CMS Expert Guide to Building Information Modelling (BIM)

CMS Guide to Building Information Modelling (BIM)

The BIM discussion has become omnipresent in the design, construction and facility management fields in many countries around the globe due to its potential to reduce costs and the duration of projects and to facilitate cooperative work-flows. BIM enables designers to visualise a building in its entirety before it is built. It is seen as a cultural and structural change in the planning, construction and real estate sector which is more far-reaching than all other previous methodical and technical developments (e.g. CAD).

Due to the potential benefits of BIM, many governments have started to promote its use. However, the extent to which BIM is adopted in the different countries as well as the legal traditions and frameworks to be considered when implementing BIM vary around the globe.

This Expert Guide brings together analysis from our legal experts across 9 jurisdictions. Each summary covers the following aspects:

The Expert Guide also provides a list of internet resources for additional country-specific information about BIM.

What exactly is BIM

BIM describes a method of work by which – on the basis of digital building models – all relevant information for the life cycle of the building is integrated, administered and exchanged among the project participants.

  • Core to this is the creation of 3D-models. By contrast with a mere 3D-modeller, BIM-design tools offer a catalogue of construction-specific objects containing predefined components such as walls and pillars. Apart from geometrical information, these design and construction elements can be assigned with further properties such as material characteristics, lifespan, fire resistance, noise permeability etc. Further, these objects can have parametric meaning – by contrast with a collection of static (digital) drawing lines, they are defined as parameters and relate to other objects. For example, if a wall is shifted on the first floor all other associated elements in this and the other floors are adjusted automatically.


    Furthermore, the BIM components or assemblies can be linked to schedule constraints (4D BIM) and accurate cost estimates from the components (5D BIM). When linking attribute data to Facility Management (e.g. components manufacture, date of installation, the necessary maintenance) and further aspects of the life cycle of the building (e.g. environment/sustainability factors, demolition, disposal/recycling of building components) this is often described as 6D and 7D BIM.  


    Each additional dimension integrates more information about a project, giving insight into cost-saving opportunities and how the asset can be managed most efficiently in its operational phase, post-construction completion (see below in detail). As a result, all information is interlinked in a transparent manner and all impacts of a change in one area on any other sub-area are visualised in real time.

  • Beyond changes in software design, BIM is driving fundamental change in how Architects, Engineers and Contractors work together, shifting energies towards greater focus and collaboration early in the schematic design process. Architects and Engineers can more effectively evaluate the performance and functional characteristics of different materials and systems and then quickly review the impact of different design scenarios.

Basic concepts for implementing BIM in your organisation

When implementing BIM in your organisation or in a specific project, different concepts can be distinguished and summarised with the terms open BIM (or fully collaborative BIM) and closed BIM (or “lonely” BIM).

In general terms, open BIM describes a design environment in which different project participants using different BIM software solution share and integrate their models and data with each other using non-proprietary file formats, including IFC (Industry Foundation Classes).

On the other hand, closed BIM refers to a relatively restricted design environment in which all participants use a single BIM software platform.

In general, the main benefits of BIM can be generated when using open BIM: It allows project members to participate regardless of the software solution they use and provide enduring project data for use throughout the asset life cycle, avoiding multiple input of the same data and consequential errors.

Deciding whether to work with open BIM or closed BIM depends on several key variables, including the size of the project, which performance parameter of BIM are to be used in the project (e.g. use of 5D; linking BIM to software for tendering or the Facility Management), fixed requirements of the client in regard to the use of the software, the diversity of all project participants, the platforms that the respective disciplines favour for implementing BIM and whether the project needs to maintain data for the whole life cycle (such as facilities management).

Benefits of BIM

BIM is capable of a positive impact on all phases of a project life cycle:

1. Cost certainty and cost reduction

  • Cost estimation with BIM is more accurate due to the integration of attributes in the model.
  • Identifying and fixing issues earlier in the project process reduces costly change order and avoids scenarios whereby progress on the project is hindered.
  • Automatic calculation of quantities on the basis of the BIM-model allows a more precise cost estimation for tenders and defect management.

2. Saving time
BIM offers several ways of reducing project time.

  • The opportunity to generate real-time values for any changes made by an architect or owner and to identify and resolve conflicts very early via clash-detections and other review tools may avoid project overruns and eliminate confusion.
  • The approach of BIM in involving all parties in the building process with a single shared model to work from reduces time-consuming information losses when a new or different team takes ownership.
  • The collaboration at an early stage allows opportunities to identify innovative and efficient methods of working which can lead to time and/or cost savings.

3. Increased planning quality

  • The possibility of analysing several design and construction alternatives for the project before the start of the construction phase increases planning quality.
  • BIM allows more accurate drawings and an early conceptualisation of the entire project

4. Increasing acceptance

  • The ability of BIM to identify and visualise complex connections of projects may potentially enhance the acceptance of a (large) project by public and decision-makers.
  • It allows early engagement with end users and delivery of a product which meets their needs.

5. Improved collaboration and information sharing

  • The requirement in an open BIM project for all parties to work together increases the need for collaboration and sharing of information. This can benefit projects where this culture leads to a problem-solving attitude amongst participants.

6. Enables effective Facility Management
BIM benefits building owners and facility managers:

  • a BIM model can be integrated with Computer-Aided Facility Management Systems (CAMS) for maintenance operations
  • streamlined change management
  • improved space management
  • availability of quality information required for ongoing operation, maintenance and useage of the building.

7. Improve Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

  • Aspects of energy efficiency, waste management and water management and hence sustainability can be efficiently integrated into a BIM-model.

How we can help

CMS has been legally accompanying the evolution of BIM in several jurisdictions. Our law firm advises clients in several countries on all aspects of specific BIM-related projects as well as the general implementation of BIM in your organisation.

Please use your usual CMS contact in the relevant jurisdiction if you wish to discuss the implementation and usage of BIM further or for more general enquiries please contact: