Insurance settlement related to a building information model shows that BIM without communication can be costly.

To improve communication and understanding regarding BIM, the legal sub-forum committee of the Associated General Contractors BIM Forum recently launched a project to create a manual of electronic graphical standards. The group's intent is to clarify the American Institute of Architects' AIA Document E202-2008.

The document, which can be incorporated into an AIA agreement, establishes protocols and expected levels of development (LOD) of a BIM deliverable. It also authorizes uses of BIMs and assigns specific responsibility for the development of each model element to a defined LOD at each of five project phases.

“E202 is a good starting point, but it is a blank matrix and the document has no track record,” said architect Ronald F. Dellaria, chief compliance officer for Astorino, an architect-engineer and design-build firm in Pittsburgh. “Consequently, everybody has differing opinions and, more importantly, differing results in terms of BIM LODs,” said Dellaria, who is part of the AGC effort, at the American Institute of Steel Construction's North American Steel Construction Conference, held on May 11-13 in Pittsburgh.

The intention is to define levels of model detail, which would give model builders the ability to produce deliverables that would be universally accepted for their intended use. “We realize we have a monumental task at hand but, nonetheless, one that needs to be addressed,” said Dellaria.

The group is collaborating with the AIA's technology in architectural practice committee, the Building Smart Alliance and the AISC technical integration committee. The goal is to produce a manual by the middle of next year.

Astorino already has defined the E202 LODs internally by creating five corresponding levels of graphical detail: Level 100 for visualization, 200 for integration, 300 for coordination, 400 for construction and 500 for maintenance.

Steel fabricators and their detailers, early adopters of electronic data interchange, are still trying to convince all in construction's food chain—including owners—of BIM's value. Fabricators want structural engineers to approve the detailed steel structure in the model. Fabricators also would like engineers to set up their structural BIMs so that the fabricator can use it for detailing and to run its fabrication equipment.

According to a recent AISC survey of fabricators, only 1% of projects are approved in the model. “That sounds like something we can improve,” said Chris Moor, AISC's industry initiatives director.

Nearly 80% of the survey's 430 respondents—which includes about half the AISC fabricator members—say they are using 3D tools for modeling, detailing and other tasks and passing that data to computer-numerically controlled shop-floor machinery. Only 37% of the fabricators surveyed had actually used some form of digital data exchange between the structural design BIMs and a fabricator's detailed models.