+27 11 648 9500   +27 87 183 1933

What is Building Information Modelling or else known as BIM?

3 October 2018


This year I had the privilege to attend the Construction Law Summer School that was held at the Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, UK. On the last day of this ‘course’, one of the speakers, Mr. Joseph F. Moore, from the law firm HansonBridget LLP in San Francisco, California, presented its talk on “The Legal Obligations and Risks of Building Information Modelling”.

As you would have noted from the title and the above, “BIM” stands for ‘building information modelling’.[1]

This was in particular a very interesting presentation to me, and I am ashamed to admit it, but until then, the term and abbreviation were unfamiliar to me and it never crossed my path in the few years that I have practised as an Attorney in South Africa. Upon my return from the UK, I did some further searching into BIM and out of interest, wanted to establish if there were companies in South Africa who has knowledge and expertise on the use of BIM who can assist the construction industry players of South Africa or even beyond borders. By surprise, I noticed that there are a few companies already, with even a BIM Institute who has their offices located in Cape Town, in the Western Cape Province.

When you search videos on BIM, it gets even more interesting and fun. The instruments and system structure of this technology and how it can inter alia be utilised and be developed during a construction project, is in my view a game changer. There are daily various technological advancements around the world, and the aim of the majority of them (or at least in my view), is to make your life less complicated. However, there are always some negatives attached to it and people will have different views when it comes to technology.

An example of a possible less complicated life on site, is that BIM models can digitally generate and store the information electronically which is usually obtained from documents that are written and stored in hard copy, such as drawings, schedules and specifications[2] to name a few.

The use of BIM is also supported by the new NEC4 contract. Secondary Option X10, deals with “INFORMATION MODELLING”. Looking at the definitions, it inter alia defines “The Information Model” as “the electronic integration of Project Information and similar information provided by the Client and other Information Providers and is in the form stated in the Information Model Requirements”.

The “Information Providers” is defined to be “the people or organisations who contribute to the Information Model and are identified in the Information Model Requirements”. By reading this, it already raises some questions with regards to inter alia information or intellectual property ownership. This however, will be a separate topic that I will investigate and explain later in more detail with my further articles on BIM.

In quoting the authors, Peter Barnes and Nigel Davies who authored “BIM in Principle and in Practice[3], and in particular, the introduction on BIM, they inter alia state, “There can be little doubt that BIM is here to stay”. Further, “When applied correctly, BIM is intended to make substantial cost savings throughout the whole life cycle of a building, from design, through construction and maintenance, to regeneration and eventual disposal or recycling

It is also viewed that the use of BIM on projects, can positively contribute in advancing collaboration between the relevant project players. Barnes and Davies[4] states “Another major aspect of BIM is the potential full collaboration of the entire project team – the employer, the architect, the engineers, the consultants, the contractor and the specialist contractors – in developing the project design.

The most important outcome to this is that such full collaboration “not only allows for increased speed of project delivery, enhanced economics for the project and true lean construction all at levels but also the potential to change the relationships between the participants in the construction industry, from the more traditional contracts based on obligations and rights to the more modern partnering associations based on fair allocation and sharing of risks and liabilities.”[5]

Considering that and in conclusion, there is no doubt that projects are more successful when it is managed by parties who are willing to collaborate and seek to maintain a positive, collaborative and good partnering relationship with each other.

  1. See “BIM in Principle and in Practice”, authored by Peter Barnes and Nigel Davies and published by ICE Publishing, pp 1-2.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Published by ICE Publishing
  4. See “BIM in Principle and in Practice”, authored by Peter Barnes and Nigel Davies and published by ICE Publishing, pp 2
  5. Ibid

Author: Barry Herholdt, Senior Associate