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BIM in the construction industry

BIM in the construction industry

A game changer for dispute resolution

Today’s construction industry demands innovation and transformation to achieve higher standards of efficiency and productivity across the entire project lifecycle.

Digitisation has revolutionised how projects are planned, designed, constructed, maintained, and progressed. Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the core of this revolution; BIM acts as a catalyst for more collaborative behaviours and better information sharing.

Author: Abdullah Al Bash, Technical Director, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Driver Trett Middle East

Disputes have been identified as a critical cause of the deficiency and low performance in construction projects.

This article proposes that a BIM environment may minimise the issues that would cause conflicts before they develop into disputes and may help resolve disputes when they occur.

BIM is a platform that promotes a high standard of collaboration, coordination, and information sharing, where its implementation ranges from project initialisation to the handover stage and beyond, into facilities management.

This article explores the possibilities of enhancing the process of dispute resolution in construction through the implementation of BIM.

We will focus on the following key sections:

  • BIM definitions from multiple perspectives in the construction industry.
  • Current problems in the construction industry.
  • BIM benefits in a dispute resolution context.
  • Challenges of adopting BIM in dispute resolution.

BIM definitions

For the sake of clarity, and to give the reader a better understanding of BIM, the following are a couple of the most utilised BIM definitions.

On the UK Government’s BIM Task Group website1, BIM is comprehensively defined with a focus on collaboration, intelligent 3D models, and information exchange: “…value creating collaboration through the entire lifecycle of an asset, underpinned by the creation, collation and exchange of shared 3D models and intelligent, structured data attached to them.”

Another well-structured definition is developed by the Government’s report, ‘Digital Built Britain: Level 3 BIM - Strategic Plan’, which includes the following: “Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a collaborative way of working, underpinned by the digital technologies which unlock more efficient methods of designing, creating, and maintaining our assets. BIM embeds key product and asset data and a 3-dimensional computer model that can be used for effective management of information, throughout a project lifecycle – from earliest concept through to operation."

Current market situation - UK and Middle East

In the dramatically titled report, ‘Modernise or Die’, published by Mark Farmer in 20162, Farmer reviewed the UK construction labour model and stated:3 "It is time to decide the industry’s future". Giving criticisms of the prevailing conditions of the UK construction market, the report recommended that a revolution needed to happen; otherwise, the construction industry would be “seriously debilitated”.

Following on from Farmer’s report, many problems were highlighted, including:

  • Low productivity due to a failure to adopt the technology.
  • The decreasing volume of the future workforce due to an ageing labour force.
  • And most importantly, a lack of collaboration and improvement culture being a significant problem that prevents organisations from growing.

The ultimate recommendation of Mark Farmer’s report was to embrace BIM as a solution to the construction industry’s problems.

Farmer said: “now is the time to allow the opportunities from digitisation to offset the risks of continued reliance on labour intensive techniques”.

In the Middle East, Dubai has taken the lead in the use of BIM in major projects. Dubai Municipality (DM) issued circular no. 196 on 18 November 2013 to all consultants and contractors in the construction industry in Dubai to mandate the use of BIM. In my opinion, more development in the Middle East is needed to establish standardisation and guidance of BIM applications.

Meanwhile, BIM has already been adopted in major developments in the Middle East, such as the Dubai Opera House, the Royal Atlantis Hotel in Dubai, the Midfield Terminal Airport in Abu Dhabi and the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh Metro and Doha Metro.

Benefits of BIM in construction disputes

BIM can provide two key benefits, namely dispute avoidance and dispute resolution.

BIM to avoid disputes

BIM can play a proactive role in dispute avoidance in the following ways:

  • Enables a better understanding of the scope of work between parties through the visualisation capability. This helps to minimise and better manage changes, and to reduce the probability of late issuance of change.
  • In the case of any change, BIM provides an effective presentation of the change and its potential impact(s) on project time and cost.
  • If the change has an impact on time and cost, then BIM enhances how the related claim is submitted and assessed through visualisation of the impact, and most importantly the enhancement of communication, transparency, and collaboration between the parties. 

BIM to resolve disputes 

BIM may help to simplify disputes and minimise the time and effort required to resolve them4. The rationale of this is:

  • The process of dispute resolution should be accelerated as a result of more accurate, easily accessible information which provides greater clarity on the parties’ positions.
  • BIM (4D) includes simulation of different schedule scenarios (as-planned, impacted, updated, as-built) to demonstrate the cause and effect of events.
  • BIM (5D) includes cost estimation options, meaning that the quantification of changed items in a project can be more easily retrieved.

There exists a need to raise awareness of BIM’s capabilities, as there is still a lack of understanding of what it is and what it is capable of. Many people refer only to the first and last letters of BIM, and assume it merely involves working in the 3D building model while ignoring the power of the ‘I’ - Information, which is the core of BIM. The richness of BIM may provide a great way of sharing information and encourage the development of a high-level collaborative environment between parties.

Key challenges in using BIM in dispute resolution

The main challenges to using BIM in dispute resolution are5:

  • Complexity: BIM can be difficult for experts and lawyers in arbitration and court procedures to understand, especially when they have not previously been exposed to this BIM or 3D modelling.
  • Model manipulation: BIM models have powerful simulation capabilities which can tweak the actual causation and the impact of the delay if they are not used properly, which may become a reason for the dispute itself.


Information is really what BIM is all about.

The construction industry has recognised the potential benefits of adopting BIM in dispute resolution. If used properly, BIM’s key benefits include proactive and collaborative dispute avoidance and dispute resolution, saving time and money and helping to maintain crucial business relationships. BIM is undoubtedly an important and exciting development within the construction industry. However, like any new process or development in the way we work, BIM introduces new legal issues, challenges, and risks, which should all be addressed and overcome so that BIM can be utilised to its maximum potential.

This article was written for issue 25 of the Driver Trett Digest. To view the publication, please visit: www.driver-group.com/digest-issue-25

The Government’s BIM task group / Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) www.bimtaskgroup.org / www.cdbb.cam.ac.uk
Farmer 2016, The Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model
The UK has been chosen as an analysis model due to its position as a global leader in BIM applications.
David-John Gibbs; Wayne Lord ; Stephen Emmitt ; and Kirti Ruikar, interactive exhibit to assist with understanding project delays.
Zohreh Soltani and Stuart Anderson, Ph.D. and Julian Kang, Ph.D., The Challenges of Using BIM in Construction Dispute Resolution Process

ArticlesDigestEuropeGlobalMiddle East

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