Technical and Contractual Risks Associated with BIM

Blog-14thApril-2017BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a perfect solution for architects, design and construction teams to address design implementation challenges. 3D BIM coordination facilitates an evolving workflow, interoperability and collaboration between different project stakeholders. This has widened the scope and application of concept design, design development, implementation and project delivery methods.

With 3D BIM coordination, you can collaborate with designers, engineers, building services contractors and general contractors to communicate design intent and ensure the project is implemented efficiently from preconstruction concept review to construction completion. When collaboration happens at this scale, you need to consider the associated technical and contractual risks before you adopt BIM tools:

1.Data control – When using 3D BIM models, you may have different users entering data at various stages of a project lifecycle. To ensure there is responsibility for inaccuracies and control of data entry, you must ensure BIM users sign applicable indemnities, disclaimers and warranties. This will help you in controlling the movement of data and assigning responsibilities.

2.Assignment of responsibilities – Typically in BIM projects, many team members collaborate and ownership of BIM data must be clearly stated. To avoid conflict and confusion, you need to create contract documents that should clearly define ownership and assign responsibilities when using BIM data.

3.Proprietary information protection – In the process of design development and project implementation, proprietary information may be used by team members. While your client may have ownership rights for the design, contract documents need to clearly state the ownership rights of proprietary information to ensure protection.

4.Design licensing – In certain projects, designers and contractors may provide vendor designs and specifications of material and equipment. In such instances, you need to create policies to ensure that only those designs with relevant licenses for the project are used. This will help you in avoiding licensing issues of vendor designs associated with their products.

5.Consistency in the use of technology – When adopting BIM modeling and coordination processes, to maintain an efficient and smooth workflow, you need to ensure that different project stakeholders, who need to work collaboratively, are using software versions that are compatible. All users must be informed about changes in versions and software updates. Based on the BIM environment you choose, whether closed BIM (the use of the same software and version) or open BIM (the use of neutral or compatible file formats), you need to make sure this selection is agreed at the outset of the project. This will help in avoiding compatibility issues that may arise in the later stages of the project lifecycle.

In any collaborative environment, clearly defining responsibilities and rules will help in improving teamwork of various project stakeholders. You may adopt an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) strategy to build successful working relationships and facilitate efficient collaboration between your entire design, engineering and construction teams. While there is no secret formula or a common risk mitigation strategy, you can reduce conflicts and confusion by adopting best practices and creating well-defined contracts. By clearly specifying the roles, responsibilities and accountable members or groups, it will help you to create a successful collaborative environment and embrace an evolving concept such as 3D BIM coordination.

With BIM modeling you can improve the process of concept design, design development and communication of design concept to project stakeholders and clients. As new BIM technology is introduced, the next step would be to adopt a cloud-based BIM collaboration tool, such as A360 Collaboration for Revit (C4R). With cloud-based BIM tools, you can facilitate ‘borderless’ collaboration and allow project stakeholders to work on a model simultaneously from different sites, anywhere, anytime and on any device. By adopting BIM, you can improve collaboration between project teams, optimise project duration, reduce cost and strengthen client relationship.

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Benefits of BIM Services for Pre-Construction Planning are Multifaceted and Long-Term

In the AEC industry, the advent of building information modeling (BIM) concept was viewed by many as an evolution to better 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) techniques. Very few saw it as an interdisciplinary, collaborative tool that would drastically change the design-build project workflow, the management structure of AEC firms, the teaming models, the delivery standards, and the role of key disciplines involved.

As opposed to the vertical communication channels and delivery methods required by the traditional design-build approaches which mainly employ CAD, BIM necessitates an open and integrated horizontal collaboration channel between all the key stakeholders of the project: facility owners, designers/architects, MEP (M&E) engineers, consultants and contractors. To realise the benefits of employing BIM services as compared to 3D CAD modelling tools, firms need to significantly invest in knowledge/skills development, personnel training, management restructuring, and software tools. However, more than these tangible investments, AEC companies need a complete change in mindset in case they want to adopt BIM for their projects.

3D BIM Modeling

Whilst many professionals, especially those from small and medium-sized firms, see it as an extension of 3D CAD, BIM is anything but 3D CAD. BIM services involve extensive pre-construction planning and multidisciplinary coordination to virtually model building facilities using smart parametric objects embedded with rich accurate information. This intelligent model then can be used by all stakeholders to extract respective views and relevant information thereby resulting in timely decision-making and project delivery.

Though BIM and 3D CAD are not mutually exclusive to each other, they have major differences as far as the approach and the output is concerned. In traditional 3D CAD, depending on the scope of project, architects prepare a set of construction drawings, including the plans, sections, and elevations. Since all these views are independent entities, any change in one view has to be manually updated in others. As a result, the process is not only time-consuming but also increases the scope for errors.

On the contrary, a building information model contains the architectural, structural and MEP system models of the proposed facility. It is prepared during the design and planning stage using details from all the key stakeholders including designers, engineers, MEP contractors, and subcontractors. Since a single database-driven model represents details required by all disciplines, any changes made by any of the team members are automatically updated across the model to plans, sections and elevations. Hence, all the project team members are updated on all the changes made by others thereby saving time, reducing cost resulting from duplication of efforts, and increasing the overall quality of construction drawing sets. As a result, making small changes to the architectural plan would result in those changes appearing simultaneously in the section, elevation or schedule for the same change to the plan.

Furthermore, the building blocks of 3D CAD models are lines, circles, arcs, and other graphical entities, which lack the flexibility of data analysis. These models only serve as geometric objects devoid of detailed parameters which are required by the entire AEC supply chain. In contrast, BIM models comprise building elements and intelligent systems, including columns, beams, and walls, which contain rich data related to parameters. If needed, additional parameters can be added to the pre-existing ones for more detail. And, this rich data can be effectively shared across disciplines for rich collaboration and on-time delivery.

Nevertheless, the success of any project which employs BIM depends mainly on factors which include the richness of information embedded in the 3D models, the degree of openness in the interdisciplinary data-sharing and collaboration standards, and the level of mutual trust among all the professionals involved. If prudently planned and implemented, a BIM model not only represents the essential building elements in detail; valuable information concerning spatial coordination, geographic location, quantity take-offs, material requirements, time schedule, and project cost can be extracted when needed.

In essence, well-planned BIM services help accurately represent the entire project design lifecycle. Though preparing for and implementing BIM strategies requires considerable investment of time, money, and effort, its benefits are multi-faceted and long-term. Employing BIM modelling can not only help in more effective design and construction but also offers pre-fabrication and facilities management advantages.