In an interview with Carl Evans, Managing Director of professional indemnity brokers Griffiths & Armour, he speaks about BIM and its potential impact on professional liability exposure…
Professional Indemnity Brokers Griffiths & Armour have been at the forefront of discussions around the introduction of BIM and its potential impact on professional liability exposure. Following their involvement with the recent ACE Scotland Group BIM event in Glasgow, we spoke with Managing Director Carl Evans to get some further insight into insurers’ thoughts and to understand how BIM might be the catalyst for real change in our approach to managing construction risk.
Griffiths & Armour were responsible for producing the ‘Best Practice Guide for Professional Indemnity Insurance when using BIM’ on behalf of the Construction Industry Council. Can you tell us a little more about the background to that document?
The intention was to produce guidance that would support the construction industry’s take up of level 2 BIM. At that point, there had been no real engagement with insurers to establish their views on the possible risks, potential gaps in policy cover and the practical steps consultants should be taking when operating in a BIM environment.
The initial phase of the project involved a series of consultations with the majority of PI Insurers. Although it was as recent as 2013, knowledge of BIM was relatively limited and there was a need to educate insurers on the technologies required to support it and the outcomes it would produce. As their understanding developed, it became clear that the adoption of level 2 BIM was unlikely to have any major bearing on insurers’ underwriting decisions in the short to medium-term.
Was there a feeling that BIM could have a positive impact on PI claims?
Absolutely. It was acknowledged that longer-term, BIM could potentially deliver greater clarity and the ability to model the ‘as built’ project in some detail could well reduce the risk of claims. If that proves to be the case then it should have positive implications relating to both the cost and availability of cover into the future.
You mentioned possible ‘gaps in policy cover’. Is the cover afforded under traditional PI Insurance sufficient to deal with risks in a BIM environment?
It would be sensible for consultants to question whether there are any limitations or exclusions in their policy that might impact when operating in a BIM environment. Although it is unlikely that policies would contain any specific exclusions relating to BIM, there are a number of areas where consultants could find themselves exposed.
A key consideration will be whether cover is afforded on a legal (or civil) liability basis and whether it is sufficiently broad to cater for liabilities established under contracts and protocols etc. In addition to standard industry documents, bespoke protocols are being produced and are often designed to create strict obligations that would not otherwise exist. This is one area where gaps could emerge between the liabilities being taken on and the cover afforded under the consultant’s PI Insurance.
There are also some specific or increased exposures around data security and cyber liability which are not always catered for under PI Insurance. This will have particular relevance in circumstances where the consultant is responsible for hosting the BIM environment.
What are some of the key things insurers feel consultants should be doing to protect themselves in a BIM environment?
In terms of managing their liability, a lot will depend on the obligations they are taking on under contract and requirements set out in the protocol. There is no reason why appointments should be significantly different on projects utilising BIM, although something to look out for would be requirements to comply with the protocol.
Use of the standard CIC BIM Protocol would be advisable and should help to achieve greater clarity through the ‘Level of Detail’ and ‘Model Production and Delivery Table’.
The standards set out in PAS 1192-2 are intended to ensure that models passed on to the information manager can be shown to be a particular consultant’s work. That’s important and anything that can be done to achieve greater traceability in the design process will be welcomed by insurers. Certainly, consultants should not be operating in a system where third parties can readily modify submitted models without robust checks being in place.
If taking on responsibility for ‘Information Management’, it will also be important to establish the extent of that responsibility and to ensure that it does not extend to a more detailed ‘checking’ role.
Something that is often referred to in the context of BIM is Integrated Project Insurance (IPI). Can you explain where that becomes a requirement?
At this point, we’re only dealing with level 2 BIM where a ‘federated model’ is being used. Each participant develops their own model, which is then shared with the project model so lines of responsibility should be clear.
Level 3 BIM would involve all parties contributing to an open and integrated model. With greater collaboration, it becomes difficult to identify responsibility for amendments, the position on liability is more blurred and it is difficult to see how the traditional approach to managing project risk could work. At present, procurement practices promote an adversarial culture based on onerous contracts, and the imposition of liability rather than supporting a collaborative approach, so we need to look for alternative solutions.
It starts with procurement and the contracts utilised but a move away from an adversarial culture needs insurance solutions that are focussed on project risk and that’s where IPI comes in. As reported in Infrastructure-Intelligence in July 2015, ‘IPI insures the whole project team, including the client, against all risks so they can concentrate on innovations rather than having to cover themselves against potential problems and all rights of subrogation are waived’.
So was IPI developed in response to BIM?
No, IPI wasn’t developed with level 3 BIM in mind. It was developed from a realisation that the current system of managing project risk is broken – it is divisive, it places undue risks on design and construction teams and it creates huge inefficiencies for the client in driving up project cost.
Having said that, the emergence of BIM and the need to find alternative solutions has helped to fuel the debate on how we manage risks within construction. The discussion around level 3 BIM could be the catalyst for real change and that’s an exciting prospect.
For more information on ACE BIM activities, please see acenet.co.uk/bimengagement/972
Griffiths & Armour