AIA Contract Documents BIM Series Part 5: New Terms in the 2022 BIM Documents

By AIA Contract Documents

June 30, 2022

Later this year, AIA Contract Documents will unveil their new digital practice documents that deal with the terms and concepts surrounding the use of a building information model, or “BIM.” In the leadup to this release, the AIA Contract Documents program is publishing a series of articles talking about all things BIM. This is Part 5: New Terms in the AIA’s 2022 BIM Documents.

As explained in Part 1, BIM is increasingly being woven through the fabric of every design and construction project. Therefore, it is becoming progressively more important for those who negotiate contracts to understand the nuances of BIM and – on the other side of the divide – for those who engage in modeling to understand the nuances of their contract terms. This, in essence, is the “knowledge divide.” Part 2 of our series dove deeper into this knowledge divide and provided some risk management strategies to overcome it. Part 3 of our series explained how the AIA’s new BIM documents are structured to facilitate this risk management strategy. Part 4 took a deep dive into one important aspect of the new BIM documents: BIM as a Contract Document. This is Part 5, in which we will explain some new terms in the 2022 BIM documents.

There are many terms in the new BIM documents but of those new terms, three are of upmost importance: Model Portion, Model Author, and Model Version. Each of these three will be discussed, in turn.

Model Portion or Portion. In the new BIM documents, a Model Portion, or Portion, is typically defined as “a subset of a Model as designated in Table 2.4 of [the] Exhibit. The Parties may designate a Model Portion by discipline, trade, area, location, phase, or other mutually agreeable distinction.” (Note: The E401-2022 and E402-2022 define the term slightly differently, but the difference in the definition in those two documents is outside of the scope of this article.). The documents allow for the terms “Model Portion” and “Portion” to be used interchangeably, depending upon the structure of the sentence in which the term appears. A Model Portion is intended to be understood as a subset of a model, but is purposefully left open as to how the subset categories will be determined because different projects and models may require different categorizations. For example, on one project it may make sense to break models down into Portions according to the trades – so there could be a mechanical Portion, a plumbing Portion, an electrical Portion, a structural Portion, and so on. However, in a different project it may make sense for the model to be broken down into Portions according to the location – so there could be a foundation Portion, a first floor Portion, a second floor Portion, and so on.

After the Portion categories have been decided, the parties can then determine the appropriate level of sharing (i.e. the “Sharing Tier”) for each portion. For example, the parties may decide that the structural Portion will be shared with all project participants and can even be enumerated as a Contract Document, but the plumbing Portion might only be shared with a few project participants and may only be used as a reference.

Model Author or Author. In the new BIM documents, a Model Author, or Author, is defined as “the Project Participant responsible for developing a Model Portion.” Just like with “Model Portion,” the documents allow for the terms “Model Author” and “Author” to be used interchangeably, depending upon the structure of the sentence in which the term appears. A Model Author is, simply, the project participant who creates a Model Portion.

Model Version or Version. In the new BIM documents, a Model Version, or Version, is defined as “a specific edition of a Model or Model Portion that is sufficiently identifiable as unique and unchanged as of the time it is saved by its Author.” Similar to “Portion” and “Author,” the documents allow for the terms “Model Version” and “Version” to be used interchangeably, depending upon the structure of the sentence in which the term appears. As explained in Part 4, Model Version is a critical definition and concept in the 2022 BIM documents. A Version is a “specific edition” of a Model or Model Portion. Through this concept, project participants can identify and reference (and even potentially rely upon) a specific Version of their model, while that same model continues to develop. Then, when the Author determines that the model is sufficiently developed to meet the requirements of the next milestone, they can identify the next Version, to be used for reference (and, again, potentially even reliance).

An analogy to this process may aid in understanding the context: traditionally, project drawings can be developed through software and then exported and shared with the other project team members as a PDF. The underlying file may continue to change and be developed even after the PDF is distributed. Then, if the author wishes to distribute an updated version of those drawings, they can do so by saving it as a PDF and distributing that PDF. The concept of a Model Version is intended to work the same way and, as a result, can simultaneously facilitate model collaboration while also enabling model sharing with appropriate levels of use and reliance.

The AIA Contract Documents program recently presented multiple 60-minute panel discussions about the Knowledge Divide and the risks surrounding model sharing. You can also read more about the AIA Contract Documents Digital Practice Documents in the Guide, Instructions, and Commentary.

AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provide guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors. Any language quoting from AIA Contract Documents that have not yet been released is subject to change before final publication.