importance of clear definitions is particularly relevant on international projects where you often find companies from a number of countries working together.

The fact that FIDIC has included reference to BIM in its new contracts is a welcome development. That said, it is only a start: there is still a fair way to go. The only indication that FIDIC has given as to when its Technology Guidelines will be published is “shortly”. Whilst we wait, parties would be well advised, at an early stage of any project, to review FIDIC’s comments about working with BIM. However, these comments are really only a starting point and parties should still consider carefully whether they need to take specific (legal or engineering) advice about how best to work with BIM.