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Final Draft Accepted for Publication:

Abdirad, H. (2015) Advancing in Building Information Modeling (BIM) Contracting: Trends in the AEC/
FM Industry. AEI 2015: pp. 1-12; American Society of Civil Engineers. doi: 10.1061/9780784479070.001

Advancing in Building Information Modeling (BIM)

contracting: Trends in the AEC/FM Industry
Hamid Abdirad1

Ph.D. Student, College of Built Environments, University of Washington, Box

355740, Seattle, WA 98195-5740; PH (404) 683-4430; email:
Construction industry has recognized BIM implementation as a best practice that
provides a new set of processes and technologies in construction projects. Despite the
significant growth in BIM adoption and research on technological aspects of BIM, far
too little attention has been paid to research on BIM contracting. So far, two industry
leading organizations (AIA and AGC) have developed standard forms of agreement
for BIM contracting. However, many projects have incorporated custom manuscripts
to satisfy their special contractual needs, but the existing literature has not dealt with
these industry-wide trends of BIM contracting. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to
examine custom developed contracts in order to trace the advances in BIM
contracting. This research demonstrates that there are several areas of importance in
that standard forms have not addressed them. These include but are not limited to (1)
requirements for BIM process inputs (e.g. BIM staff competencies), (2) requirements
for BIM process management (e.g. BIM quality assurance and quality control, a
metric based BIM processing assessment), (3) requirements for information modeling
(e.g. landscape, facility management), and (4) requirements for data security (e.g.
corruption of files, and data misuse). This study has practical implications for BIM
contracting practices and future developments of inclusive BIM standard agreements.
Building Information Modeling, BIM, Contractual Provisions, Agreements

Building Information Modeling (BIM) implementation is increasingly recognized
as a best practice in the construction industry as it provides a new set of processes and
technologies to improve productivity and efficiency in construction projects. BIM
facilitates digital simulation of a project, from early design stages to the facility
operation phases by integrating the required information for design, construction, and
facility management (Aouad, Wu, & Lee, 2011; Eastman, Teicholz, Sacks, & Liston,
2011). As a new trend in project realization, BIM implementation necessitates
developing a new context of technological, organizational, and procurement
processes. In this regard, Andre (2011) indicates that this novelty in BIM
implementation raises special legal and contractual issues that new contracting

approaches should address. This was the motive for developing BIM standard forms
of contract, as the conventional forms of agreement had not dealt with BIM
implementation challenges (Larson & Golden, 2008; Lowe & Muncey, 2008b).
So far, two industry leaders, AIA and AGC, have developed BIM contracting
standard forms to address BIM contracting requirements. These include
ConsensusDOCS 301: BIM Addendum (ConsensusDOCS., 2008), and AIA E202 2008: Building Information Modeling Protocol Exhibit (American Institute of
Architects, 2008). However, prior research has identified some issues as the
challenges to widely use the standard forms in the industry:

First, despite these contractual developments and the significant growth in

rate of industry-wide BIM adoption, from 28% in 2008 to 75% in 2012
(McGraw-Hill Construction, 2012), a recent survey in the AEC industry
revealed that approximately 40% of the professional BIM users are
unaware of BIM standard forms of contract (Construction Pro Week,
2012a, 2012b). This shows that although the industry leaders (AIA, AGC)
have developed standard forms of agreement, many projects have
incorporated custom manuscripts in their contracts.

Secondly, although several studies have addressed the importance of BIM

contracting in the industry (e.g. Ashcraft, 2008; Chao-Duivis, 2011;
Larson & Golden, 2008; Olatunji, 2011), researchers have paid far too
little attention to research on industry-wide trends and advances in BIM
custom manuscripts.

Thirdly, according to McGraw-Hill Construction (2012), clearly defined

BIM deliverables between parties and more use of contracts to support
BIM decreased somewhat in intensity in recent years. Ashcraft (2008)
confirms that advances in the legal structure of BIM and contractual
solutions are far behind the technological aspects.

Lastly, Wu and Issa (2013) described that construction industrys concern

over BIM contracting issues is a significant challenge to well-adoption and
implementation of value adding sustainable practices.

These all show that there is an extensive gap in the research on BIM contracting in
the industry to satisfy the need to examine the trends and to set the grounds for
Therefore, the purposes of this paper are to review BIM contracting advances in
the industry, and to extract contractual provisions from industry wide custommanuscripts, which can fill the gaps in the standard forms of BIM contracting. In this
regard, this paper reviews the literature on basics of BIM contracting and major
contractual provisions in standard forms of agreement to define the comparison basis.
In the data collection stage, the authors will review custom manuscripts to identify
different areas of importance in real-world implemented BIM contracts. Finally,
authors develop a framework to present contractual provisions that BIM standard
form of contracts have not addressed in their developments. Such a framework would
facilitate the development of special contractual provisions in BIM-enabled projects.

The result of this research will also set the stage for further advancing existing BIM
standard forms of agreement.
According to Ashcraft (2008), the industry should consider BIM as a construction
delivery method that introduces new technologies, processes, and relationships into
the industry. However, new technologies and processes are usually primary risk
sources in design and construction projects. Hence, this novelty in BIM
implementation raises special legal and contractual risks that new contracting
approaches require to mitigate them (Andre, 2011).
One challenge to mitigate the risks is the lack of standard contract documents that
can provide a framework for risk and reward allocation, and reduction of contracting
inefficiencies and transaction costs (Ashcraft, 2008). Words & Images (2009)
highlights that BIM contractual language must deal with two important risk
categories, including (1) the project participants behavior in BIM processing, and (2)
issues in BIM technological aspects. Ashcraft (2008) confirms that legal concerns in
BIM arise from BIM technologies and the way project participants use them. BIM
behavioral risks may include collaboration issues, the efficiency level of
collaboration, and synergic information development. Technology-related risks arise
in forms of model level of reliance, model accuracy and contents, model management
and maintenance, and model ownership (Words & Images, 2009). Thus, Sinclair
(2014) states that BIM contractual provisions are dependent on levels of BIM
maturity. A higher level of BIM maturity should address more issues and more
complex details on BIM implementation because the responsibilities, relationships,
collaboration level, and technologies are different at each level (Sinclair, 2014).
So far, two standard forms of BIM contracting have been developed in U.S.
construction industry, ConsensusDOCS 301-BIM Addendum and AIA E202-2008:
Building Information Modeling Protocol Exhibit.
ConsensusDOCS 301 developers intended to support conventional standard forms
of agreement, instead of drafting a whole new set of documents for BIM. The reason
is that conventional contracts are widely accepted and used in the industry for
decades, and changing them could result in further problems (Lowe & Muncey,
2008b). According to Lowe and Muncey (2008b), BIM addendum intention is to deal
with existing issues in computer-aided information delivery, and to address unique
BIM implementation issues that are new to the industry. Although AIA E202 is
written primarily to support an integrated project delivery (IPD) contract, it may also
be used on traditional delivery methods as an attachment to existing general
conditions of contracts. (American Institute of Architects, 2014).
In this section, by reviewing both contract forms as well as prior research, the
authors present major contractual issues in BIM contracting. Chien, Wu, and Huang
(2014) described that risk management through contract documents should address
three general response strategies, including (1) developing clear and comprehensive
contractual provisions (especially for the requirements and expectations) , (2)

considering insurance and measures that protect contracting parties, and (3)
developing provisions for possible damages. According to the literature, there are
some fundamental contractual categories in BIM contracting. First, the contracting
parties have to discuss the status of models to determine to what extent parties
consider a BIM model as a contract product/document (and its priority over other
documents) (McAdam, 2010). Duty of care is the category that consists of issues in
model ownership, copyrights, authorized and unauthorized uses of models and edocuments, and the level of exposure of the special trade information (Ku & Pollalis,
2009; Lowe & Muncey, 2008b; McAdam, 2010; Olatunji, 2011). These provisions in
contracts for intellectual property rights are important in BIM implementation
because the models can easily be transmitted, extracted, and reused (in a whole or in
parts) (Lowe & Muncey, 2008b).
In case of using BIM tools and developing BIM models, interoperability,
standardization, modeling requirements (e.g. level of details, level of dimensional
reliance, etc.), and clashes and conflicts are the issues addressed in BIM contracts (Ku
& Pollalis, 2009; McAdam, 2010; Olatunji, 2011). Data security is essential to avoid
snooping, theft, virus and worms, and hacking (Olatunji, 2011). However, BIM
contracting standard forms have addressed none of these issues. In regard to BIM
implementation, one major concern of industry participants is the fear of changes in
roles and responsibilities. Liabilities and responsibilities of project participants in
model development, model accuracy, BIM specific processes, model management,
new roles (e.g. BIM Manager), and additional services are also important (McAdam,
2010; Olatunji, 2011). According to Lowe and Muncey (2008b), using a BIM
contracting form as an annex to principal forms of contracts between parties preserves
conventional contractual relationships, roles, and responsibilities. However, all parties
would involve in BIM-related processes, tasks, and responsibilities (Lowe & Muncey,
According to the literature and the contract documents, there are many similarities
between the two BIM contracting forms (AIA E202 and ConsensusDOCS BIM
addendum). Requirements for information and model management, model ownership,
copyrights, and model standards are addressed in both forms. However, the contents
and the level of details are different. McAdam (2010) confirms that AIA E202
contains less detail than ConsensusDOCS 301 in most categories. For instance, both
forms require an information manager (or model manager), but its obligations are
delineated in more detail in the ConsensusDOCS 301 (McAdam, 2010). There are
also several important differences between the standard forms:

In ConsensusDOCS 301, the owner appoints (and pays for) an Information

Manager, who is responsible for managing the model(s) (Ashcraft, 2008).
In contrast, AIA E202 is silent about how contracting parties deal with the
management costs (McAdam, 2010).

ConsensusDOCS 301 considers a liability waiver for using the model

information, and it provides licenses to use the intellectual property. AIA
E202 takes a very different approach. It separates the process of using BIM
from contents of models. In the process portion of the document, the
protocol defines the process and responsibilities for model management,

the model standard, model ownership, model archiving and conflict


The most significant aspect of AIA E202 its handling of the models
substance. It defines five Levels of Detail (LOD) for the modeled elements
(Ashcraft, 2008; McAdam, 2010).

In ConsensusDOCS 301, project participants have to develop a BIM

Execution Plan (BEP), but AIA E202 does not have such a requirement
(Ashcraft, 2008; McAdam, 2010).

As a flexible document, a BEP can incorporate the dynamic nature, characteristics,

and requirements of each project to the contractual language. As every aspect of BIM
cannot be defined early in the contracting stages, BIM Addendum provides the BEP
mechanism by which the parties may discuss some essential issues later. Furthermore,
BEPs address responsibilities, requirements, and processes in a greater detail than the
contract forms (Lowe & Muncey, 2008a, 2008b). This suggests that contract forms
should determine general BIM requirements, but details could be addressed either in a
BEP or in the contract itself. Thus, the difference between these two approaches is in
the timing and the level of details, but not in the categories and types of contractual
provisions. Table 1 summarizes major differences between these two standard forms
of BIM contracting.
Table 1: Differences between AIA E202 and ConsensusDOCS 301.
Categories of Contractual Provisions


Privity of contract in comparison to the governing contract

Flow-down provisions to pass liabilities to subcontractors
Defining different type of models for different purposes
(Design Model, Construction Model, and Federated Model)
Information Manager (paid separately for all compensation

and related costs) (Ashcraft, 2008)

Using a BIM Execution Plan in addition to the contract (and

responsibilities in regard to the BEP) (Ashcraft, 2008)

Definition of Building Elements / Components in detail

Definition of Level of Details (Ashcraft, 2008).

Identifying Model Author at the elements level.

Dimensional Accuracy Representation

Liability Waivers (Ashcraft, 2008)

Licensing to use intellectual property (Ashcraft, 2008)

Take out data loss insurance (McAdam, 2010)

Exists in the form

Does not exist in the form



In construction contracting, the parties may use either a custom manuscript or an

industry standard form of contract (Kelley, 2012). Construction industry requires a
quick and efficient conclusion in contracting stages because of repetitive contracting
requirements for a large number of projects, time sensitive projects feasibility, and
economic realities in the market (Joy & Heady, 2009). Using standard-forms has

some advantages, including shorter duration of negotiations, more savings in

contracting costs, early project start-up, and predictability in contracting and project
execution because industry participants are more familiar with their responsibilities
and risks (American Institute of Architects, 2013; Kelley, 2012). This would also
have impacts on bids, as lower contingencies will be considered by contractors,
because of their less exposure to risks and unknowns (American Institute of
Architects, 2013). On the other hand, industry standard-forms might also have several
disadvantages, including not addressing the requirements of a particular state, and not
dealing with requirements of specialized organizations and projects (Kelley, 2012).
Therefore, many public agencies at federal and state levels use custom contract forms
to meet their regulations and policies (Mincks & Johnston, 2010).
Contracting parties may draft a custom manuscript either for a single project, or for
a set of projects as an internal standard form (Kelley, 2012). It is encouraged to use
custom contracts when standard forms are not able to address the project nature, the
number and the types of participants, and project goals and requirements (Hess,
Bales, Folk, & Holt, 2007). Therefore, sometimes it is reasonable to prepare a custom
manuscript to balance interests and concerns of project participants, and to deal with
their special requirements and bargaining power (Joy & Heady, 2009). The industry
prefers to draft custom manuscripts based on modified standard forms because this
would save the contracting time, costs, and efforts (Hess et al., 2007; Kelley, 2012;
McCarthy, 2007). This would also decrease the risks of contracting malpractice that is
probable in writing a new contract (Hall & Giglio, 2013). Custom manuscripts
advantages include addressing parties specific needs and requirements, more precise
definitions, and eliminated biases. Custom manuscripts disadvantages for some
parties could be less familiarity with custom provisions, longer time-span to review
and negotiate the contracts, and increased risks, legal fees, and transactional costs
(American Institute of Architects, 2013; Kelley, 2012).
The major goal of this paper is to answer an important question; (1) what
contractual provisions has the industry developed in custom manuscripts to fill the
gaps in standard forms of BIM contracting? In this regard, the author reviewed BIM
standard forms of contract, and developed a thorough literature review to set a basis
for making a comparison between the standard forms and custom manuscripts. Then
the author analyzes industry-wide non-standard manuscripts as data sources, and
extracts the contractual categories that standard forms have not addressed. Prior
studies have used this research method as one of the accepted methods to research on
BIM contracting, as contracts provide actual reliable data. Several peer-reviewed
papers in this area have used a similar approach to reflect issues and concepts in BIM
contracting, although their focus has been only on the two standard forms of contracts
(e.g. Ku & Pollalis, 2009; McAdam, 2010; Olatunji, 2011). To find real-world cases
of custom manuscripts, the author searched some keywords in different combinations
via Googles search engine, including BIM Requirements, General Conditions,
BIM Execution Plan, BIM Standards, BIM Implementation Plan, and BIM
Contract. In this regard, two important challenges emerged; (1) a large number of the

custom drafted documents was found; and (2) Most of the BIM contractual categories
and BIM requirements in them were similar to the standard forms (but in different
wording). Therefore, finding non-standard specific provisions required a thorough indepth review process. Finally, the author decided to limit their data collection process
up to the point that 20 valid custom manuscripts, which have introduced non-standard
contractual categories.
This section presents a framework of contractual provisions that standard forms of
have not addressed in their developments. Some contractual provisions in standard
forms of contract are open to negotiations and agreed upon between participants in a
meeting (McAdam, 2010). Hence, in some areas, the forms do not exactly specify the
requirements, and they just bring up the concepts (e.g. file formats). The author
excludes such provisions from the findings as the standard forms have addressed them
but exact requirements are not defined. Although most custom manuscripts have
incorporated standard provisions in their developments, many non-standard
contractual provisions are developed in custom manuscripts, as Table 2 presents.
Table 2: Categories that have not been addressed in BIM standard contract forms.
Contracting Category and Reference
1. Corruption of Files (Bay Area Problems in retrieving information; Transmit bad
2012; files (e.g. viruses); Data theft, vandalism, loss.
Wheatley & Brown, 2007)
2. Data Confidentiality (Andre, 2011)
Limiting data types in transmissions, and keeping
specific types of data confidential (e.g.
contractors cost estimates and production rates).
3. Data misuse (Ashcraft, 2008)
Using models for out of scope purposes
4. Data Translation / Interoperability Liabilities in the cases that data translators do not
(Ashcraft, 2008)
transfer all required information.
5. Obligation to have BIM staff on-site / Requirements for BIM staff at a job-site/coco-location of BIM staff (Bay Area located office.
Headquarters Authority, 2012)
6. BIM staff competencies (Bay Area Experience, Education, Professional Trainings,
Headquarters Authority, 2012)
7. Provisions for use of Laser Scanners Using
as BIM tools (As-Built Models) (Bay authoring/coordinating tools; e.g. Laser Scanners
Area Headquarters Authority, 2012)
for As-built modelling/ documentation.
8. Defining or restricting different For Example: Use models for functional and
model uses to limit liabilities and visual representation of spaces; quantities;
misuses (Bay Area Headquarters constructability review; clash detection and
Authority, 2012)
resolution; 4D simulation; construction site
Logistics (AIA defines four major uses, including
construction, analysis, cost estimating, and
9. Right to delegate BIM related For BIM Management, BIM Modeling, BIM
activities/ Right to transfer models to Processing and Maintenance, etc.
subcontractors/sub-consultants (Bay
Area Headquarters Authority, 2012)

Contracting Category and Reference

10. Additional Requirements for BIM
share site (Bay Area Headquarters
Authority, 2012; shwgroup, 2012)
11. Communication and conferencing
tools for BIM coordination (Bay Area
Department of Veterans Affairs,
12. BIM interoperability standards (Bay
Area Headquarters Authority, 2012)
13. BIM Quality Assurance in BEP (Bay
Area Headquarters Authority, 2012)

14. BIM
shwgroup, 2012)
15. Requirements to furnish lists of any
required clearances for model
components (Division of Facilities &
Construction Management, 2010)
16. Special modeling for clearance spaces
(shwgroup, 2012)
17. Defining
Priorities (Swinerton Builders Inc,

For Example: Hosting BIM files; periodical
updates; site performance (capacity, function).
Distribute instructions to the team.
For Example: Online meetings, virtual
coordination teams. Tools such as smart boards
may be used to view documentations and models,
create and archive mark ups interactively, and
convert them to RFIs etc.
For Example: For modelling and software
selection- Industry Foundation Class (IFC)
For Example: how contractors will ensure
coordination is occurring between project
members; and how contractors will enforce the
use of BIM during construction and installations
of building systems.
For Example: providing BIM trainings to other
project participants (on-site staff); Requirements
to attend BIM training classes; Ensuring technical
proficiency of subcontractors, etc.
Subcontractors should submit their requirements
to the general contractor. They can develop
clash/clearance detection matrix (Gresham
Barlow School District, 2013)
Required clearance for installation and future
maintenance of all equipment, and they are
modeled as colored/semi- transparent solids.
If agreement cannot be reached in system
coordination, a guideline will be used to resolve
conflicts between trades. E.g. descending order of
priority: 1- architectural and structural
components; 2- Equipment shown on the
mechanical or electrical trade which cannot be
relocated; 3- Equipment or devices requiring
access for maintenance , etc.
For Example: Space Management/ Tracking, Fire
/Life Safety data parameter requirements,
Warranties, Operations and Maintenance Data/
Furniture and equipment move order/ Egress
plans/ Hazardous material plans, etc.

18. Developing information/models for

facilities management requirements
(Cleveland Clinic, 2013; San Diego
Community College District, 2010).
Developing BIM Based Asset Matrix
(Gresham Barlow School District,
19. Defining BIM Quality Control For Example: Check model for undefined or
Parameters (USACE, 2012)
incorrect or duplicated elements/ properties/
values. Check IFC Coordination View in IFC
Express format (USACE, 2012).
20. Integration of the teams IPD If an IPD contract is not used, IPD aspects of the
methodology plan to BEP (UGA, planning and sharing of model information
among different parties should be incorporated
(UGA, 2013).

Contracting Category and Reference

21. Defining levels of details other than For Example: UK BIM Protocol LOD definitions:
the AIAs method (CIC, 2013)
1- Brief; 2- Concept; 3- Developed Design; 4Production; 5- Installation; 6- As constructed; and
7- In use (CIC, 2013) / Or custom definitions for
each of the building elements (USACE, 2012)
22. Landscaping and site requirements Where systems are directly impacted by
(iM Studios LLC, 2009)
landscape features (i.e. vegetation, irrigation),
those elements shall be modeled in BIM with
correct size and clearance requirements
(iM Studios LLC, 2009). Information for
landscape analysis, planning, planting and
topography (Ahmad & Aliyu, 2012).
23. Develop, record and analyse metrics For Example: Developing metrics to assess
to improve the BIM delivery process productivity in BIM coordination (Ashuri,
(Gresham Barlow School District, Yarmohammadi, & Shahandashti, 2014), to
assess communications and collaboration
(Abdirad & Pishdad-Bozorgi, 2014a), and to
assess BIM processing (Abdirad & PishdadBozorgi, 2014b).
24. Future Model Development & Model The parties may grant participation by additional
Authors/Users (e.g. to update facility model authors for further development of the
in-use models) (Zeidler Partnership model.
Architects, 2011)
25. Requirements for BIM based function For Example: In hospitals- Nurses walking
analysis/ validation (Department of distances and sightlines; and process areas where
Veterans Affairs, 2010)
timing and volume may be problematic (such as
patient queuing for waiting rooms and pharmacy
(Department of Veterans Affairs, 2010).


This study set out with the aim of investigating advances in BIM contracting. In
this regard, this research aimed to identify contractual provisions that standard forms
have addressed in their developments. By a comprehensive review of the literature
and the analysis of the custom manuscripts, the author identified custom defined
contractual provisions and presented them in Table 2. The results show that there are
gaps in BIM contracting standard forms in several areas, including but not limited to
(1) requirements for BIM process inputs (e.g. BIM staff competencies, training
requirements and programs), (2) requirements for BIM process management (e.g.
BIM quality assurance and quality control, BIM communications, and a metric based
process assessment), (3) requirements for information modeling (e.g. landscape,
facility management, laser scanning, clearance modeling), and (4) requirements for
data security (e.g. corruption of files, data confidentiality, and data misuse).
A possible explanation for these might be the fact that industry-wide advances in
legal structure of BIM and contractual solutions are far behind the BIM technological
aspects, as Ashcraft (2008) stated. Furthermore, industry participants at the project
level (e.g. owners, contractors, and architects) are faster learners, in comparison to

organizations such as AIA and AGC. Therefore, advancing in custom-manuscripts is

much faster than standard form of contracts.
Finally, a number of important limitations need to be discussed. First, although the
findings in the framework are valid, they do not reflect all the advances in industrywide BIM contracting. Using one database (Google), and specified keywords for
finding custom manuscripts were other limitations of this study, as there might be
other contracting categories/provisions in the industry that could be identified by
using different data collection methods. Furthermore, due to page limits, only parts of
the findings have been presented in this paper to depict the future of a more
comprehensive framework of BIM contractual provisions. Future research should
therefore concentrate on a larger-scale data collection using different research
methods. It would also be interesting to investigate industry-wide BIM contracting
requirements that have not been addressed neither in custom manuscripts or standard
forms yet, and therefore expert judgments and surveys are recommended. This study
has some practical implications for future developments inclusive BIM standard
agreements, as it provides a framework of contractual provisions that industry
participants can add to the existing contracts.
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