Unlike other industries, the construction business sometimes overlooks breakthrough developments. However, the increasing rate of adoption of building information modeling, or BIM, certainly marks it as a game changer worthy of attention from insurers and risk management professionals.
BIM software lets project teams take part in the virtual design, construction, and operation of an office building, stadium, highway, municipal water system, or other structure. Architects and engineers have used computer-aided design and 3-D design programs for years, but with BIM, project participants can evaluate a simulated model of a project at various stages in its life cycle, from design to breaking ground and right through commissioning.
BIM provides designers, contractors, and owners with a digital model of the project before the first shovel of earth is turned. The technique can help reduce risk by letting everyone see how project parts will fit together, from building materials to HVAC systems to landscaping.
Another key way BIM reduces risk is by requiring all members of the project team to collaborate and cooperate from the earliest stages. But it’s this collaborative process that also creates concerns about contractual relationships, forcing each party to re-examine its role and insurance obligations relative to those of its project peers.
When everyone is contributing to a design model, questions can arise such as who owns the model, how reliable is the data transferred to another party, and who is responsible for design errors. Once construction begins, these questions could potentially complicate workers compensation and general liability coverage, and should be given careful thought.
Contractors and other BIM project participants should carefully review their contracts for BIM-specific provisions and discuss these clauses with their carrier, broker, and/or attorney. The use of BIM should not change traditional construction roles, but as with any new technology, it’s important to identify the potential risks and properly allocate these risks among the parties.