When UK BIM was defined following the Government mandate published in 2011, it was seen as vital that BIM should not be blocked by issues arising from the conventions of the standard form building contract and the insurance industry

A working party within the BIM Task Group explored the issues with the legal and insurance communities and found that provided that no change was implied in the liabilities of participants then issues should not arise. The key point was that each participating profession and trade should have its contribution clearly held separately so that responsibility and liability could be seen and insured. Level 2 BIM became defined by this requirement, with separate profession models ‘federated’ to ensure coordination, yet discrete so that liabilities could be audited. The Common Data Environment holds these models distinctly. Once the industry understood that initial legal qualms about confused responsibilities were not valid, the way was open to define each player’s role in a project in BIM terms.

The way in which BIM instructions were to be given to each appointed firm was by means of a ‘Protocol’ attached to their appointments or contracts by the client. In 2013 the Construction Industry Council published a government-approved model Protocol to guide clients in instructing their suppliers. A second edition was produced in 2018, picking up feedback from initial users. In practice, a minority of clients used the CIC model protocol, others preferring either a bespoke form, or to not use one at all. Unclear client instructions have become a potentially serious problem for contracts and insurers.

One common weakness is that some clients have been asking their appointees for ‘Level 2 BIM’, without further definition. The Winfield-Rock Report (ref 1) of 2018 revealed that hardly any members of the industry shared the same understanding of what Level 2 BIM was and was not. Lawyers were often unfamiliar with the concept.

The BIM Task Group of 2012-16 was formed to develop BIM for use by the public sector and was mandated for use by central government departments by April 2016. It developed a suite of tools and codes to deliver government construction strategy. This strategy was about delivering better value buildings at handover and in use, buildings which meet their business case for investment. So, we have a code of practice for the capital phase, another for the operations phase and a tool for transferring data from the as-built model to the asset and facility managers of the scheme. We also have a process called Soft Landings for ensuring that operation and management matters are well looked after in the design and build process and that the operators of the building are fully capable of safely looking after the facility. A post-occupancy evaluation at three years after occupation checks on the outcome in use and compares it to the business case. There are further codes of practice for security of data and for health and safety practice, plus tools for selecting team members based on their BIM capabilities. That’s the full Level 2 content.


These tools are all worthy and useful but not to most of the private sector, nor to many of the non-central governmental public sector. They do not necessarily need the full set, or they are not ready to go that far. So, clients asking for some of Level 2 BIM need to be able to say which parts they mean. A commercial developer is unlikely to concern itself with the life-cycle of the investment, focussing on BIM to improve project delivery. Few corporate clients yet have a joined-up view of the creation and operation of built assets. Not many private or public clients yet have a project decision process which requires specific information from the team at each decision point. But there are also things that some clients want from BIM which are not in the official Level 2 toolkit.

I tackled this issue on behalf of the UK BIM Alliance in 2018. The Alliance succeeded to the role of the BIM Task Group once the mandate went live. It is an industry body of volunteers aiming to make BIM ‘Business as Usual’ as soon as possible. The result was a publication called ‘Going Digital, a guide for building owners, construction clients and their advisers’ (ref 2). My co-authors were May Winfield, leading BIM lawyer and Kester Robinson, director of Deploi: BIM Strategies. The publication is concise and avoids the jargon barrier which has built up from the draft standards (the PAS 1192 series). It aims to reach the mainstream client who is not likely to ask for BIM out of enthusiasm for the new technology, but on the basis of a business case.

‘Going Digital’ identifies eight steps for clients to consider, four of them essential and four optional:

  1. Become aware of the potential of BIM for your projects;
  2. Form a strategy for its use, including any incremental steps;
  3. Equip your office to act as an involved client, handling digital information;
  4. Instruct your team formally, using an information protocol.

The instructions to be given then depend on which, if any, of the optional steps is in the strategy.

  1. Consider team formation methods in the light of the benefits of good collaboration;
  2. Identify decision-support information needed at each stage in the project;
  3. Identify operational and maintenance information needs;
  4. Consider the use of standard digital models of repeatedly-used elements, from specific products to rooms and even complete buildings.

‘Level 2’ then becomes a definable thing, with employer’s instructions to set down the chosen content. The core of Level 2 is the creation of a ‘federated’ set of digital models, geometry and data, shared in a Common Data Environment by a collaborative team. The model evolves through the project stages until it represents the as-built asset. How the client needs it to help them is wide open to customisation.

JCT is also pitching in to help clients and their advisers define their requirements. ‘BIM and JCT Contracts’ is due to be published shortly, produced by the JCT BIM Working Group and co-authored by May Winfield, Associate Director of Buro Happold and a legal authority on BIM, Andrew Croft of Beale and Co, involved in the drafting of the CIC Protocol, and David John Gibbs, BIM advisory and dispute resolution at HKA. The guidance points to clauses in a JCT contract which are relevant to BIM-using projects and suggests what should be considered when completing the contract and the attached Information Protocol. (ref 3)


  1. The Winfield Rock Report, published by the UK BIM Alliance in February 2018, can be downloaded from the Alliance website under Resources.
  2. Going Digital, a guide for building owners, construction clients and their advisers, published by the UK BIM Alliance in October 2018, can be downloaded from the Alliance website under Resources.
  3. BIM and JCT Contracts, published by JCT, Summer 2019, in print and online. www.jctltd.co.uk/category/bim.


Richard Saxon CBE 





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