06 Feb 2014 | 12:30 pm | 3 min. read
A Pinsent Masons survey into the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM)* in the construction sector found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of construction experts believe that the Government's 2016 target to achieve Level 2 BIM capability on all centrally procured infrastructure projects** is unachievable.
According to the survey, which canvasses the views of experts from 70 organisations across the infrastructure industry, reveals that collaboration is the key to making BIM a success.
The vast majority (94%) of respondents believe that the use of BIM requires a more collaborative approach between the client and construction team, and over a quarter (27%) cite the absence of collaboration as the most significant barrier to achieving Level 2 BIM capability in their organisation.
Chris Hallam, Partner in Pinsent Masons' Projects, Construction and Engineering team, said: "The overriding message from our survey points to greater collaboration if BIM is to be a success. Collaboration is not, however, a new concept for the industry. For over a generation the Government and industry stakeholders have strived to create a utopia of a more collaborative construction industry with some, albeit limited, success.
"The problem is that the majority of construction contracts are not very collaborative. Risk tends to be allocated in a binary manner, with each party incentivised to look after its own interests – rather than the wider interests of a project. Because the parties' interests are rarely aligned, this tends not to create an environment where true collaboration is possible – at least not if things go wrong. BIM, however, by its very nature requires a more collaborative environment."
This sentiment is supported in the survey, as two-thirds (66%) of those surveyed believe that the existing forms of contract used in the industry, and the approaches taken to contracting are not fit for purpose in a BIM enabled world. It is also interesting to note that 69% said that existing construction contracts fail to adequately address the means by which collaborative contracting can be achieved.
Chris said: "This may not make pleasant reading for the publishers of standard form contracts, particularly the NEC and PPC2000 forms which are generally considered to be at the more collaborative end of the spectrum. We believe this is evidence of an industry crying out for a different approach – for contractual arrangements that work in a collaborative environment. Many believe that the 'Alliancing' model – a 'no-fault' based procurement route where parties share in the success or failure of a project is where the industry should be heading. Indeed, several sectors – including rail and utilities – have embraced Alliancing, and we are starting to see other sectors dip their toes in the water."
Chris added: "Technology is driving change in the way we communicate with and connect to each other. Across many sectors of the economy, for example manufacturing, retail and IT, it has created an environment in which widespread sharing of information and know-how is not only possible, but has become the norm. It could be that BIM and associated technological advances are fostering a more connected, communicative and joined-up approach . This could be a catalyst that finally drives the construction sector towards a truly collaborative way of working. If so, it is inevitable that forms of contract will need to change to accommodate new ways of working."
The survey also shows that the top three benefits gained for the construction sector from the use of BIM are: improvement in the design production process of a construction project (63%); risk mitigation in terms of better on-site clash detection and/or health & safety risk deduction (57%) and greater clarity and transparency for clients (46%). The greatest risk with BIM, as viewed by the respondents to the survey, is around information; over half (52%) believe that integrity of information inputted into construction models could be the greatest risk area for their organisation.
Martin Roberts, Partner in Pinsent Masons' Construction Advisory and Disputes Group, said: "The benefits are clear and the construction industry acknowledges that it can achieve better efficiency and transparency on infrastructure projects. It is however inevitable that there will be some concern when adopting different approaches, particularly one which by necessity requires greater collaboration and connectivity between members of the construction team. But the potential benefits that can be gained from BIM should far outweigh the dangers, and in the round will probably operate to reduce the overall risk profile."
* What is BIM?
“At its simplest level, BIM provides a common environment for all information defining a building, facility or asset together with its common parts and activities. This including building shape, design and construction time, costs, physical performance, logistics and more.” (RICS “What is BIM?”)
The aspiration in the industry is for BIM models to become the primary tools for the whole project team.
There can be a number of BIM models for a single project. For example, many construction trades (for example structural engineering, M&E and alike) may develop models for their own purposes. A client may mandate the development of a single “combined model” incorporating the data of a number of authored models (for example of the key designers and subcontractors).
**Centrally procured projects?
These are construction projects procured by central government departments, such as the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence. It does not include projects procured by local authorities (although the Government via the BIM Task Group is encouraging the use of Level 2 BIM on these projects). Example: Wrexham Prison.
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