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Meeting the Needs for Governmental BIM Compliance while Avoiding Current Liability Obstacles

10/06/2008 by KP Reddy

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Government organizations such as the GSA (General Services Administration), USACE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), and NAVFAC (Naval Facilities Engineering Command), etc. have begun requesting Building Information Models (BIM) on current projects to serve as a baseline for development of their individual “BIM initiatives.” As with the rest of building industry, these organizations have sought to adopt BIM Standards. Furthermore, the National Building Information Modeling Standard (NBIMS) has stated its vision for “an improved planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance process using a standardized machine-readable information model for each facility, new or old, which contains all appropriate information, created or gathered about that facility in a format useable by all throughout its lifecycle.”

While the building industry is focused on this BIM standardization, much of it is focused on processes dealing with interoperability and collaboration of the “M” - the model itself. Little attention has been given to adopting established practical standards regarding the interoperability and collaboration of the “I” - information. This has left industry firms desperately seeking guidance as to how to comply with the wide array of differing BIM scope requests.

Additionally, the industry has begun to realize that working collaboratively on a model has inherent contractual obstacles between the owner/manager (e.g. government agencies), designer, and builder. Traditional legal responsibilities, such as a Structural Engineer’s stamp of a drawing, which is regulated by a State Board of Engineers, are preventing the transfer of the model between other parties or its use as a central repository of information. For the foreseeable future, legal/liability requirements in the building industry will dictate that contracts between the parties are conveyed in the traditional written and 2D graphical form (e.g. contracts, specifications and 2D drawings).

Even with these obstacles, BIM still has shown its usefulness in the planning, programming, design, construction, and operations of a building. For example, designers use it to be more efficient with their drawing production, leveraging it for improved quality assurance and more efficient sheet updating (e.g. 2D plans, including details, can be automatically generated from this 3D model). Another example is that builders often “remodel” buildings from 2D drawings when dealing with validation of building alignment, identification of contract document discrepancies, and assistance in discipline coordination. Owners and facility managers see the potential to use BIM for value engineering, bid package quality, facility life cycle management, and mitigation of lawsuits. There is no doubt that BIM, as is, can be effectively utilized by parties to assume more risk while reducing contingencies.

In order for a more consistent and widespread adoption of BIM between owner/manager entities, designers, and builder parties, a practical standard focused on the information in the model - rather than the model itself - should be adopted. These adopted standards should organize this information by form, function, building element, work results, and products so that each party can leverage this information to best suit their needs while still minimizing their contractual liabilities.

This can be achieved by standardizing the information into formats, designed to save the state of the information produced by each author. To use a “paper” comparison, this is similar to distributing drawing information in a blue print and not the original vellum drawing, which protects the rights and state of data produced by each contributor. Thus, standardizing these formats would allow the information to be be extracted by other parties for analyzing, then later saved back in its original form -all while protecting the original information from being manipulated or changed.

A practical BIM Standard must focus on established industry information standards such as the Construction Specification Institute’s Masterformat, NIST’s Uniformat II assemblies (NISTIR 6389) and OmniClass Construction Classification System (ISO 12006-2). It should also include non-editable format standards, such as Autodesk’s Digital Web Format (DWF), Adobe’s 3D Portable Document Format (PDF), and Extensible Markup Language (XML).

While it is still up to individual companies and entities to develop their own information standards for BIM compliance, to date we have only seen one product in the industry that meets requirements for a practical BIM standard. RCMS Group employs an “integrated” Building Information Model product called “iBIM” which organizes the information contained in the BIM by Function, Form, and Building Elements (e.g. building systems/assemblies). iBIM is compliant with the Omniclass, Uniformat II and Masterformat standards called for in this white paper, while avoiding the industry’s current liability obstacles by delivering the BIM in non-editable DWF, PDF, NWD, and XML formats.


RCMS is the nationally recognized expert for BIM services in Architecture, Engineering and Construction firms. RCMS has revolutionized the industry by developing the iBIM methodology that delivers the benefits of BIM technology to all projects, with no software purchase required at an affordable fee. The entire organization at RCMS is focused on project success and delivering our clients peace of mind when it comes to improving the design and construction process. RCMS was founded in 2003 and is headquartered in Atlanta, GA with offices across the Country and Internationally. Visit www.rcmsgroup.com for more information.

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