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Is digital construction helping foster better working relationships amongst the industry?

NBS released its fourth Contracts and Law report this week, shedding light on how well the industry is getting along.

Released every two years, this report comes at a time when the industry is dealing with the Brexit fallout, the Grenfell tragedy and heightened concerns about the viability of some tier 1 contractors.

As BIM increasingly becomes business as usual for most practices, the design community in particular looks well-placed to lead and capitalise on the digital disruption the industry is experiencing, posing the question of whether current legal and contracting practice is exposing everyone involved in projects to unacceptable risks.

Collaboration has long been a goal for the construction industry, with BIM and the government’s Construction Strategy giving it a renewed focus and it’s clear that the industry does see the advantage of collaboration to enable information sharing, reduce the number of disputes and improve the delivery of the client’s objectives.

Over two thirds of respondents adopt collaborative techniques on all or most projects and just under half of respondents (45%) feel that collaborative projects are helped by the adoption of BIM.

A majority of respondents agree that their organisation sees BIM as contractually binding in the same way as specifications or drawings but the report details a number of cases where the ownership of the building information model has been an issue of dispute.

Chief executive of NBS, Richard Waterhouse, said: “There is a risk of collaboration falling apart at the first hurdle if that collaboration is not clearly described in contracts. Who is responsible for what and when, and with whom do they collaborate needs to be defined as without this, a collaborative relationship can quickly become an adversarial one – tools like the NBS BIM Toolkit and the RIBA Plan of Works come into play here.

“BIM is an example of collaborative, information rich, design practice. Future technologies are likely to be even more collaborative and even more information rich and as we move to the yet-to-be-defined BIM level 3 and the implementation of future technology, creating a legal framework that describes BIM is a necessary foundation.”

Of the top three matters that get in the way of a construction process running smoothly, clients account for two.

Over two thirds said that ‘employer variation’ has impeded progress, and 39% said that it is the ‘provision of employer information’.

Disputes are still very common and are regarded by some as a part of doing business in the UK construction sector.

Of the disputes that respondents reported, fewer than half were settled. However, fewer people commented that the number of disputes is increasing, and fewer people said that they were involved in disputes suggesting that the direction of travel is good.

Richard continued: “NBS is committed to gathering, structuring, standardising and making available the highest quality building and product information required for successful design and construction. Getting the information right not only improves client outcomes and increases the efficiency of projects, it also reduces professional risk, allowing a tight description of what is to be built, so reducing the scope for dispute.”

Over 360 people responded to the survey with the design team, surveyors and specialist consultants making up over 70% of those who responded and contractors and clients making up the rest.
To read the report findings in full, visit www.thenbs.com/contracts-law-report.

www.theNBS.com

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