Rethinking The Contractual Context for The BIM-enabled Projects

Discrepancies in construction delivery methods and contracts lead to the failure of BIM. It is time to rethink the contractual context for the BIM-enabled projects. Peter Cholakis, Chief Marketing Officer at 4Clicks Solutions shares industry insights.

Construction delivery methods and their associated processes and contractual documents are directly linked to the success or failure of a BIM execution plan. The business strategy leading to the integration of previously disparate competencies, business processes, technologies, and teams is the primary goal of a BIM execution plan. Attaining the requisite level of convergence requires a common language (ontology), and a shared set of goals among project stakeholders. A sample list of stakeholders includes Owners, Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Subcontractors, Build Product Manufacturers, Technology Providers and Oversight Groups.


BIM (Building Information Modeling) is the life-cycle management of the built environment supported by digital technology. An expanded definition of BIM has been proposed by the United States BIM Standard Terminology Committee (NBIMS3.0), in recognition of the inter-related business process and technology aspects of BIM :

Building Information Modeling Model Management (BIM):  a term which represents three separate but linked functions:  

  1. Building Information Modeling: A BUSINESS PROCESS for generating and leveraging building data to design, construct and operate the building during its lifecycle. BIM allows all stakeholders to have access to the same information at the same time through interoperability between technology platforms.
  2. Building Information Model: The DIGITAL REPRESENTATION of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. As such it serves as a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility, forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle from inception onwards.
  3. Building Information Management: The ORGANIZATION & CONTROL of the business process by utilizing the information in the digital prototype to effect the sharing of information over the entire lifecycle of an asset. The benefits include centralized and visual communication, early exploration of options, sustainability, efficient design, integration of disciplines, site control, as built documentation, etc. effectively developing an asset lifecycle process and model from conception to facility management.

BIM Project Execution Plan (BIM PxP): The plan that results from the BIM Project Execution Planning Procedure. The plan describes how BIM will be implemented and which goals will be pursued.

Construction delivery methods play a significant role in ultimate success or failure of a BIM execution plan.  Whether project focus is repair, renovation, sustainability, or new construction, it’s the construction delivery method and its associated contract documentation that sets the initial and ongoing tone by outlining project scope, participants and stakeholders, roles and responsibilities, deliverables, and timing.

The following graphic portrays a perspective of the construction delivery method as a component of life-cycle management and/or a BIM framework.























Within the graphic, Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), Job Order Contracting (JOC), and similar collaborative construction delivery methods can be seen in the top right quadrant. Efficient, robust and transparent implementation of a robust construction delivery method defines all aspects of the following in detail:  planning, design, bidding, procurement, construction, operations, and all other post-construction responsibilities and requirements. 

By definition, BIM requires a collaborative construction delivery method due to the need for early and ongoing information sharing across multiple knowledge domains. The latter, however calls for the use of a standardized ontology (terms, definitions, and their inter-relationship) use by all participants.  Stakeholders (read as BIM team members) must agree upon not only what information is created, shared, used, and updated, but the actual granular content and format of the information.   While far from “rocket science”, this is a non-trivial task, which runs counter to industry “culture” and historical ad-hoc business practices.

BIM is seen a method to address low productivity and waste management commonly associated with the AECOO (Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owner, Operations) sector. 

  1. Labor productivity is estimated at about 30%, meaning that more tradespeople’s time is spent waiting, staging materials, and rework than in actually building.
  2. Materials waste is estimated at up to 30%, due to the unpredictability of on-site fabrication and construction of unique building elements.
  3. By some account up to 5% of the project cost is wasted in costs associated with the traditional construction bidding methods, with no value add to the owner.
  4. Construction is the only industrial sector to have actually lost productivity in the last 30 years.

All of the above problems are traceable to archaic, ad hoc, and in many cases antagonistic construction delivery methods, which unfortunately have become part of the culture of the AECOO sector. An example of a counter-productive construction delivery method is low bid design-bid-build (DBB). From day one, all parties are positioned with opposing, and in many cases suboptimal goals. The drive to achieve the lowest cost reflects a “first cost mentality” that is counterproductive to the longer term impacts of a built structure from both economic and environments perspectives. Only 10%-20% of a buildings total life-cycle cost is in the construction phase, the remainder being repair, maintenance, renovation, adaption, and deconstruction. DBB immediately pits all parties and stakeholders against each other, as each battles for their share of an ever shrinking “piece of the pie”.  

As result “leaner” construction delivery methods, such as design-build (DB) were developed to mitigate some of the more obvious problems associated with DBB. However, DB doesn't fully involve all stakeholders, and it doesn't address all of the ontology and life-cycle aspects of a building and/or infrastructure project.

Thus, there is now a growing focus upon truly “LEAN” business practices for the AECOO community. Neither LEAN nor LEAN construction delivery method is new. Both Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and Job Order Contracting (JOC) have existed for decades and are considered to be LEAN. Surprisingly, most in our industry have limited knowledge about the LEAN construction delivery methods. While knowledge is growing, acceptance and use have only recently begun to accelerate.   

LEAN construction is the adaptation and application of processes from LEAN manufacturing, which was first implemented  at Toyota in Japan. LEAN is a collaborative business process with a focus upon continuous improvement. Minimizing waste, increasing value, and accepting input from all persons within an organization are LEAN hallmarks. LEAN is a business philosophy that can be implemented via progressive construction delivery methods. 

For example, let’s take a closer look at JOC. JOC is a form of integrated project delivery, specifically designed for repair, renovation, sustainability and minor new construction projects.  JOC has also been referred to as “IPD-lite”, as IPD is typically associated with major new construction projects. JOC is a collaborative construction delivery method that follows the LEAN philosophy.  Within JOC, focus is upon long term relationships among all participants and early collaboration among team members. JOC is implemented through an inter-locking set of business processes, a standardized cost database, and is performance-based.   As a component of BIM, JOC can be used to deal with the numerous renovation, repair, and sustainability projects encountered by Owners, Contractors, Architects, Engineers and Suppliers, without the waste and burdens commonly associated with DBB. JOC is easily supported by technology to assure rapid and consistent deployment as well as ongoing monitoring and improvement.

The key “take away” is the importance of the inter-relationships between LEAN, collaborative construction project delivery methods, and life-cycle management, aka BIM. In fact, one could easily argue that BIM, collaborative construction delivery, and technology are inseparable.

LEAN is focused on the reduction of waste through the efficient assignment and release of work.  BIM, IPD and JOC are inherently LEAN. They focus on reducing the total cost of ownership, reducing non-value added processes and providing for more streamlined and predictable release of projects.  Predictable work flow increases the efficiency and decreases costs for Owners, Architects, Engineers and Contractors. 

The below graphic outlines the LEAN Job Order Contracting work process. 

JOC, IPD, BIM - all focus on engaging downstream stakeholders, and those closest to the actual installation of work, in front end planning and even design. These people are most equipped to see the requirements of work interface at the granular level that LEAN strives to uncover. These collaborative methods respect tradespeople as domain experts in installation but also project definition. An example of granularity is the concept of unit line item pricing. Projects are broken down into detailed (price, material and labor) component parts within a standardized data architecture (UNIFORMAT, MASTERFORMAT, OMNICLASS).  Preferably, taken a step further the cost leverages a standardized cost database (for example RSMeans) as a foundational element to assure consistency and transparency. Within JOC, project teams (owner, contractor, project manager, estimator, subcontractors) are involved at the conceptual stage and performed joint site walks. Participants jointly think through project phasing, issues, and impacts to the overall process. Feedback is ongoing throughout the project and actual multi-year life of a JOC contract. The framework enables previously unavailable levels of feedback, assessment and continuous improvement.

As evidenced in the earlier life-cycle management graphic,   needs, cost, scheduling, etc. are “front loaded” with respect to information creation and sharing. Despite opinions to the contrary, total project costs are actually reduced as there are fewer miscommunications and associated change-order, and legal disputes are virtually eliminated.


The BIM project execution plan provides a great “checklist” against your associated BIM and other construction delivery contracts. The following is from the  buildingSMARTallianceTM project “Building Project Execution Guide

  1. BIM Project Execution Plan Overview Information: Document the reason for creating the Project Execution Plan.
  2. Project Information: The Plan should include critical project information such as project numbers, project location, project description, and critical schedule dates for future reference.
  3. Key Project Contacts: As part of the reference information, A BIM Plan should include contact information for key project personnel.
  4. Project Goals / BIM Objectives: This section should document the strategic value and specific uses for BIM on the project as defined by the project team in the initial step of the planning procedure. Additional information regarding this category is included in Chapter Two.
  5. Organizational Roles and Staffing: One of the primary tasks is to define the coordinator(s) of the BIM planning and execution process throughout the various stages of the project. This is particularly important when identifying the organization(s) who will initiate the development of the BIM Plan, as well as the required staff to successfully implement the plan.
  6. BIM Process Design: This section should clearly illustrate the execution process through the use of process maps which are developed in the second step of the planning procedure. Additional information regarding this category is included in Chapter Three.
  7. BIM Information Exchanges: The model elements and level of detail required to implement each BIM Use should be clearly defined in the information exchanges requirements. Additional information regarding this category is included in Chapter Four.
  8. BIM and Facility Data Requirements: The owner’s requirements for BIM must be documented and understood.
  9. Collaboration Procedures: The team should develop their electronic and collaboration activity procedures. This includes the definition of model management procedures (e.g., file structures and file permissions) as well as typical meeting schedules and agendas.
  10. Model Quality Control Procedures: A procedure for ensuring that the project participants meet the defined requirements should be developed and monitored throughout the project.
  11. Technology Infrastructure Needs: The hardware, software and network infrastructure required to execute the plan should be defined.
  12. Model Structure: The team should discuss and document items such as model structure, file naming structure, coordinate system, and modeling standards.
  13. Project Deliverables: The team should document deliverables required by the owner. 
  14. Delivery Strategy/Contracts: This section should define the delivery strategy which will be used on the project. The delivery strategy, e.g., design‐build vs. design‐bid‐build, will impact implementation and it will also impact the language which should be incorporated into the contracts to ensure successful BIM implementation.

As noted earlier, BIM is BUSINESS PROCESS, DIGITAL REPRESENTATION, and MANAGEMENT (organization and control) associated with the life-cycle management of the built environment.  While 3D modeling has initially captured the spotlight, “digital representation” spans all types and formats of information. In any BIM execution plan, another key consideration is the level of development (LOD). While this is an evolving concept, it is the LOD that can help to contractually specify a BIM deliverable. The LOD is intended to enable the specification,  with a high level of clarity, the content and reliability of BIM information at various stages in the design, construction, and life-cycle processes. In the U.S. basic LOD definitions developed by the AIA for the AIA G202-2013 Building Information Modeling Protocol Form are currently organized by CSI Uniformat 2010. The document defines characteristics of model elements of different building systems at different Levels of Development. The goal of the LOD concept it to allow model authors and downstream users to clearly understand the usability and the limitations of digital information they are receiving. In short the LOD framework is another effort to standardize the communication of associated digital information and thus help stakeholders specify BIM deliverables and to get a clear picture of what will be included in a BIM deliverable.

Change is always difficult, and especially if it is a cultural change. The culture of the AECOO sector is in directly conflict with BIM and collaborative construction delivery methods. Transparency across all players is certainly a foreign concept. The convergence of disruptive technologies such as BIM and Cloud Computing and associated economic and environmental mandates are forcing change. The changes will likely be dramatic and alter the fundamental ways in which we work.

About the Author:
Peter N. Cholakis is Chief Marketing Officer for 4Clicks Solutions,  leading provider of cost estimation and project management software and solutions to the DOD Sector. He has exceptional domain knowledge and expertise in facilities lifecycle costs and total cost of ownership applicable to various market segments including corporate and healthcare. He is a seminal thinker on TCO (total cost of ownership) applicable to construction and facilities industry associations including FFC, APPA, NASFA and IFMA. He is associated with National Building Information Model (NBIMS-US) Planning Committee and NBIMS-US Terminology Subcommittee. 

Read 3620 times Last modified on Friday, 19 December 2014 13:19
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