Nelson’s recent Impact column highlighted that BIM (Building Information Modelling) has recently been gathering serious momentum, particularly since, as a centrepiece of the Government Construction Strategy announced in May last year, Level 2 BIM will be mandatory for all public sector projects by 2016.
Level 2 BIM was defined as “fully collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) as a minimum”. As part of the Government Construction Strategy, a number of BIM pilot projects are currently being rolled out to tender by the Ministry of Justice, including a new build project for a 180-cell extension at Cookham Wood prison in Kent; a refurbishment project at Chelmsford Prison; and the application of BIM to existing projects at the Oakwood Featherstone Prison and the Aberystwyth Law Court.
The industry will be looking closely at how the BIM requirements are defined in the tender documents and in particular to what extent the insurance and contractual arrangements underpinning the projects will mark a radical departure from other projects procured by the government.
The objective of BIM is to integrate in a single model all project data (including, in the “5D” version, programme and cost information), to create a tool which can be used to manage the project throughout its life-cycle, ultimately including operation and maintenance.
The model for any project will change and develop as the design, procurement and operation and maintenance process advances. By its nature this must be a collaborative process and requires all members of the project team to comply with common protocols in relation to such matters as methods of working, sharing of information, and change control. BIM working protocols can be tacked on to which form of contract is chosen by the procuring authority or developer, but in practice BIM is likely to drive the use of collaborative (”partnering”) contract forms.
NEC3 is (with PPC2000) the best known form of partnering contract and the Ministry of Justice is at the forefront of using the NEC forms for two-stage tendering to obtain early contractor involvement (ECI), which is arguably a pre-requisite for a viable BIM-based procurement. Tenderers and observers will accordingly look with interest to see whether the pilot projects will be based on the NEC forms (including the Professional Services Contract for consultants), and if so what main option and secondary option clauses will be incorporated; for example whether the Partnering Option (Option X12) will be incorporated in the respective ECC contracts and sub-contracts and the PSC contracts. Option X12 is a “multi-party partnering” option although (unlike PPC 2000) it does not actually create a multi-party contract but is merely an “add on” to the selected bi-party contracts, so the extent to which it may impose additional liabilities on the respective parties is therefore not entirely clear.
It will be of possibly even greater interest to see what “BIM specific” amendments are made to the chosen forms of contract, including in respect of the role of the BIM coordinator/integrator (who may be the lead designer), and the insurance, copyright and confidentiality requirements. Of these, the insurance arrangements will probably be of greatest interest, since these have greatest potential to underpin a “no blame” collaborative culture.
In November 2011, the government’s chief construction advisor Paul Morrell stated that the government is considering a “no fault” insurance scheme for BIM projects, and that this would be piloted on the Ministry of Justice pilot programme. It remains to be seen how this will work, but Steve Bamforth of Griffiths & Armour has described a “Single Project Financial Loss Insurance” (SPFLI) model, in which each party would agree to share loss (“pain”) up to a pre-agreed cap (for example the level of its uninsured excess), beyond which the risk would be borne by the insurer. He stated that SPFLI would operate up to Practical Completion, after which a latent defects policy would be required.
To the extent that the SPFLI and latent defects policy would be procured on a “no fault” basis (subject to any capped levels of “pain” for which the respective project participants would be liable) this would mark a truly radical departure from current practice. It would also represent a challenge for insurers who would need to make appropriate long term provision for contingent liabilities arising in respect of the insured project without being able to subrogate claims against allegedly culpable contractors or consultants.
A more cautious view (which was, for example, given in the BIM report commissioned by BIS last year) is that existing insurance provisions are adequate for the style of collaboration envisaged at Level 2 BIM, where each participant would develop its own model from which it would contribute information to the project BIM model, with audit trails tracking each party’s input. One possibility is that some combination of SPFLI and “traditional” insurance could be used in a controlled experiment.
Major clients such as ASDA and contractors such as Skanska, Laing O’Rourke and Balfour Beatty already regard BIM as an essential tool for any project, and a recent NBS survey showed that the use of BIM by construction professionals more than doubled between 2010 and 2011 to around a third of those surveyed, with most of the remainder expecting to be using BIM by the end of 2012.
The Ministry of Justice’s pilot projects should therefore be seen as a step on the road to implementing a BIM culture, and not the culmination of this process. Rather than a radical step change in the contractual basis of these projects, perhaps a “gradualist” approach should be expected, with fully fledged “integrated project team” contracting to be a goal to be achieved when Level 3 BIM (web-based “iBIM”) is reached towards the end of the decade.
In his recent article, Nelson laid down the challenge for the industry to drive the BIM process forward and to convince clients (many of whom particularly in the private sector still have a poor understanding of BIM), of the benefits that BIM can provide. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the savings in time and money already being realised on projects where BIM is being used greatly outweigh the initial investment that participating firms need to make. If there is one message that seems clear from recent developments, it is that those who are not adapting to the new methods of working risk being left behind.