Clash detection – is it just about models?

The clash detection process involves collaboration and the management of that process. The CIC BIM protocol assumes that someone other than the BIM manager will be responsible.

“Clash detection is potentially seen as one of the great benefits of the BIM Level 2 process” states Tim Willis of Trowers & Hamlins’ solicitors. “As the individual author models are federated, clashes can be identified. The authors of the native models and the lead designer can discuss how the clash is best resolved and an instruction issued to the author of the model that is to change”.

Federated model for architect collaboration

The industry has not yet produced a standard solution for managing this. Where design is developed by a single team, the information manager and lead designer roles may be established at inception and may not need to move as the design is developed. In a design and build structure, where responsibility for developing the design moves from an employer to a contractor, it is likely that either or both roles may need to transfer, as design responsibility, model delivery and production moves from the client team to the contractor.

In this web of liabilities and obligations it is important to provide a consistent structure. Our industry building blocks of consultant appointment documents and standard building contracts do not produce that consistency when delivering BIM. In many respects, such documents do not even deal with the issues we need to address to achieve satisfactory BIM collaboration.

For example, rights to access and use data in a common data environment are not part of our standard documents, and copyright solutions may not be adequate to allow the collaboration the team needs. Furthermore, BIM objects and their associated intellectual property may be produced or owned by third-party libraries or manufacturers, and provided on terms that may be inconsistent with traditional documentation. Software licensing, too, is not usually part of the standard contract.

However, the complexity of collaboration is recognised in certain procurement models and standard documents. One solution is a multi-party contract, such as PPC2000. This can provide a template of solutions for the whole team.

“The CIC BIM protocol takes a different approach making the employer responsible for introducing the BIM information requirements and associated contract clause into the appointment documents and contracts of the consultants and the supply chain” adds Tim.

The recent report entitled “Enabling BIM through Procurement and Contracts, a Research Report by the Centre of Construction Law and Dispute Resolution, King’s College London”, based upon industry research with which I was involved suggests;

“it will be challenging for a main contractor to obtain the same two party protocols from each specialist sub-contractor when in practice sub-contracts take different forms and are concluded at different points in the project process”.

It may be appropriate to develop and make available the option of a multi-party BIM protocol that leaves two party contracts in place while:

  • creating direct relationships between project team members in relation to BIM and not depending on the client and the main contractor acting as intermediaries;
  • enabling mutual reliance on agreed deadlines in respect of BIM contributions and approvals;
  • creating an agreed forum for resolution of clashes between BIM models;
  • creating direct mutual intellectual property rights;
  • establishing clarity as to the reliance on data and on BIM software
  • spelling out links in relation to the repair, maintenance and operation of the completed capital project
  • providing for joining agreements to bring in additional members as they join the team. “

Providing the template for how parties are to contract is one thing, but monitoring what they do in practice and helping them to get it right is also an important role. PPC2000 provides for a ‘partnering adviser’ to help the parties complete and document the collaboration. If we are to produce documentation that is ‘clash free’, perhaps we need to consider the same for BIM.

“Whether we adopt a multi-party solution or remain with a bilateral contract structure, there is a need for someone to take responsibility for ensuring that documents are fit for their purpose, and that parties complete the documentation so that it is clash free” states Tim

Tim Willis is a consultant in Trowers & Hamlins’ Dispute Resolution and Litigation department.