The new (BIM) Information Protocol

Mark Pantry considers the publication of the new Information Protocol which supports those contracts which use the BS EN ISO 19650-2.

Those in the construction industry who have implemented (or have tried to implement) Building Information Modelling (“BIM”) in their projects may know that following the publication of BS EN ISO 19650-2 in 2019 there has been a missing document: a template Information Protocol to support contracts which use ISO 19650. This has now been addressed by the publication by the UK BIM Framework of its template Information Protocol.

But what is ISO 19650 and what is an Information Protocol? The ISO 19650 series is an internationally agreed set of standards for managing information over the life cycle of a built asset using BIM. The ISO 19650 series has been incorporated into UK standards as the BS EN ISO 19650 series. BS EN ISO 19650-2 is the part of those standards that deals with the delivery phase of the assets. 

An Information Protocol (or as it was previously known, a BIM Protocol) is a document required under ISO 19650 which agrees the various rights, roles and responsibilities of the parties to achieve compliance with BS EN ISO 19650-2.

The new Information Protocol uses the CIC BIM Protocol as its starting point. Those who have used the CIC BIM Protocol will therefore be familiar with how the new Information Protocol is intended to operate and its general principles.

The Information Protocol does not operate independently; it needs to be incorporated into a contract, whether that be a building contract, a consultant’s appointment or similar, for it to have contractual effect. Some building contracts such as the JCT Design and Build Contract, 2016 edition, already include optional drafting to incorporate the Information Protocol but other contracts will need an incorporation clause drafted into them to give effect to the Information Protocol.

That being said, what if the Information Protocol is inconsistent or conflicts with the terms of the contract to which it is appended? The Information Protocol states that the contract takes precedence when resolving any conflict or inconsistency but the Information Protocol takes precedence over other documents that form part of the contract. This order of precedence of documents will not always be appropriate for every project and should be confirmed on a project by project basis.

The new Information Protocol now sets out the Information Particulars at the front of the document. The Information Particulars are the project-specific details that need to be completed. These use the particular terminology of ISO 19650 and include basic details such as the Appointor and Appointee together with more technical documents such as the Exchange Information Requirements and the BIM Execution Plan. The success of any Information Protocol is dependent on these technical documents, with missing or incomplete documents leading to uncertainty as to the processes to be followed by the parties.

Clauses 3 and 4 of the Information Protocol sets out the obligations of the various parties. Clause 3 sets out the obligations of the appointing party; usually the ultimate client or a party managing information on the client’s behalf. Clause 4 sets out the obligations of the appointee and the appointor. 

As the Information Protocol is drafted for use throughout the supply chain the identities of the appointee and appointor will change depending on where in the supply chain the Information Protocol sits. The identities of the parties are captured in the Information Particulars. 

The parties are required to manage, prepare and deliver information and documents in accordance with BS EN ISO 19650-2. The parties are also required to review and update documents when required. Information is to be produced, shared or published at the times stated in the Information Particulars, but clause 4.6 of the Information Protocol now acknowledges that such compliance may give rise to an extension of time and/or additional costs under the contract, and there is an express, positive obligation in clause 4.7 for the parties to provide such information and assistance required by the Information Particulars.

It is recognised that compliance with BS EN ISO 19650-2 will generate a large quantity of data and this will only increase as the technology advances. The electronic exchange of data is detailed in clause 5 of the Information Protocol, with the Appointing Party being responsible for establishing, implementing, configuring and supporting the common data environment (“CDE”) solution and workflow. 

The information on the CDE solution is to be stored securely by the Appointing Party for the period specified in the Information Particulars. Following the decision in Trant v Mott MacDonald [2017] EWHC 2061 the Information Protocol now confirms when parties should have access to the information held in the CDE solution.

The Information Protocol develops the CIC BIM Protocol as to how the parties manage, use and transfer information. Clause 6 sets out how information is to be managed and by whom; clause 7 confirms the level of information needed as a contractual deliverable and clause 8 sets out how information is to be used.

The Level of Information Need is perhaps the most important here. It is ultimately for the client to specify how much information it wants and to what detail, but there have been difficulties in the past with clients trying to define this level of need, for example clients saying that they want “BIM Level 2” for their project. It turns out that “BIM Level 2” means different things to different parties, and there is no standardised accepted level of information. 

On that basis the Level of Information Need must be as detailed as possible and should ideally include indicators so that parties can tell that they have reached the required level.

To allow information to be used effectively by the parties, clause 8 provides for licences to be issued where a contract does not contain such provisions. While this is a helpful clause, it is likely that most contracts entered into will contain some copyright or other licence detailing the use and sharing of information.

Clause 10 of the Information Protocol deals with liability. Neither party to the Information Protocol has liability to the other if the other party changes or modifies the model or related work for any other contractually defined purpose.

The new Information Protocol is an ideal starting point for anyone wanting to incorporate an information protocol or BIM protocol for a project. It should, however, be remembered that it is a template which should be built on by the project parties to reflect project-specific requirements. 

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