BIM – what happens when parties fall into dispute – Trant Engineering Limited v Mott MacDonald Limited [2017]

29 Nov 2017 | Comment


Earlier this year, the High Court provided its first decision in relation to Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the case of Trant Engineering Limited v Mott MacDonald Limited [2017] EWHC 2061 (TCC).

What is BIM?

  • A virtual model of an entire construction project
  • A digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility
  • A shared knowledge resource for information about the facility
  • A reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle, from earliest conception to demolition

Background

Trant Engineering Limited (Trant) was engaged by the Ministry of Defence as the main contractor on a £55 million Mid-Atlantic Power Project to construct a power station at Mount Pleasant Complex in the Falkland Islands.  Trant appointed Mott MacDonald Limited (MML) to provide design services and act as the BIM coordinator, controlling access to data for the entire project.

The Dispute

The parties fell into dispute over the scope of the work and payment.  MML suspended its services and revoked the passwords provided to Trant which were used to access the design data held on the licenced software programme, known as ProjectWise.

Pending resolution of the substantive dispute, Trant made an application to the Technology and Construction Court (TCC) seeking an interim injunction to require MML to provide access to the design data it had prepared and sorted on ProjectWise to Trant and others involved in the project.

The Decision

The TCC ordered MML to restore access to the relevant design data subject to Trant making a payment into court. In making this decision, the Court considered that:

  • damages would not provide an adequate remedy for Trant because the likely losses of the £55 million project would far exceed the £1 million limit on the damages recoverable from MML under the contract, assuming that is established by Trant at trial.
  • Trant’s potential losses would not be purely financial since the works formed part of a wider project.
  • ‘there was a high degree of assurance’ that Trant was entitled to access the design data that has already been carried out by MML.

Comment

The case highlights the importance of the BIM coordinator (who is essentially the gatekeeper to the data for an entire project). It is able to not only revoke access to its own design but to all other information contained on the platform.

As a result, parties will need to carefully consider who is best placed to undertake the responsibility of hosting the data.

Arguably, if the employer retains full control over access to the data for the entire project then this should reduce the risk of the project coming to a standstill if a dispute arose. However, employers will need to ensure that they have the technical knowledge and capability in order to fulfil this role.

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