Abstract of metal white joints.

What are the potential risks associated with BIM?

14 March 2013

This is the second of three blogs about Building Information Models, or BIM. This blog will consider the potential risks associated with BIM, but don't worry we provide some practical advice on how these risks can be tackled in our final BIM blog.

These risks associated with BIM can, predominantly, be broken into two categories: firstly, risks caused by human error and poor communication; and secondly, risks associated with the BIM set up. 

There are the inherent problems associated with using complex systems on construction projects.  These types of risks are not particularly new, but there is a danger of over-reliance on systems which will only be as effective as the information that is being placed into them.  No amount of sophisticated technology will remove the possibility of human error.  If this is compounded by poor communication between parties when making changes to a BIM model (or models), problems may occur. 

A US court recently heard its first BIM-related case.  During the construction of a life-sciences building at a university there was a breakdown in communication between the client, the design team and the contractor.  The components for the plumbing system in the building fitted perfectly in the BIM model, but failed to work because of a failure to install the components in accordance with a very specific sequence.  This illustrates that the BIM is only as good as the people using it and the communication of relevant information, such as sequencing requirements. 

As a shared model, allowing greater collaboration, BIM changes the culture of the design process and the interaction of relationships between the parties on a construction project.  How this change is managed will affect parties' exposure to risks.  For example, it is unlikely that a construction project will use a single BIM model for all purposes.  This may lead to a flawed interaction between different parties' software. 

Another key concern is how BIM will affect the design liability of consultants, contractors and subcontractors.  Contributors to a BIM model are likely to come from the entire spectrum of those involved in the design of a construction project.  Uncertainty over which parties contributed each aspect of the model is likely to lead to potential for confusion over who is liable if a particular aspect of the BIM model leads to a dispute on a construction project. 

Even though a BIM may be issued collaboratively, designers risk assuming overall responsibility and there is certainly a danger of appointments including overlapping duties and shared responsibilities in relation to BIM.  Design professionals and contractors alike will want protection from potential liability for their contributions to BIM.