Examining the new AIA BIM Exhibit agreements

The recently published AIA Digital Practice Documents involve three interrelated components that clearly define the procedures for sharing models, the permitted uses of the shared information, and the level of reliability on the model elements. The documents, therefore, provide the parties to the design and construction process with a straightforward methodology to share information without creating unanticipated or unmanageable risks.

This post looks at the documents prepared for the first step: the BIM Exhibit. The parties sharing the information first decide on a BIM Exhibit, which sets forth a general agreement on significant issues, such as the extent of model sharing across the project, permitted model uses, and confidentiality and intellectual property issues.

The documents provide four choices for the exhibit. The first of these addresses the demand from construction entities and project owners that the contract documents incorporate the shared model information. While this is a major change from the old system that shared model information strictly for information purposes, the industry is evolving to use elements of models during construction of building projects. (The use of model elements as a contract document has become relatively standard in civil engineering, but not yet in the construction of buildings.)

BIM has become a critical and integral tool for projects of all sizes. Greater use of, and reliance on, models impacts everyone, including both contract negotiators and modelers. Using one of the exhibits specifies how the parties (architect, consultants, owner, contractor, and all subcontractors) will share, use, and rely upon the models. The exhibit helps avoid the dangers of miscommunications at project initiation regarding the expected levels of sharing, usage, and reliance.

The four forms of BIM Exhibits are as follows:

E201-2022, BIM Exhibit for Sharing Models with Project Participants, Where Model Versions May be Enumerated as a Contract Document

E201 is a significant evolution of the BIM documents. Use this exhibit to share models among all project participants and to enumerate some model versions as contract documents. With the evolving nature of the construction industry, it is reasonable to assume that project participants will use some level of modeling in the same way they have used traditional drawings as part of the contract documents. Deciding to enumerate a model version as a contract document is significant and has many consequences. E201 gives project participants the ability to explicitly permit or prohibit certain model versions from becoming contract documents. As a result, since E201 attaches to all of the contracts throughout the project, all project participants should have a common understanding as to the extent of reliance on specific model versions. This common understanding allows those preparing the model versions to structure their modeling services and fees accordingly.

E202-2022, BIM Exhibit for Sharing Models with Project Participants, Where Model Versions May Not be Enumerated as a Contract Document

E202 does not enumerate model versions as contract documents and allow their use to rise to the level of reliance and contractual obligations found in the set of related documents that collectively define the extent of the agreement between the owner and party executing the contract for construction. Many of the other terms of E202 are similar to E201.

E401-2022, BIM Exhibit for Sharing Model Solely Within the Design Team

Unlike E201 and E202, professionals should use E401 when sharing models solely within the design team, defined as “the Architect, its Consultants, Subconsultants, and Sub-subconsultants, at any tier.” In this regard, E401 anticipates a more “design-only” approach to modeling, where the members of the design team create and distribute their models only for design purposes instead of sharing them with the project owner or any member of the construction team.

E402-2022, BIM Exhibit for Sharing Model Solely Within the Construction Team

Similar to E401, E402 anticipates sharing models solely within the construction team, defined as “the Contractor, its Subcontractors, and Sub-subcontractors, including fabricators, at any tier.” When using E402, the construction team can share models within the construction team only, not with the project owner or any member of the design team.

In the next post, we will look at the newly created BIM Execution Plan. After the parties agree to the significant decisions in their BIM Exhibit, they can document the more granular decisions related to model sharing through use of a BIM Execution Plan. The plan, in turn, can incorporate a Model Element Table if the parties will be using one to designate their levels of development.

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