Q&As

In conversation with Alex Hartmann on innovation, trends and more in the infrastructure area

Tuesday August 15, 2017

Alex Hartmann, partner of the Sydney office of Baker McKenzie. regularly engaged in

Alexhartmannhigh-profile construction matters. He advises government and private sector clients on engineering contracts, construction projects and infrastructure-related legal issues.


He joined Chris Sanchez of Legalwise Seminars to discuss the innovations, disruptions and trends in the  infrastructure area.

You can hear from Alex directly at Infrastructure and Construction Conference: Contracts and Claim conference on Wednesday 13 September 2017 at the Primus Hotel Sydney, Mezzanine, 339 Pitt St, Sydney

What are some of the key trends and developments in infrastructure and in building and construction that are having an impact right now?

Whilst commonly thought as part of the ‘old economy’, the Construction sector is experiencing the same disruption trends as the rest of the economy. These include:

  • the use of global supply chains and problems of establishing conformance with local legal requirements (as the Grenfell Tower tragedy illustrated);
  • off site (and potentially overseas) fabrication of entire components historically constructed on site;
  • use of 3D printed manufacturing at the construction site; and
  • the use of Building Information Modelling software to allow ‘virtual’ construction to precede actual construction, offering savings of time and costs arising from clash and rework avoidance, modelling of construction sequences and cash spend and further savings during the subsequent operations and maintenance phase.

What are some of the innovations and disruptions in infrastructure that practitioners need to keep their eye on? 

The increased use of off-site prefabrication, requiring construction contracts to reach back into the fabrication and transportation phases which precede construction on site. This raises issues of inspection and control, transfer of risk and ownership – including solvency and PPSA issues, and issues relating to both international and national transport of goods. 

Building Information Modelling raises ‘housekeeping’ issues relating to responsibility for maintenance and access to the Model and more fundamental questions regarding the appropriate degree of reliance upon and liability for contributions to the Model.

What are some pros and cons of building information modelling?

Building Information Modelling is widely adopted at the project implementation level as it provides significant benefits in terms of waste avoidance and time savings, but is poorly addressed in Australian contracts. Contracts rarely address the practical ‘housekeeping’ issues of who is to ‘run’ and own the Model, let alone the more significant issues of liability and risk arising from reliance on information in the Model.

What’s one tip for allocating risk when dealing with building information modelling?

Be alert to the need to deal with both the functional issues regarding procurement, maintenance, access to and ownership of the Model and the more complex issue of reliance upon and liability for design contributions to the Model.

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