BIM News

Right Time For Green Buildings


The Middle East’s construction industry may have withstood the global downturn better than the rest of world but it cannot be denied that it has been affected, necessitating new strategies to cut costs and enhance quality.

The challenges facing the industry in Dubai intensified last year when HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum decreed that all buildings in the emirate must be constructed in line with internationally recognised ‘green building’ standards.

By the end of last year, three different green building rating systems had emerged across the region, of which Leed (leadership in energy and environmental design) in all its variations is so far the most prevalent, largely due to market recognition and track record. In Abu Dhabi, under the direction of the Urban Planning Council (UPC), Estidama, the Pearl rating system was launched, with the third one Breeam Gulf put forward by the Building Research Establishment (BRE).


In the Middle East, green is treated as a stand-alone add-on to the current process instead of an integral part of the whole design process. All too often it is mistakenlyassumed that just having a Leed consultant

on board is enough to make a building green. The Leed-accredited professional plays a facilitation role that drives the process, but it is important that all are involved in meeting the project’s green objectives.

In the US and the UK, the idea of an integrated (or whole building) design process is emerging as a way to describe the move away from a linear process to one where all the design disciplines work in active, consistent and organised collaboration. Building information modelling (BIM) technology supports such collaborative working by providing a central 3D data warehouse of information for all parties to work from.

The most effective way to achieve green objectives is to start at the earliest stages. Factors such as orientation of a building, its shape and overall mass, the level of glazing and solar shading devices, plus the construction materials used, have the greatest impact on how a building actually performs with regard

to energy/electricity use and carbon dioxide emissions. An early-stage integrated design process is faster and more collaborative. The possibility of re-design is less with a chance to identify potential problems early, both of which save time and money. Core business benefits such as lower operating costs, better building quality, as well as higher building asset and rental values are also achieved.

The information relating to costs for achieving Leed status vary from an additional up to one per cent for Leed Certification, up to greater than five per cent for Leed Platinum. If considered and implemented as an add-on, Leed will incur costs, whereas if implemented in an integrated manner, properly considered from the early stages of design, very often green building can cost the same or even be cheaper than traditional methods. However, the most compelling benefit of building to green standards is the long-term operational cost savings that can be achieved.


Doug Gatlin vice president for market development at the US Green Building Council said: “The most effective way to reduce higher costs is by getting an experienced project team in place and practising the principles of integrated design.”

BIM is emerging as a key driver in supporting such an integrated design process. However, it is essential to be equipped with the environmental performance analysis from the initial massing to drive design decisions before the 3D BIM has even been created. This energy and environmental performance information can then be incorporated into the BIM and the analysis continued in increasing detail as the design progresses.

This makes it possible to assess and choose the best approach for the project from the vast and often bewildering array of strategies and technologies available to make a building more sustainable.

Applying BIM process and technology to environment-friendly construction, not only addresses demands of the new ‘green agenda’, but also delivers solutions needed by industry to improve quality and reduce cost.

There are perhaps five reasons why we need to think and construct environment friendly buildings: lower cost and limitation of infrastructure – green buildings promote better design, construction operation and maintenance, and efficient use of energy, water and materials while reducing utility bills, contributing to healthier environment and increasing the chances of higher returns on investment; better environment; conforming to legislation regarding eco-friendly construction; politics – green issues are featuring prominently on the political agenda of most nations; moral obligations – there is a need for all of us to protect the planet.

BIM typically can reduce construction costs by as much as 20 per cent. However, when BIM is encompassed as part of the ‘green’ agenda, even more savings can be identified. In the design phase of a building, a BIM design model provides the data required to perform energy calculations. This enables multiple ‘what if’ scenarios to be run with accuracy and speed, the result being a dramatically improved process for achieving the most efficient energy design by selecting the best materials, building orientation and shading. It reduces energy/water consumption and waste, by removing the need to install oversized plant and thus placing less demand on the national infrastructure. Selecting the right operational equipment reduces on going repairs and replacement.

The model is progressed during design and records construction data in a single environment. The resulting ‘as-built’ documentation produced at hand-over provides accurate information to produce maintenance manuals.

BIM permits design in a highly visual virtual environment. This facilitates building design and internal layout which optimises the living space for occupants. Building orientation can be designed to take maximum advantage of natural daylight, shading of outdoor areas, sound insulation and air quality. Building information models contain much of the data required to undertake energy calculations. The more advanced BIM technologies are interoperable with software that require this data to produce the reports needed to satisfy legislation. This both simplifies the process and allows early ‘what if’ scenarios to be run, thereby ensuring that designs will score highly in the approvals process.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

A shining example of how design objectives were achieved through utilising BIM is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi – the third largest mosque in the world.

Tahir Sharif Biography

Tahir has been influential in encouraging the adoption of BIM with Governments, Developers, Consultants, Contractors, Service providers, Vendors and System Integrators. He has written several articles on BIM and has been an expert columnist in leading construction magazines local and international. Tahir is a senior BIM advisor on leading projects where the use of the BIM models are being used for preventative measures to reduce costs, allow better planning, and improve quality and asset management throughout the lifecycle of the project.