BIM – Coming soon to a project near you

March, 2014
At a glance

Project owners and contractors are set to benefit from a new construction industry technology that improves project design and delivery.

However, as Lindsay Stirton and Michelle Widmaier write, the technology is creating potential legal issues in terms of liability, confidentiality, copyright and how best to integrate BIM into contract documents.


BIM (Building Information Modelling) is a technology to create 3-D representations or digital prototypes of any construction or infrastructure project.

BIM can enhance project management by enabling participants to fully visualise the project, improve project coordination, save costs and work together to address issues during the design phase rather than later in the construction phase.  Owners are also increasingly using BIM once construction is complete, to assist in managing buildings throughout their life cycle.

Why organisations should consider BIM

Implemented properly, BIM can substantially improve project outcomes. 

Contractors can use BIM to assist in increasing efficiency through better project coordination, project scheduling, increased use of pre-fabricated materials for construction, and more accurate cost estimations.  A recent survey of contractors[1] reported that the use of BIM on projects increased profits, reduced rework (the leading cause of schedule overruns), cut project duration and resulted in fewer document errors and omissions.

Additionally, contractors working in both the domestic and international markets are using BIM expertise as a marketing tool to acquire new work. 

For owners of construction and infrastructure projects, BIM provides a more accurate realisation of the project during the design phase by providing the opportunity to have a virtual walkthrough of the project as it progresses to ensure that the progressing design meets their requirements. Owners also benefit from increased cost savings, fewer design coordination issues and higher quality projects

When BIM is used during the design phase to generate life cycle profiles, it provides building owners with invaluable information about the total projected life cycle costs of a project.  These profiles can inform owners as to whether the life cycle costs are affordable, or if the design needs to be modified to help reduce costs.

BIM also has substantial benefits for building owners beyond the design and construction phase, and can be used post-construction to assist with asset management and maintenance.  Current software applications exist that can generate building maintenance plans from the BIM project data.  Using BIM, building owners can also track and manage spaces in buildings.  In addition, “as-built” 3-D BIM models can be created by using lasersto assist in the asset management of buildings from the “pre-BIM” era.

BIM is most effective when a “Full BIM” (also referred to as a “Federated” BIM model) is used during the design phase.  Full BIM consists of a series of linked individual BIM models created by the project participants (the architect, different engineering disciplines and contractor).  

In Sydney, BIM has been used on buildings such as the University of Technology Sydney’s Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, and the Coca-Cola Building at 40 Mount Street in North Sydney.

Why BIM is different

BIM is more than just 3-D CAD because of the object information it contains. Although the industry shift to CAD many years ago proved more efficient than manual drafting for creating construction documentation, the end result was still a drawing containing  a series of lines.  In contrast, a BIM model is created by objects, and these objects, and the information contained within them, are what makes BIM unique. 

When a BIM model is created, a wall, steel column or mechanical duct is not drawn in the model, an object is added to a model that contains the specific properties and dimensions of the object.  Manipulation of these objects enables revisions to be made easily during the design phase.

The BIM model is used to generate standard 2-D construction drawings, but it can also be used to detect clashes between different disciplines, because the objects contain their true dimensions.  The object data can also be used by contractors for more accurate construction scheduling (4-D BIM) and cost estimation (5-D BIM).  

Using BIM for a project

BIM modifies the traditional design process especially in the context of “Full BIM” where the project participants are working collaboratively from early in the design development phase. 

If BIM is going to be used for a project, ideally the decision needs to be made very early in the process, and if so the parties need to:

  1. decide what information they want to get from BIM;
  2. develop a BIM execution process for how the information is going to be developed, and
  3. develop a BIM information exchange for ensuring the parties provide the information at the time it is needed during the design phase.

Specifically, some of the issues that need to be addressed when using BIM include: will a BIM manager be needed, who is in charge of the model, whether different parties (for example architect, managing contractor or contractor) are in charge of the model at different stages in the design process, how information is going to be exchanged, the party who is responsible for providing the information, where is the information going to be stored, what is the naming convention for the files so that the referenced or linked files function properly across project teams, what level of detail (LOD) will be used in model development, and can the model be relied upon by the project participants?   

Incorporating BIM into construction contracts

BIM can be incorporated into any type of contract.  In the US, the Consensus Docs 301 BIM Addendum was created as an overlay to work with existing standard form contracts.  BIM has also been used in Australia in conjunction with the Australian standard form Design & Construction contract.

However, the full benefits of BIM are best achieved with a collaborative contract structure (involving all project participants – for example managing contractor, integrated product delivery or alliance models) where all participants are involved in the project design from an early stage. 

New legal issues created by BIM include liability, confidentiality and copyright issues, and need to be addressed in any BIM-related contract.  In addition, the items discussed in the previous section (BIM execution process and BIM information exchange) should also be included in a project’s contract documentation.

How Mills Oakley can help you realise the potential of BIM

BIM is a promising technology but correct execution is crucial to its successful use on projects. Very little work has been done in developing construction/infrastructure documentation that fully provides for BIM.

Existing contract structures need to be amended to fully incorporate BIM, especially in the context of “Full BIM” where collaboration throughout the project is essential to the project’s success. Mills Oakley’s key BIM contacts are available to assist.

In our next update, we will examine the common methods of project delivery and discuss their compatibility with BIM..

Contact Mills Oakley

For more information please contact:

Ziv Ben-Arie| Partner
T: +61 2 8289 5854

Andrew Wallis| Partner
T: +61 2 8289 5810

Peter Meades | Partner
T: +61 2 8289 5889

Scott Laycock | Partner
T: +61 2 8035 7871

Scott Higgins | Partner
T: +61 2 8035 7872

[1] See The Business Value of BIM for Construction in Major Global Markets – How Contractors Around the World are Driving Innovation with Building Information Modeling (2014)________________________________________

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