• Building Information Modeling
  • January 29, 2010 | Author: Joseph A. Cleves
  • Law Firm: Dressman Benzinger LaVelle psc - Cincinnati Office
  • The use of technology is driving the future of the design and construction industry. The best example currently emerging is the use of three-dimensional, intelligent design information, generally called Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM is bringing the construction industry away from a 2-D based design process, and towards a model based process. This model-based process allows buildings to be built virtually before they get out in the field.

    What is BIM?
    In its most basic form, BIM is the move from analog to digital design and construction. The model-based technology at its core is linked with a database of project information. It is fundamentally changing the way projects are built, and the way key players communicate with each other.

    The core idea of BIM is to deliver information that is coordinated, internally consistent, and computable—that is, where the computer knows how to treat the aggregated data like a building. The data model created combines the design, fabrication information, erection instructions, and project management logistics. This model will exist for the life of a building. The value of BIM is in significant construction efficiencies and initial cost savings. The benefits further extend to the operation and maintenance of the facility.

    Among the many advantages of BIM as a single source of building information are the following:

    • Plans, elevations and section drawings, generated as “views” from a single design model, are always consistent.
    • Coordination of building objects created across different disciplines in a single model resolves clashes between design elements.
    • Comprehensive schedules associated with the building are easily generated and kept up-to-date with any changes to the model .
    • The availability of a single BIM makes it possible to capture additional information throughout design, procurement and construction of a building, serving as a living record of the building for operations and maintenance throughout its lifecycle.

    Significant Legal Issues Arise
    As with many technology driven revolutions, the legal implications of the resulting changes are going to require significant alterations as well. The multiplicity of organizations contributing data to BIM gives rise to the need for a standardized BIM contract. Various contracting agencies are working toward this goal. However, the industry is still struggling to get its hands around what BIM really is, and what its contractual implications are. Is BIM a completely different method of contracting, wherein all participants collaborate? Are the lines between design and construction slightly blurred? Or is BIM really a technological tool to help do the same thing we have been doing for decades?

    Significant legal issues that will have to be addressed include design liability and ownership. Multiple parties contribute to the project design with BIM, sharing information and adding to the design as part of the ongoing design process. To what extent is design liability shared? Is there a party, such as the architect, who has responsibility for the entire design? Who owns the copyright? Does the project owner obtain ownership of the BIM design, or merely hold a use license over the decades-long lifespan of the building?

    These are all pressing questions that will have to be addressed in the project’s contracts. Reaching a satisfactory resolution will be a challenge. Existing construction contracts are based on forms up to 30 years old, and are written around case law 100 years old. Overlaying BIM’s changes into contracts evolving from existing forms, while incorporating a clear understanding of the software involved, will make for an interesting transition.