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What effect will BIM have on Construction Disputes...??

What is BIM?  A type of Software? The 3D model of buildings?  A Process linking the client and Design team? An Organised Collection of all Building Data? In truth, BIM is all of these and more.  


It is widely thought that Modern day Construction Projects waste up to 30% by reference to cost overruns.  These cost over-runs arise due to numerous causes e.g. Poor and/or un-coordinated design and specification, production errors etc. BIM is expected to reduce this by increasing buildability and off site production, together with reducing variations by avoiding clashes due to design errors.  BIM will apparently do this by producing timely and accurate construction design, drawings and dimensions as well as the other essential ingredients, e.g. Performance Specification, Employers Requirements, etc...  But are you aware of the different levels of BIM?

 It is widely reported that the Government Construction Strategy for the UK will require all Public sector work to have adopted BIM by 2016, but were you aware that this is only at Level 2?

The table below details the levels of BIM as set out by the Government Construction Client Group:

So what effect will BIM have on construction Disputes?  First we need to think about the common causes of disputes; Poor administration of Construction Contracts, Poor or incomplete design, Variations, Valuation disagreements... To name just a few!


The administration of Contracts is unlikely to be adversely affected by BIM.  In fact with the JCT incorporating BIM Protocols into their contracts, will this create another avenue for the ‘Legal Beagles’ to drive down in the form of Design Liability?  

Poor or Incomplete Design can lead to Site delays (amongst other issues).  BIM through ‘Clash Detection’ should reduce these.  A ‘Clash’ being a Design interface issue.  Clash detection Pre-BIM occurred naturally within a strong design team, but occasionally (and we’ve all been there) when you get to the construction phase, something may have been missed and the design may require alteration.   For example, pre-BIM, if an M&E Sub-Contractor tried to install a pipe and found a beam in the way there could be a delay whilst the Main Contractor sought a solution (a simple example we know, though we trust this makes our point).  The theory is that with BIM, this ’Clash’ would be picked up in the 3D modelling and highlighted well in advance of the installation commencing.

Variations, an infinite number of reasons can cause variations on Projects, however using our example above, to re-route the pipe around, above or under the beam would certainly cost more money and hence form a variation.  This should/would not need to be a variation under BIM because it should/would have been picked up pre-Construction.


What can BIM do to reduce the arguments that occur with Valuations?  Well besides the software being able to assist in the agreement of Measurement, we see little scope for BIM eradicating the Surveyor’s determination to load or slash a valuation to make more profit.  In addition it will not prevent the spurious withholding of monies.

The road ahead is a long one, the adoption of BIM sounds like an innovative and progressive step for our Industry but Contractors/Sub-Contractors and Consultancies will need to educate themselves to new ways of working and invest heavily in IT infrastructure, new systems and work procedures.  Will the advantage of experience and competence in BIM reduce costs for purchasers of buildings or win more contracts for Contractors or     Sub-Contractors and/or increase profitability?   Will the benefits prevail over the increased overhead costs?  

To answer the question that we pose, BIM has the potential to simplify the resolution of a measurement issue, but it is our intuition that it will not reduce or indeed eradicate Construction Disputes.

Ian Brant

April 2012

Level Definitions

0.  Unmanaged CAD probably 2D, with paper (or electronic paper) as the most likely data exchange mechanism.

1. Managed CAD in 2 or 3D format using BS1192:2007 with a collaboration tool providing a common data environment, possibly some standard data structures and formats.  Commercial data managed by standalone finance and cost management packages with no integration.

2. Managed 3D environment held in separate discipline ‘BIM’ tools with attached data.  Commercial data managed by an ERP.  Integration on the basis of proprietary interfaces or bespoke middleware could be regarded as “pBIM” (proprietary).  The approach may utilise 4D programme data and 5D cost elements as well as feed operational systems.

3. Fully open process and data integration enabled by “web services” compliant with the emerging IFC/IFD standards, managed by collaborative model server.  Could be regarded as iBIM or integrated BIM potentially employing concurrent engineering processes.

Strategy Paper for the Government Construction Client Group From the BIM Industry Working Group – March 2011