In brief – BIM has proven advantages and overseas acceptance, but many are wary

While some argue that the improved methods of electronic design, construction and communication made possible by Building Information Modelling (BIM) will improve coordination, efficiency and quality for all project participants, others are concerned that this new single digital data repository of project information is costly to procure and implement and may result in lost intellectual property rights.

What is Building Information Modelling?

Building Information Modelling is a process of maintaining an integrated repository of all information relevant to a building or construction project throughout the lifecycle of that project. This repository facilitates the storage, integration and visualisation of all the data that emerges for a project as it is developed and implemented.

A Building Information Model uses both geometric and non-geometric data in two and three dimensional modelling software to allow principals, contractors and consultants to interact digitally by bringing together all aspects of a project in one visual model.

A Building Information Model is used for the creation and management of all building systems, design, development and analysis including architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire aspects of a development.

What are the advantages of BIM?

BIM is attractive to many principals as it allows data relating to all stages of the lifecycle of a project to be stored and accessed at any time to ensure maximum operational efficiency and optimal management of a building or development over the life of the asset.

BIM has also been championed by some who use it for greater accuracy and efficiency in both the design and construction process. This is a desirable outcome for any project participant, but particularly in light of the increasing design complexity of many of today's developments and the often stringent energy efficiency rating requirements imposed on new projects.

Legal and contractual considerations around BIM

The use of BIM alters the legal landscape at all levels of project participation, at the very least where intellectual property rights, liability and insurances are concerned. For BIM to be effective and achieve the levels of efficiency and cost savings many associate with its implementation, it is critical to ensure that the protocols, timeframes and rights and responsibilities of each project participant are considered in the early stages.

All these need to be recorded properly in contracts to ensure that all commercial objectives are achievable and that no participant is vulnerable to suffering detriment as a result of their participation in BIM on a project.

BIM increasingly in use in projects overseas

BIM is now in use world wide, including in Macau (City of Dreams), the UK (London Hospital Project) and the US (Freedom Tower, New York City). In the UK, the government has issued a mandate requiring the implementation of BIM across projects over a certain monetary value.

BIM is also taking off in Australia, with some high profile projects adopting the use of BIM in some form, including Sydney's newly completed 1 Bligh Street, the Ark in North Sydney, Eureka Tower in Melbourne, the Victoria Desalination Plant, the UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing building designed by Frank Gehry and the Adelaide Oval upgrade.

In October/November 2010 the Australian Institute of Architects released the BIM in Australia 2010 Report, which highlighted the importance of federal government initiatives in driving the implementation of BIM in Australia.

It remains to be seen what 2012 will bring for the expansion of BIM in Australia and whether State or Federal governments consider that the productivity gains warrant its wider application, as mandated by the government in the UK.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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