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04 Journal

Opportunities in the Process of BIM – Part 1: Contracts, bids and agreements

All too often I am told that BIM is ‘just a tool’ – typically a poorly worded attempt to supress BIM behind more traditional ways of working. Consensus tends to be that BIM is in fact better described as a process, one of which has significant benefits at all stages of the design and construction process itself.

In order to function effectively as this process, there are many aspects of BIM that need to be effectively utilised. This article deals with the first aspect, and future articles will address more – with the goal in each case being to expose solutions or steps we are already taking towards them.

”Waiter, there’s a BIM in my contract!”
The first and arguably most damaging shortfall of BIM lies within our contracts and agreements – the way in which they are articulated, when they are written and how they are executed.

Managing BIM within contracts is far too often treated in a reductive manner from all sides; so as to reduce contract complexity, over-commitment and potential for ambiguity. Emphasis is placed on dealing with the challenge later when it is more relevant, which experienced professionals know rarely yields good outcomes.

In some cases supressing BIM from our contracts makes sense – why muddle the mixture with ‘crystal ball’ thinking that will not be set in motion for years potentially? If removed in its entirety however, this can often delay key decisions which are pivotal to the delivery and design of the project.

BIM Management Plans: Proactive vs Reactive
BIM brings with it a myriad of contractually complex and cost sensitive topics, such as;
– How is the project BIM Benchmarked and audited?
– Who manages and pays for the common data environment?
– Which BIM software will be required to deliver the project?
– What file formats are required and when?
– Does the client have specific information requirements?
– Will there be a facilities management handover requirement?

BIM Management Plans are a suitable response to these questions; however more often than not, they are not executed in time to effectively influence the main contract – forming a contractually ignorable document rather than a mechanism capable of steering the project forward.


Having written a few ‘reactive’ BIM Management Plans in my career to date, I cannot help but feel I’m writing what should have been framed out as a ‘BIM Contract’ for the project from day one. Active contracts need to be carefully scoured so as to ensure no party is over-committed beyond their current obligations by the addition of a BIM Management Plan, and grey areas (which there always are) present the risk of triggering lengthy team meetings in order to clarify.

Whilst the need for a detailed BIM Management Plan is not necessarily suitable from day one, the need for an evolving framework (in the contract itself) is essential to facilitate the emergence of a BIM Management Plan as a contractually effective document.

Bidding for BIM
Architectural firms know that BIM provides an edge when competing in tenders against other firms. I am still frequently disappointed to see invitations to tender that do not request detailed BIM processes (if any) from bidding parties (such as BIM delivery methodology). Why respond to a question not asked?

On the one hand, one could argue that high quality BIM is expected as a part of the capability of each firm involved. On the other hand, the tendering stage is the perfect opportunity for a client to set project specific BIM goals and requirements to the tenderers (and be able to reject those who are evidently not capable).

Regardless of this, it is in a bidding firm’s best interest to clearly set and articulate their BIM capabilities both generally as well as in context of the project itself. BIM is such an integral part of how we deliver architectural projects – it should not be omitted from or buried within our capability statement for a bid just to keep tensions low.

Involving BIM in a bid is sometimes perceived as an unnecessary risk (what if the complexity of our strategy confuses them?), but how else can we inform and educate our potential future clients of their potential gains from BIM? After all, we are the experts!

Solutions: Communicate and Commit
As a BIM Manager, I feel it is a part of my professional duty to impart and encourage a need for these changes in thinking to other professionals before they are forced to make knee-jerk reactions when the waves finally break over them. We as an industry should seek to support one another to protect the overall integrity of our professions – the whole needs all parts in order to function.

There are many firms and clients clearly on board with emphasising the importance of BIM in their contracts, agreements and bids – my hat is off to them. We only need to look to the UK to see the likely future of Australia’s BIM requirements in the AEC market.

Watch the skies, and if you’re accelerating beyond the pack – don’t slow down now.

Visit Gavin’s YouTube Channel for further BIM learning

Read Part 2: Information

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