Construction: BIM is booming

Widely democratised in recent years, Building Information Modelling, or BIM, has introduced new risks and new liabilities to a sector that had long-since remained largely unaffected by new technologies.

BIM is defined by working methods and a parametric 3D digital model that contains smart and structured data. It is this sharing of reliable information throughout the lifecycle of a building or infrastructure, from their design and use to their demolition, which makes this concept so interesting.

 

A pre-existing concept, but one which has strong potential

CAO modelling and design software has existed since the advent of computing. BIM owes its democratisation to the evolution of computers and increased computation speeds combined with social willingness and an environment protection policy. It is a significant lever of economic growth in a building industry renowned for being resistant to change and new technologies.

In England, one of the most advanced countries in this field, it is believed that the building industry must not just improve its working methods, but change them radically. In this context, BIM offers multiple benefits in response to these new methods, as analyses/checks/inspections are carried out in the very early stages of project studies, thus ensuring a better quality design and the detection of problems before the project begins. Thanks to the constantly updated digital model, construction costs are better controlled as information can be extracted from the model in real time. The overall quality of buildings is improved thanks to the different analyses, summaries and simulations carried out in the early stages of the projects, before the cost of changes would have too great an impact on the project’s overall budget.

 

Lower claim rate and a new legal framework

In a collaborative system such as the BIM, the major challenge is determining liability in the case of a claim. As such, the BIM manager, this new player in construction operations, may not only see their tort/contractual liability being sought when providing support services to a contracting authority but also their ten-year liability if they are actively involved in the design of the structure.

Contracting authorities which are, for the moment, not considered builders within the meaning of the French Civil Code, could become so if they take on the role of BIM manager. The same applies for the liability of software publishers and IT service providers.

The use of the digital model could also result in new claims linked to the overlapping of the different tasks, the modification or deletion of IT data, or piracy, which would complicate the determination of liability among stakeholders.

Insurance policies are designed to evolve and adapt in response to the emergence of new risks and new stakeholders, just as they should be based on reductions in claims as a result of better dialogue with the site’s different stakeholders.

Furthermore, and with regards to intellectual property, other legal and insurance challenges are being encountered as the legal status of BIM is yet to be defined.

In the years to come, other standards may emerge, particularly from English-speaking countries, including the concept of a “digital twin” which enables the anticipation of maintenance operations through the analysis of smart data. The building and construction industry, which until now has taken a back seat, could in turn get caught up in the race to impose a global standard and amass a vast database that new players, mainly start-ups, could use for yet-to-be-invented purposes. This serves as a reminder of the central role currently played by “data” collection and use in economic and technological issues.

 

Jean-Baptiste Brode, Construction Loss Adjuster