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Can BIM be the core of your Green Building strategy?

Sustainable/green design is driving a sea of change in the construction industry across the globe. A Smart Market report says that Green Buildings enjoy an 8% savings in operating cost in the first year itself and that the building asset value also goes up by as much as 7%. This World Green Building Trends 2018 Smart Market Report projected that while 27% of the industry was doing “more than 60% of their projects green” in 2021, this number would grow to 47% -i.e. nearly half of all construction projects.

This can be seen in a couple of different ways. One that the trend of Green Buildings is growing. These buildings are designed to be inherently more conscious and sustainable in how they use resources. They are typically LEED-certified and the focus is more on running them “green.” From our perspective, there is, of course, another angle to this too. That is, how can the process of construction itself be more environmentally conscious and green. This post is about how the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry can, and indeed already is, leverage BIM to support and promote the cause of green buildings in all ways.

What is sustainable construction?

The word ‘sustainable’ has been so overused in the past decade that people have started to cringe at the mere mention of it. Everything from buildings to farming is shifting towards sustainability. Let’s look at what sustainability in the construction industry means.

Sustainable construction can be best defined as an attempt to meet the challenges and requirements of present-day infrastructure needs without adding a dent to the already stressed environment. It is far more than installing energy-efficient electrical systems or appliances. It is an attempt to meet the current needs without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The sustainable or green design focuses on every aspect and element of the design and construction phases along with the future needs of operation and maintenance of a facility.

BIM and Green Design

The recent discussions in the U.S. between the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA/COTE) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) reflects the growing focus on green or sustainable design. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the US along with other countries like Finland, the UK, and Denmark have adopted BIM for the majority of their public infrastructure work.

This focus on sustainability is visible elsewhere too. India’s current focus is on building smart cities. Public infrastructure development is underway in many Tier-II cities. Among the main focus areas of any smart city, the project is sustainable living. Sustainable living demands green buildings that thrive on optimum and intelligent utilization of the resources at hand.

Role of BIM in Green Design

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a cutting-edge technology that is widely adopted by the construction industry worldwide for better planning, resource utilization, collaboration, and cost control. These attributes suggest that BIM could be leveraged for creating sustainable projects too. Here’s how a connection can be established between sustainable construction and BIM:

1.    Transparency during the design phase

The shared model feature in BIM software helps in providing easy access to the design data for all the involved stakeholders. This allows the architects, engineers, builders, and designers to brainstorm upon the proposed materials and products that are going to be used in the project. In focus can be issues like whether the proposed options are environmentally conscious while delivering the needed functionality or whether an alternative can work better. The entire team can bring in their knowledge and expertise to find a sustainable BIM solution.

2.    Greater efficiency during designing and construction

The real-time sharing of data through the multidimensional model generated by BIM allows collaboration, simulation, and reviewing of workflows at every stage from inception to execution. This helps in increasing efficiency by saving time through clash detection and thereby reducing the overall likelihood of possible human errors or the need for rework. This saves resources, reduces wastage, and ensures work gets done faster -all helping to reduce the environmental footprint.

The better planning that BIM promotes also helps drive better material procurement and utilization. Only as much material as is needed is ordered, only that much is stored on-site, and material wastage is less. This drives more conscious consumption of construction material and a reduced impact on the environment.

3.    Performance monitoring during the operations phase

The projects in the past faced difficulties in maintaining data about the changes made to the design during the construction phase. This created much trouble for those tasked with maintaining the building since they did not have a final design of the facility. However, the real-time data sharing feature of the BIM makes it easy to maintain a list of all the changes executed during the construction phase. This assists the building owner or manager to carry out maintenance work efficiently once the building is operational. This optimizes the ongoing resource utilization of the building and, hence, the environmental impact.  

The construction industry worldwide is being swept up in the global movement to be more environmentally conscious. This is also a regulatory imperative. As this article should show, Building Information Modelling (BIM) could help construction companies achieve these green goals.

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