Government BIM target ‘unachievable’, claim construction industry experts

ConstructionThe majority of building industry experts surveyed by law firm Pinsent Masons believe that one of the key UK Government target for the uptake of Building Information Modelling  is now unachievable due to unfit contracts and the lack of a collaborative approach between clients and builders. The Government had hoped that all central Government construction projects would achieve BIM Level 2 by 2016. But according to the new report, nearly two thirds (around 64 percent)of the 70 people surveyed claimed it was impossible for the target to be met. ‘Level 2’ refers to a collaborative 3D setup in which all project information, documents and data are electronic with fully integrated software and interfaces.

Nearly all (94 percent) of those surveyed by Pinsent Masons believe the use of BIM to this level requires a fully collaborative approach between client and contractors with over a quarter (27 percent) claiming that the lack of collaboration is the key reason that Level 2 BIM is unachievable in their own case. Two-thirds (66 percent) also believe that existing forms of contract are also inappropriate for BIM while a similar number (69 percent) also claim that contracts actively work against collaborative working.

Pinsent Masons defines BIM as a system that ‘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.’

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 percent of respondents backed that view, 57 percent 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 percent of respondents identifying this as a benefit.

“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 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.