BIM Sustainability: How Can It Improve Environmental Performance?
What is BIM sustainability and what does it mean for your projects and the wider construction industry?
In this blog, we refer to BIM sustainability as the ability we now have to plan, design and construct our projects in a more environmentally friendly way. With BIM, we can optimise our construction projects to reach unparalleled heights in our levels of sustainability. As the construction industry's current focus on the environmental impact of our projects increases, the more crucial it is we get ahead of the issue.
But how exactly does BIM improve our sustainability and why is it currently so important in our industry? Let’s discuss...
Sustainability in Construction
First, let’s look at the reasons that BIM is making our industry more sustainable and why that’s a good thing.
There are many reasons that construction prioritising sustainability now than in previous years, including the world's better understanding of climate change. This pushes the need for legislation into the construction industry as a consequence (companies are unlikely to change quickly without legislation - in any industry). The concepts of 6D and 7D BIM are now more common as a result - the practice of optimising energy consumption and truly understanding projects throughout their entire lifecycle.
A recent study into the sustainability of UK construction found that the built environment accounted for:
- 45% of total UK carbon emissions (27% from domestic buildings and 18% from non-domestic).
- 72% of domestic emissions arise from space heating and the provision of hot water.
- 32% of landfill waste comes from the construction and demolition of buildings.
- 13% of products delivered to construction sites go directly to landfill without being used.
Looking at these statistics, it’s no surprise that governmental authorities and institutes ask us to make our projects more environmentally sustainable. This legislation and certifications come in various forms, such as Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) and Passive House standards.
But the shift to sustainable projects isn’t just down to an obligation felt by our industry: companies can take advantage of tax savings to make projects more sustainable. This has made green developments more marketable, to the extent that it could be a deciding factor in a project going ahead.
Now we understand why our industry is becoming more environmentally efficient, let’s look at how BIM supports sustainability at each stage of a project.
The Planning Stage
Efficiency on a project comes down to adequate care and attention in the planning stage. When it comes to sustainable buildings, designers need to to be aware of orientation, heat losses, renewable energies, cross ventilation and insulation. This will likely require multiple iterations of the design and more investment in the planning stage. However, this will work in your favour through efficiencies of cost and decreased waste in the long run.
BIM is the tool that will enable you to create your plan for sustainability in the first place. The use of automation in BIM gives you even more time to consider the sustainability of the project. It will enable designers and planners to create more cost and schedule scenarios in a fraction of the time, allowing them to think more creatively about new sustainability solutions.
BIM and software, like Kreo’s intelligent cost estimation, take care of the more tedious processes of getting base costs, giving your experts more time to experiment with sustainability options. The environment isn’t the only party that benefits from effective planning - your bottom line will profit as well.
The Design Stage
The design stage is the best point at which to optimise our projects for maximum sustainability, particularly around consumption limitation (MEP) and Energy demand (ARC design). This is where we most need to come together and collaborate on a design that works for everyone, the environment included.
One of the main benefits of BIM in the design stage of your projects is through features that enhance your collaborative ability. This means every member involved in your project can have an input in the project and help to make it as sustainable as possible. A key reason for a lack of efficiency in our projects is the lack of communication when we fail to collaborate.
With applications like Kreo Design, you have the reliable assistance of artificial intelligence to help you design the most efficient and environmentally sustainable model that’s ready for construction.
Being able to share knowledge and information easily with all parties at this stage is imperative in projects like these. BIM makes it possible to develop a fully sustainable design through information and knowledge-sharing. Artificial intelligence allows you to process a building in BIM and cross the information with weather conditions, temperatures, sunlight, etc. You will be able to get the best orientation possible for your building in a few clicks. Then you can instantly prove why a building has to be in that position, instead of the traditional method of producing multiple reports to prove the same thing.
The Construction Stage
We’ve spoken about how BIM planning can help with the reduction of excess materials and reduce the amount of waste generated by your project. This carries through into the construction stage.
In the construction stage, BIM can help to improve the productivity and the overall effectiveness of the project. The major benefit of using BIM in the construction stage is the decrease in the number, and the length, of delays. When we can operate freely, with limited delays, we can keep the footprint we inflict on the environment to a minimum.
We can also more easily monitor waste throughout and operate the entire project more efficiently. With 6D and 7D BIM, we can minimise fuel consumption and noise levels on site. We can get a better control of our procurement and we can optimise asset management to make our environmental impact a positive one.
The Building Lifespan
Your project’s environmental performance isn’t over when the construction crew hammers the final nail into the cladding. The sustainability of the project will be judged over the lifespan of the building. This is where BIM can help companies the most.
With BIM, we can share every aspect of the project and its data with all parties. When we use BIM well in the planning and design stages, we can truly predict the lifetime performance of the project - also known as 7D BIM. When we have access to the data on how the building was planned, designed and constructed, we can better understand how that project will perform throughout its lifespan.
Using detailed data on aspects of the project, such as heat-loss analysis from floor areas and building volumes, we can assess the overall sustainability of the project right through to demolition.
Not only does BIM save us time and money at each stage of our projects, it also helps us lessen the harm we do to the environment. It even gives us the opportunity to positively impact our surroundings.
The evidence is clear - BIM is changing the way our industry operates. BIM affects the way we fundamentally think about our projects, even in terms of environmental impact.
Work with Kreo on BIM Sustainability
To start using BIM now, book a free demonstration with Kreo. Ask our experts' opinion on how the latest software in the industry can make your projects more sustainable in the long run. We'd love to hear your opinions on how we can direct Kreo's products to help the architecture, engineering and construction industry improve BIM sustainability.