Insurance and risk factors related to BIM

October 2009 » Features » BUSINESS STRATEGIES
Victoria Taylor

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is here, and here to stay. More and more owners are requiring BIM utilization on their projects and several governmental entities are putting BIM into their contract documents. However, there are some obvious insurance questions to ask about being involved in the BIM process, and some underlying risk factors that have to be considered and addressed.

First, one has to make sure that their insurance coverage will specifically cover involvement in the BIM process. Professional liability (PL) coverage comes in several forms and sometimes with some restrictions. For example, your coverage might be for just your design process and work. But BIM involves several other entities—€™ input and revision. Will your own PL insurance cover you if there is a design-type claim?

Should you be concerned about the coverage of others involved in the BIM process? Often, the BIM process is —€œtransferred—€ to the general contractor/construction manager. The GC/CM might take on this role itself or assign a BIM designated contractor. If the project is a building, the HVAC contractor is often the designated BIM entity. Typically, contractors do not have design professional coverage, or only a limited form for their construction management operations. Assume that your owner client implements BIM and you enter your data; then the HVAC sub starts adding its information and that from other contractors. If there is a question with design implementation, who is responsible? What if there is a structural collapse? Which entity is responsible and did they have insurance coverage? Everyone involved in the process has to make sure that every other BIM-involved party has appropriate insurance coverage for all possibilities.

If you have entered the BIM arena, what type of software are you implementing? There are a few software developers that have BIM programs. Some of these are quite complex and some are very simple. Some of these programs require the purchaser to add its own data or to develop the program. Typically, the software developer and the software company that develops the additions have very limited insurance coverage. Additionally, in most contracts for software or software services, the contract has a restriction of damage clause or hold harmless. Thus, what if the program fails? What recourse do you have?

Typically, the owner gives the engineer/design professional the responsibility to implement BIM. The greater risk may be in overseeing the process. The various construction parties are constantly changing, adding and subtracting to the design via BIM. The engineer/design professional—€™s oversight actions are necessary because BIM changes could cause conflicts, architectural flaws, or even change the —€œartistic—€ aspects of the project. Claims from these types of failures can result in delay/cost overrun claims and definite relationship problems with the client.

There are several methodologies to address these concerns. First, make sure your contract with the owner specifically addresses who will implement BIM and your specific duties regarding BIM acquisition, implementation, and oversight. Secondly, meet with your insurance broker and review your program to ensure that BIM activity is covered. If your policy is silent about BIM, work with your broker to get coverage. Lastly, make sure that the project contract documents specifically delegate duties relative to BIM, and that all parties are required to have coverage for BIM involvement.

Victoria Taylor is area vice president and niche principal for Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services, Gallagher Construction Services, Brookfield, Wis. She can be contacted at vickie_taylor@ajg.com.


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