South Africa: Building Information Modelling

Last Updated: 19 October 2016
Article by Nicole Gabryk

What is Building Information Modelling ("BIM")?

In recent years, the construction industry has shown a greater interest in the benefits of partnering, integrated and collaborative working.

According to the UK National Building Specification ("NBS"):

"BIM brings together all of the information about every component of a building, in one place. It makes it possible for anyone to access that information for any purpose e.g. to integrate different aspects of the design more effectively. In this way the risk of mistakes or discrepancies is reduced, and abortive costs minimized."

BIM uses advanced computer systems to build 3D models of infrastructure and hold large amounts of information about its design, operation and current conditions. At the planning stage, it enable designers, owners and users to work together to produce the best possible designs and to test them digitally before they are built. In construction, it enables engineers, contractors and suppliers to integrate complex components cutting out waste and reducing the risk of errors. In operation it provides customers with real-time information about available services and permits with accurate assessments of conditions of assets.

The use of a BIM model is intended to create shared resource-enabling decisions about the design and construction of the facility to be taken before it is built, and after construction to act as a detailed digital operation and maintenance manual during the lifetime of the building.

The use of BIM is steadily growing momentum in other jurisdictions such as the UK, UAE, USA and Australia, where governments are beginning to mandate the use of BIM on all public sector funded projects.

There are four levels of BIM (referred to as "maturity levels") and these are summarised as follows :

  • Level 0 : the provision of more traditional Computer Aided Drawings ("CAD"), word and spreadsheet information.
  • Level 1 : the provision of a higher level of 2D and/or 3D CAD and other information produced in a more collaborative manner.
  • Level 2 : the provision of 3D modelling and data produced by professionals and contractors, individually and then produced and coordinated into a model made subject of BIM protocols.At Level 2 BIM, it is anticipated that each participant will produce their contribution to BIM in the form of a model which is progressively enriched with data relevant to their disciplines, scope of work and project stage, and this is then combined with information from other participants into a combined model.
  • Level 3 : the most sophisticated level of BIM – not yet fully defined but calls for a creation of data and modelling which is truly interoperable, data-rich and facilities management ready.Level 3 involves a full collaboration between all disciplines by means of using a single, shared project model which is held in a centralised repository.All parties can access and modify that same model and the benefit is that it removes the final layer of risk for conflicting information (known as "open BIM").

In jurisdictions such as the UK, BIM protocols and industry standards are being adopted as the use of a protocol is considered the most effective way of ensuring that the activity of all project participants are controlled so that BIM mechanisms and standards are applied from commencement of the project through to delivery of the project and are of enduring value to the asset operator in the facility and operation and management stage.

Currently in the UK, BIM is being implemented across Public Sector funded construction projects at Level 2. This involves collaborative working. All parties use their own 3D CAD's (and therefore not necessarily work on a single, shared model)- the distinguishing feature is that design information is shared through a common file format which enables any organisation to be able to combine that data with their own.

The increased use of BIM in construction projects has given rise to many issues, including contractual integration, insurance, project management and design development issues.

Benefits of BIM

As BIM encourages parties to work collaboratively and transparently throughout the project, BIM will help to identify design issues at an early stage, reduce workloads and costs, and ultimately facilitate a greater efficiency and effectiveness in the design, construction and operation of a building. In theory BIM ought to reduce the incidence of professional liability claims.

The Construction Contract and BIM

The contractual relationships that reflect Level 2 BIM are not very different from existing contractual relationships – contracts are still characterised by a ring-fencing of liability and risk between the various parties to the design process – the major difference is that an Information Manager must be employed to manage the exchange of BIM-related project information.

The Construction Industry Council in the UK has issued BIM protocols designed to be incorporated into standard form construction documents which provide for a framework of the application of BIM to a construction project. The Joint Contracts Tribunal which is responsible for the publication of the well know JCT standard form construction agreements (the UK equivalent of the South African JBCC documents) has also published proposed amendments to the agreements for facilitating the use of BIM in public and private sector projects. In Australia, however, there are no published standard form construction contracts or arrangements which specifically address BIM issues. In these instances bespoke contracts are likely to be used and it is common to see parties not properly adapting the current standard form construction contract on BIM issues (only making rudimentary changes to address issues without changing the underlying risk allocation).

With jurisdictions such as the UK looking at the implementation of Level 3 BIM in the next five years, the legal and contractual frameworks required to deal with Level 3 BIM will need to move well beyond the simple liability ring-fencing adaptations used at Level 2 BIM. The full legal implications of BIM are still being explored and will not become fully evident until such time as the use of Level 3 BIM becomes widespread.

BIM – The Impact on the Insurance Market

While the hope among the construction sector is that the technological advances of BIM, combined with greater collaboration between parties, will result in a reduction of liability and risk on construction projects, it may result in greater risks to insurers, at least in the short term.

BIM has the potential to blur traditional responsibilities, thereby making risk allocation more difficult. At least at Level 2 BIM, it is not anticipated that the traditional design roles and responsibilities will be altered, but it is important that they are clearly defined and spelt out in the construction contract. It may be necessary to consider whether the current terms and conditions of typical PI policies create issues for proper coverage for BIM Information Managers, and it may be necessary for new insurance products to be developed to ensure that proper coverage is provided and risks are properly catered for.

One other possible solution is that as BIM leads to an era of more collaborative insurance (in the form of a single project insurance) which may become the best approach.

There is also an increased exposure around data security and cyber liability.

Lessons to be Learnt from Current BIM Disputes

BIM is reportedly being used by about one half of the US building industry and the rate at which BIM is being adopted globally is accelerating. It is only a matter time, therefore, before disputes around BIM arise.

The first American dispute involving BIM related to the construction of a life sciences building at a major university:

  • The architect and the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer used BIM to design the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, which were to be installed in the ceilings.
  • No one informed the contractor that the extremely tight fit of the components depended on a very specific installation sequence – the work was approximately 70% complete when the contractor ran out of space and all parties involved blamed one another.
  • The client sued the architect.The contractor sued the client, and the insurance company sued the engineer.
  • While the parties reached a confidential settlement out of court this example illustrates that major issues will arise where there is a breakdown of communication between the client, the design team and the contractors.
  • BIM is not infallible - while BIM can be extremely useful, in order for it to work effectively it requires regular and efficient communication between all parties involved.It is therefore only as good as the people using it and the information put into it.

Where to from Here?

BIM Is being adopted in South Africa.

Building Information Modelling

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Nicole Gabryk
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions