Management of Sustainability in BIM

Introduction

Sustainability in terms of Building Information Modelling (BIM) was defined as the sixth dimension of BIM by a large consulting firm as “what to do in terms of sustainability”[1] and as a dimension of operations management. Governments play a crucial role in achieving publicly and financially viable development of goals and objectives by defining and implementing policies, frameworks and standards for the protection of the environment.

A BIM methodology enables architects and engineers to visualise, simulate and analyse the performance of an asset in planning, delivery, operational and demolition phases of the asset lifecycle (PdOd phases).[2]

BIM has the potential to increase the efficiency of the asset, items like consumption monitoring and preventive maintenance which can be automated to improve long-term performance.

In the UK, following the publication of the Government’s sustainable development strategy[3], projects are typically designed to achieve the desired environmental targeted Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) status.

Regardless of whether its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or  BREEAM, the goals are the same, namely:

  • improving energy savings,
  • water efficiency,
  • CO2 emissions reduction,
  • improved indoor environmental quality, and
  • availability of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. 

Using BIM can improve or avoid waste, but also it can have universal advantages for actors that deal with the sustainability of an asset. These benefits include improving completion times of both design and delivery phases, reducing the number of errors, improving coordination and saving costs by identifying areas where off-site manufacturing can be utilised, hence reducing, cost and environmental impact. [4]

To access the sustainability benefits of the BIM process, there is a need to integrate and standardise information management in such a way that the meaning is clear and uniform. When these factors are transferred across all PdOd phases of an asset lifecycle, their performance and longevity can be tracked, logged and measured.[5][6]

Other than the energy benefits of BIM for Sustainability

The concept of “sustainable development” has governed the environmental agenda since the 1990s and is taken up by governments at all levels.

The term has been widely realised and is therefore, an essential part of the UK Government’s sustainable development strategy.

In here I discuss the proposed development goals for the post-2015 period concerning water quality deemed as an “important issue” for ensuring sustainable development.[7]

A 2018 report by Dodge Data Analytics found that the utility sector is advancing with the use of BIM to bring it in line with other industries. In the past, the water industry was one of the few sectors with integrated information modelling for water quality.

One of the most prominent findings reported by C. BEESLEY[8] is that BIM is now used in over 50 per cent of water quality projects in the US and Canada.

When applied to operation and project management, BIM can provide more accurate information about the condition of the water system and its future needs, which benefit both the utility owner and the end-user. For example, the use of digital technologies allows utility managers to contact customers and inform them about future waterworks and maintenance that may affect them. It also means that asset maintenance can become less reactive.[9]

BIM enables to use existing Geographic Information System (GIS) information, to explore innovative designs, test alternatives, and simulate real-world performance in order to understand the different phases of the asset life-time while preserving the spatial context. New or refurbishment infrastructure projects involve a combination of engineering, design and geo-space activities, which include short, medium and long-term processes,  all of which support the design, delivery and operation of the asset. Model-based construction, geosciences, data analysis and data visualisation, allow creating a more accurate representation of water quality and water management systems.[10]

Apart from the reduced paper consumption, data visualisation, and improved environmental analysis can be performed by studying the ecological impact of water quality and water management systems, such as soil, soil moisture, air, water and soil quality. BIM can help to find the best solutions taking into account the most critical environmental concerns.[11]

What next

Given the rapid growth of the world’s urban population, the long-term importance of sustainable construction is undeniable. Sustainability in BIM goes beyond the technology it uses to create enduring designs; it also means that workflows such as consumption monitoring and preventive maintenance can be automated to improve continuous performance and reduce operational cost.[12][13]

Regarding utilities, the top reported factor of BIM benefits is improved interoperability between multiple software applications and visualisation, and seamless design to construction to use transition.  During the construction of Huntsville Utilities new Southeast Water Treatment Plant, the improved interoperability allowed linking the invoicing software to the model improving accountability and cost tracking.[14]

It is slowly becoming typical for local authorities to use BIM as a tool to maintain existing underground services, especially in rural areas. BIM process use enables virtual training provides accurate real-time information about the location and state of underground services.  Besides, by integrating 3D BIM models with GIS data, actors can plan, construct and manage underground resources in a single environment, lessening the traditional gap between engineering and mapping.

With the rise of demand for sustainable construction, BIM is frequently used as a tool to reduce time, and waste, as well as a visualisation tool. The visualisation power is used to provide virtual training and helps to make more informed decisions, by extension, reduce the environmental footprint of an asset during its complete lifecycle.


[1]        R. Saxon, “Getting the dimensions of BIM into focus | BIM+,” 2018. [Online]. [Accessed: 24-Oct-2020].

[2]        P. Rajendran, S. Ta Wee, and G. Kai Chen, “APPLICATION OF BIM FOR MANAGING SUSTAINABLE CONSTRUCTION,” 2012.

[3]        GOV.UK, “Securing the future: delivering UK sustainable development strategy – GOV.UK,” 2005. [Online]. [Accessed: 24-Oct-2020].

[4]        M. Wong, “How BIM Technology is Improving Energy Efficiency in Construction |eSUB,” 2019. [Online]. [Accessed: 24-Oct-2020].

[5]        S. Graham, “BIM and the future of sustainable design,” 2011. [Online]. [Accessed: 24-Oct-2020].

[6]        J. Harris, “6d BIM – LEAN Construction Project Delivery Methods – Job Order Contracting, IPD, 5D BIM,” 2010. [Online]. [Accessed: 24-Oct-2020].

[7]        R. Munton and K. Collins, “Government Strategies for Sustainable Development,” 1998.

[8]        C. BEESLEY, “BIM use in the water industry soars as local governments reap benefits,” 2018. [Online]. [Accessed: 24-Oct-2020].

[9]        G. Here, “Boulting Ltd :: Realising the benefits of BIM in the water industry.” [Online]. [Accessed: 24-Oct-2020].

[10]       Geospatial World, “GIS and BIM for Utilities: Bridging the gap between engineering and mapping,” 2013. [Online]. [Accessed: 24-Oct-2020].

[11]       M. Tobias, “Benefits of Building Information Modeling,” 2019. [Online]. [Accessed: 24-Oct-2020].

[12]       D. BURCZYK, “Beyond Energy Efficiency: BIM in Sustainable Construction,” 2018. [Online]. [Accessed: 24-Oct-2020].

[13]       M. Wong, “How BIM Technology is Improving Energy Efficiency in Construction |eSUB,” 2019. [Online]. [Accessed: 24-Oct-2020].

[14]       M. Petrullo et al., “SmartMarket Report Chief Executive Officer Business Value of BIM for Water Projects SmartMarket Report Executive Editor Chief Marketing Officer SmartMarket Report,” 2018.

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