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Explainers

BIM bytes: Will BIM data sharing bring greater transparency?

25 January 2016 | By Tim Willis, Trowers & Hamlins

One aspect of BIM Level 2 is the provision of a Common Data Environment (CDE). In the context of the government target for BIM Level 2, the CDE is specified by the employer in the Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR). This data is largely – albeit not exclusively – concerned with the physical asset and decisions the employer has to make during the lifecycle of the facility.

Tier 1 contractors are very interested in using data to better manage the construction process – both in the construction phase and for managing the facility. New processes include storing traditional records in forms attached to a BIM model. For today’s contractors, snagging may be done by pointing a tablet at a feature to generate a form tagged to a location.

Models are also being linked to programming software to generate 3D visualisations for model construction sequencing and clash detection. Data recorded in the field is date and location specific, while models can be interrogated for their data history.

In a sense none of this is new. Contractors have always kept records and design development is recorded through variations. So will BIM take us further?

A phrase embedded in the philosophy of BIM is “the single source of truth”, and the industry understands that transparency of information is important. But in reality, it is common practice, where a party sees it as in its own commercial interest, for information to be used in a very non-collaborative “need to know” basis, or even hidden.

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It is difficult to see how we will change the dynamic: it is likely there will continue to be a division between those records that the contractor requires for its own purposes, and the data an employer may ask to be kept in the CDE.

However, if the source of data is reliable and data is readily available, it may be that we can reduce the inconsistency of records that often prevents a clear picture of events when problems arise.

Is it too far-fetched to imagine a time when project records are held in a CDE with access granted to any party to the project, or any tribunal asked to resolve a dispute? Could we start from one source of truth held in the CDE and concentrate on resolving issues from a common base?

For one-off smaller projects using small Tier 1 contractors, this information may not be captured. But if larger Tier 1 contractors introduce these practices as standard and require their supply chain to follow, the availability of data will become much more common – and the question of access and how it can be used in a dispute context will be a real question for the industry.

Tim Willis is a consultant in Trowers & Hamlins’ dispute resolution and litigation department

Main image: www.dreamstime.com/Kheng Ho Toh

In reality, it is common practice, where a party sees it as in its own commercial interest, for information to be used in a very non-collaborative “need to know” basis, or even hidden.– Tim Willis, Trowers & Hamlins