BIM is becoming increasingly important within the construction and building industry; utilised in mega projects through to smaller commercial builds.

(To learn about what BIM is, click here.)

BIM is being used worldwide and has become a cornerstone of international construction ambition. The UK leads the field in the implementation of BIM, since 2016 all centrally-procured construction projects are required to utilise BIM level 2 in their processes. In the US, 72% of all construction firms use BIM. Whilst France, Germany, Spain and the Middle East have also developed the comprehensive implementation of BIM.

The importance of BIM is reflected by BIM’s implementation in some of the world’s largest projects, such as:

  • The Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road, costing an estimated £8billion (almost AU$20billion);
  • The Istanbul New Airport, completed in October 2018, is the largest airport in the world.

  • The Baku National Station; construction teams using BIM built a 69,870-seat stadium in 18 months.

Where does that leave Australia?

With BIM’s growing importance it poses the question: where does that leave Australia? It is undeniable that Australia is trailing the industry leaders. Despite this fact, BIM is becoming increasingly popular in Australia. The construction market has demonstrated enthusiasm for BIM, but the main push has come from the Federal Government as well as various state government departments. State and federal governments have acknowledged that BIM is the global building industry standard and have thus issued a series of long term plans to increase the implementation of BIM in Australia.

  • Whilst there are no blanketed government mandates in Australia yet, in March 2016 the Australian Government’s Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities has urged to make BIM compulsory on government-funded infrastructure projects exceeding $50million in costs.
  • In Australia, Queensland has jumped to the front of the pack in terms of BIM implementation. The Queensland Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning released a draft policy and principle document in 2017, whilst the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads released a further guide for using BIM in road infrastructure.
  • On 22 June 2018, the NSW government issued a 10 point commitment to the construction sector. The commitment paid close attention to procuring and managing jobs in a more collaborative way and embracing innovative approaches such as BIM, adopting it as a standard feature of major project procurement. Our comments on the 10 point plan are here.
  • The NSW Government also mandated the use of BIM for Sydney Metro Northwest, previously known as the North West Rail Link. It is an AU$8.3bil project.

Limitations on BIM in Australia

BIM is largely hampered in Australia by the lack of a contract capable of incorporating BIM.

BIM Level 0 and 1 can be adequately incorporated into traditional procurement models such as design and construction contracts.

Level 2 entails inserting a BIM protocol that sets out the technical requirements of the BIM as well as the party’s obligations regarding the use of the BIM model. What Australia lacks in contrast to industry leaders is specific Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) contracts.

The US has adopted an IPD contract model and created an integrated form of agreement (IFOA). An IFOA is an agreement between the architect, general contractor and owner, it spreads responsibility as opposed to a design-construct contract that has a single point of responsibility. The form assumes an agreement between owner/designer/builder with specialised subcontracts used to incorporate trades and consultants into the IPD business and contract model. The UK’s IPD style contract is the Be Collaborative Contract (BCC).

What does that mean for the industry and smaller projects?

The increasing use and importance of BIM mean that all parties in the building industry should start developing an understanding of BIM.

BIM has played an essential role in large construction projects, and the benefits have been evident. One problem now faced is the adoption of BIM in smaller projects.  With BIM considered as part of the future of the building and construction industry, smaller businesses, by developing an understanding of BIM protects their business’ viability amidst the perpetually evolving construction industry.

This will also mean the industry will need to look at developing standard form contracts or arrangements that properly incorporate more sophisticated levels of BIM or adopting contract models more closely aligned with the US and UK.

Disclaimer: This publication by Morrissey Law & Advisory is for general information and commentary only and should not be considered or relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in relation to any matters or transactions that may arise in relation with communication.