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Construction industry experts view Government BIM target as 'unachievable', survey reveals

Out-Law News | 11 Feb 2014 | 12:12 pm | 2 min. read

Most construction industry experts believe that a target set for the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in construction projects procured by central Government is "unachievable", according to a survey by Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

The Government previously outlined its ambition to achieve BIM 'Level 2' for all central Government construction projects by 2016. However, 64% of the 70 construction experts across the infrastructure industry surveyed by Pinsent Masons said the target cannot be met.

A BIM system uses a computer generated model to collect and manage information about the design, construction and operation of a project centrally. It is especially useful where many parties, such as different sub-contractors, provide input on the same project. Any changes to the design of a project made during its construction are automatically applied to the model.

BIM is used to different levels of sophistication and 'Level 2' BIM is a term that broadly refers to a fully collaborative 3D environment where all project information, documents and data are electronic and whether software and interfaces allow for the management and integration of that material.

Almost all of the people Pinsent Masons surveyed (94%) said that clients and their construction team partners need to collaborate better on the use of BIM in projects. More than a quarter (27%) identified a lack of collaboration as the main barrier to their organisation meeting Level 2 BIM capability.

The types of contracts used within the construction industry, and the approaches taken to contracting, are not fit for purpose in a BIM-enabled world, 66% of respondents to the survey said. A similar proportion (69%) said existing contracts do not adequately address how collaboration can occur.

"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," infrastructure law and BIM expert Chris Hallam of Pinsent Masons said. "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," he said.

"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," Hallam added.

The biggest benefit to be gained from using BIM in construction projects is seen in the improvements in the design production process, according to the survey. Whilst 63% of respondents backed that view, 57% said that BIM can help users spot, and mitigate against, the problem of engineers working on separate aspects of a project looking to install parts of structures in the same physical space as well as identify health and safety issues.

The third most popularly identified benefit of using BIM is the greater clarity and transparency it offers to clients over construction projects, with 46% of respondents identifying this as a benefit.

"The benefits are clear and the construction industry acknowledges that it can achieve better efficiency and transparency on infrastructure projects," infrastructure law and BIM expert Martin Roberts of Pinsent Masons said.

"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," he said.