Dr Louis Gunnigan on BIM in Contracts


At this year’s CitA Smarter Cooperative Building Series events Dr Louis Gunnigan of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) spoke on a number of occasions about BIM in construction contracts. Irish building magazine spoke to Louis about the problem with contracts here and what has been attempted in the UK with new the Project Partnering Contract (PPC) – Alliance Contracts.

Louis has expertise in construction procurement, PPP, and construction contracts and has published several academic papers in these areas. During 2015, he was a member of the Consultative Group for the drafting of the PPC 2015 Contracts, under the chairmanship of Professor David Mosey of Kings College, London. Louis is currently Team Leader for Engineering and Built Environment at DIT’s Grangegorman Campus Development Office.

Speaking to Irish building magazine about the Alliance contracts, he said, “With an Alliance contract there has to be give and take. Each party to the contract has rights and obligations, but there must be a strong group willingness to ensure that each party maximises the benefit that is possible to all parties while meeting their obligations. For example, if a contractor finds a more innovative way to deliver a product of the required quality, a sharing of the benefits between the contractor and the client is encouraged within the contract. To get to this point, it is important that every party is clear on how their involvement in the project impacts on the performance of all of the others. To develop such a contract, it is important that all concerns are taken on board at the early stage of the development of the contract. Once every party in the Consultative Group had recognised and acknowledged the concerns and requirements of all other parties, the legal people were then brought on board to construct a contract that would meet these requirements, while conforming with procurement law. This is a different approach to that which we are used to. Up to now, we started with procurement law and then adjusted the requirements of the participants to suit. What has emerged from Professor Mosey’s group is a set of contracts designed from first principles to meet the needs of all of the industry”.

Talking about the BIM journey and the construction industry adapting to new practices, Louis said, “One thing I learned about BIM is that you are always exploring how a building might work when in operation. This invariably means that each stage of the design development is imperfect, but that it is a process of continuous improvement.”

Comparing ‘traditional’ contracts in the Irish Construction Industry with that which is being tried with the Alliance contracts, he said, “Traditional contracts penalise imperfection. This has come about as a result of the process that we have used in Ireland (and elsewhere) to develop such contracts where we start with procurement law first and consider the construction process next. An Alliance type contract builds in stages that allow for continuous improvement.”

Speaking about the process of developing such a contract for Ireland, he added “The output of the PPC 2015 review was the publication of the FAC-1 Framework Alliance Contract.

The time is right now for running a pilot project in Ireland using the new UK contract as a template. To get the process moving here, we need a group of key construction people in Ireland, across all of the construction professions, to set about adapting this contract for use on a BIM-designed and managed project in Ireland. This group should be under the chairmanship of a construction law person, but must be driven by the construction professionals, not the legal profession. We have to move away from the current situation where architects, engineers, and managers spend so much time on legal issues and increasingly less of their time and expertise on the technical work involved in developing projects for their clients.”

Speaking of the need to look abroad for further examples of good practice in Alliance type contracts, he said, “Integrated Project Design contracts (IPD) and partnering contracts around the world are all looking at the potential for BIM and how they relate to existing practices and existing contracts. To facilitate the promotion of BIM in construction, we have to join with these international discussions and bring the best of what Ireland can deliver to the further development of such contracts. If we do not get involved, we will only have ourselves to blame when unsuitable contracts are foisted on us in the future.”

“There is a view that all public contracts in Ireland are tied into the GCCC forms. However, when there is a need to look beyond these forms to deliver specific projects, there is a mechanism by which other contracts such as the FIDIC and GEC contracts can be proposed.

The same principles can apply to a pilot project using the FAC-1 Framework Alliance Contract or any other contract that would be relevant. We just need to have the collective courage to grasp the opportunity to continue to improve the construction process for all parties involved”.

The development of BIM contracts is a topic we will cover in future issues.

This article first appeared in Irish building magazine. Click here to read the entire issue

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