Information management vs contracts: the terms to avoid

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“I want BIM.” “I want a clash-free model.” “Achieve Level 2 BIM.” “Comply with the BEP.” These are just some of the nonsensical or unachievable contract terms that all levels of the supply chain should be wary of.

These contract terms were revealed in a recent IM4Legal webinar by May Winfield, global director of commercial, legal and digital risks at Buro Happold.

“Sometimes you will see in scope or in the contract itself, ‘I want BIM.’ ‘I want a 3D model.’ The trouble with this is it doesn’t actually mean anything. If you have a room of 50 people, and ask each of them, ‘what does a BIM model actually mean, what should it contain?’, everyone’s going to have a different answer,” she said.

Such vague terminology can enable an argument as to whether the contract has been fulfilled or whether payment is due or not.

Winfield added: “There’s a favourite expression now, ‘clash-free model’. You can’t provide a clash-free model: you could probably in theory, but it would be very difficult. You should be saying that there can be a certain percentage of clashes or clashes within certain parameters. Clash-free has become of a favourite expression and it’s one to look out for.”

Level 2 BIM? Doh!

She highlighted other vague or unachievable contract terms, including ‘level 2 BIM’: “‘Achieve level 2 BIM’ – there’s no such thing as level 2 and ISO 19650 has no levels in it. This expression doesn’t actually mean anything. The UK BIM framework explains this.

“If you sign up to a contract that says this, you could have an argument later on. What were you supposed to deliver? Did you actually do it? Are you entitled to be paid? Are you in breach of contract?”

Winfield warned of further dangers: “Sometimes you have very bland things like ‘you will comply with the BIM Execution Plan (BEP)’, but there isn’t a BEP yet, and you may think, ‘what’s the problem now’? The issue is because the BEP is a living document – it gets developed – what if it includes things later on which are beyond scope? Are you entitled to payment? Are you entitled to additional time? Maybe, maybe not.

"Ideally, do you want to say you’ll comply with the BEP as mutually agreed? Or do you want to comply with certain versions of the BEP? It’s something to discuss with your professional advisors.”

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