Some members have expressed an interest in understanding the risks associated with BIM – Building Information Modelling.  I don’t claim any particular BIM expertise but the following is drawn from my personal experience on medium to large commercial projects, and is therefore by no means exhaustive.

Before having anything to do with BIM, members should acquaint themselves with the New Zealand BIM Handbook and its appendices.

These are very useful documents and contain more detail than the NZCIC guidelines.  More detailed information is also in the international standard ISO 19650.  These documents are a reminder that BIM is much more than a fancy parametric CAD model, and that during the life of a project there are many ways in which ‘information’ might be used.

One of the key aspects of BIM is that the work you do is generally used by and relied upon by numerous downstream parties (e.g. construction, operation) so it’s very important that what you input into a BIM model is correct and so, before you even start, you need good internal modelling standards, templates, and systems.  Also make any limitations about the model/information clear.  A good BIM model is much more valuable than a simple set of drawings and so you should charge appropriately for this.

There are various views of how you can protect your intellectual property rights but, assuming the use of an NZIA AAS, the licence to use the model is similar to the drawings and belongs to them.  The IP also lies in how you model things and carry out Quality Assurance but this will largely remain within your team and not be passed on.

As the lead consultant the architect is often also looked upon to provide BIM Management Services.  Only provide these if you are confident that you have, and can maintain, this skillset.

The following identifies some of the hazard and risk areas by typical workstage.

Project Establishment/Briefing

Request for Proposal (RFP)

  • Dealing with poorly written RFPs.  These can contain broad requirements like ‘a clash-free BIM model is to be provided to the contractor as part of the construction documentation’ or a have requirement to provide ‘a complete as-built BIM model to LOD 300’.  These can be very onerous or impractical, and to manage this risk it is important to review the RFP documents looking for these requirements, seek clarification if possible, and respond clearly with what your proposal includes.
  • If you are part of a consultant team bid then it’s worth doing a pre-contract BIM Execution Plan (BEP) so that everyone knows what they’re committing to and what is covered by the fee.  BIM is typically highly collaborative and such a BEP clearly sets out what everyone is expected to deliver.  This minimizes the risk of disagreements later and, if included in your bid, can make it clear what is in scope.
  • Make sure that you identify and charge accordingly for managing the BIM process if you have that role.  This will include the BIM manager’s time but can also include project related costs like a Common Data Environment (CDE) where the BIM model is hosted, and licences for BIM collaboration and model-checking software.  This can all add up to a considerable sum.
  • Ensure that proper protocols are in place (with all participants) to manage cyber security risks, and make sure you have the appropriate Cyber Liability insurance in place in case something goes wrong.


  • It is important to get a BIM brief that is signed off by the client.  The NZ BIM Handbook Appendix E shows an example of such a brief.  On more than one occasion we have had to assist the client with writing the brief.  Confirm that the client understands what they are getting and that you can deliver it.  Getting an agreed brief reduces the risk of the client coming back later with additional information requirements.

Design Stages

The primary risks for this stage of the project are those associated with inefficiencies, poor coordination, and tension with your consultants.

Working with a consultant team during the design stages

  • The foundation for a good consultant team producing good BIM is a well-executed and monitored BEP which is led by the BIM Manager.
  • The BEP makes it clear what is required at each workstage and where responsibility sits, so take the time to properly review and input into this document, and ensure it is agreed upon by all parties as soon as possible.
  • It is important for future users that the project uses OpenBIM (i.e. a non-proprietary format).  Revit is quite dominant with consultants, but ArchiCAD is popular with architects so ensure that consultants are committed to exchanging models in an open formation like IFC (International Foundation Class) rather than their preferred CAD programme.
  • Make sure that your hardware can deal with the large file sizes that you will end up with.  For example, curved pipes and ducts can make these very large.
  • Carry out testing prior to the actual execution of exchanges and clash detection.

The Design Process

  • To have a decent BIM model you should have an internal model-coordinator on your team.  This is different to the BIM manager, which should be regarded as an independent role, even if you are providing those services.
  • Focus on clashes that are appropriate to the workstage.  For example large clashes are important to resolve at early design stages but don’t sweat the small stuff as this will be very time consuming.
  • Be careful of letting the ‘CAD people’ be the only team members engaged in the process.  A successful BIM project needs buy-in from all disciplines and levels, and good transparency to avoid silos developing.


The main risks with this project stage are getting tenders/prices that don’t properly take account of the contractor’s BIM responsibilities, and have the potential to generate later claims.

It is very important that tenderers for the construction are aware of the following:

  • The status of the model that they will be provided with, including the level of development of the various BIM Model components.
  • Any limitations or qualifications about the model being provided.
  • What the contractor will be required to do with the model and who will do this work. For example, who will be responsible for updating the model as a result of variations or shop drawings, and what LOD will be required?
  • How will shop drawings be reviewed – drawings only or models only or both?
  • Are as-builts required and what is the level of accuracy of these?
  • Is any BIM reporting needed during the construction phase?

Tenderers should be required to submit a construction BEP to confirm that they properly understand and have included for all BIM aspects.


  • Responsibility during the construction stage will rest largely with the main contractor and sub-contractors.  There may be some risk to the architect if they have a role of updating the model and do this poorly.
  • Like non-BIM projects there is also the obvious risk of variation claims arising from poorly executed design, coordination and documentation in the earlier stages.
  • To enable a smooth handover from contractor to client/user, the defects liability period can be used for a ‘soft landing’.  The BIM Manager is likely to have a role in monitoring this.
  • There are likely to be fewer risks to the design team members during the building operation stage but it’s important to ensure that the client has the necessary skills and software to make proper use of the BIM model.  This will reduce the risk of an operational failure and any possible resultant claim.


The best way to mitigate BIM risks is the usual combination of good communication, thoroughness, and quality assurance.

You need to think carefully about the fees necessary to do it properly.

Risk management issues

  • The BIM model is dependent on multiple contributors and will be relied upon by others for future unknown decisions.  How do you confine your liability to your input only?  This is likely to require specific terms of engagement. 
  • If an “issue” arises out of the use of the BIM model, there is the potential that you may incur costs and resources regardless of the relevance of your contribution to it.  How do you “ring-fence” or allocate the respective inputs by the various contributors or users?
  • If there is some ambiguity or conflict between the BIM model and the other responsibilities you have under your engagement – or have described in your design/specification – which takes precedence?
  • The definition of quality standards may require amendments to address the standardisation of BIM guidelines.
  • Is there a “BIM protocol” which specifically deals liability and responsibility, order of precedence, and the resolution of conflict?
  • There need to be protocols to trace work carried out in BIM and establish what occurred, who did what to whom and when, and to establish causation in the event a dispute arises.
  • What are the intellectual property rights and ownership issues?  Who “owns” the BIM model and controls access and use?  To what extent does it affect your copyright on design elements?
  • Check that your professional indemnity insurance covers failures due to BIM design, and what additional provisions you may need to make.  Your duty to disclose material facts to your insurer may require you to disclose that BIM is implemented on a project.
  • The operation of BIM on a project may inadvertently allow parties to access information which is otherwise confidential.  Parties may consider restricting access to different areas of BIM.