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Legal Updates

BIM: is it ready yet?

10 October 2014 #Construction

Employers are increasingly asking for “BIM” to be included in the services provided by consultants and contractors, but very few of them know what they are asking for and very few consultants and contractors can actually provide it! The problem arises out of defining exactly what “BIM” is for the purposes of the project in question.

The government started the BIM craze with its announcement that it would require “collaborative 3D BIM” on all projects by 2016. In essence, this means that all project and asset information, documentation and data would be held in a centralised electronic system.

In practice, an employer looking to procure a project with government-level BIM requirements (and it’s as good a place as any to start) will need to include the following documents in its Employer’s Requirements:

  1. PAS 1192-2 (Specification for information management for the capital/delivery phase of construction projects using Building Information Modelling);
  2. PAS1192-3 (Specification for information management for the operational phase of assets using building information modeling);
  3. BS 1192-4 a proposed standard for the structure of data for use in Level 2 BIM (Building Information Modelling), which adopts COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange);
  4. A BIM Protocol – for example the CIC BIM Protocol;
  5. A Government Soft Landings (GSL) process;
  6. A digital plan of work; and
  7. A classification system (or common language).

“Not so bad”, you might say, “seems like I should be able to tick all those boxes to produce a bona fide BIM project” (hurrah!). Hold the celebrations, for a spanner remains in the works…

The government BIM (and all other UK BIM systems) are missing a common language (the classification system at point 7, above). As a very simple example from a lawyer (not an M&E engineer), if the architect adds a ceiling fan to the design and labels it “ceiling fan model x” but the M&E designer labels such ceiling fans as “X model ceiling fan”, the Building Information Model will not work, because interrogation of the model will only identify those ceiling fans labelled under the classification system used by the interrogator. This means that the much-hyped clash detection benefits of BIM will be compromised during the design stage and the end user will not be able to interrogate the model during the life of the constructed building unless it knows exactly what each consultant has labelled each piece of plant or material in the building.

Therefore, Employer’s should not expect too much from BIM as it currently stands, and contractors, engineers, and consultants should ensure that they are not promising to deliver something that cannot yet be delivered. Common languages do exist, but they do not yet cover all aspects of a construction project, meaning that a number of languages may have to be used or gaps in the model accepted. Whilst there is not one comprehensive language that could be considered the ‘industry standard’, the Information Manager* will need to ensure that the various members of the project team are all using the same system of classification, and that the Employers Requirements do not ask for more than can be delivered.

* Under the BIM Protocol, the Employer is required to name a party to deliver Information Management Services, which have three principal components:

  • Managing the Common Data Environment;
  • Project information management; and
  • Collaborative working, information exchange and project team management.


Clarkslegal, specialist Construction lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Construction matter please contact Clarkslegal's construction team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
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