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”

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
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

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