Opinion

Building Information Modelling (BIM) - changing dynamics and behaviours

 

July 01, 2015 │ Paul Wonnacott

Paul Wonnacott is managing director and president of Vectair Systems, specialist in washroom hygiene and aircare systems. The company does business around the globe and Wonnacott has gained considerable experience in many of the world's most important markets. In his latest blog for ECJ he considers the importance of innovation to aid carbon reduction and the new buzzword that we're all talking about - BIM.

You may have heard of BIM, but not quite understood what it stands for, or what it means. Intended for the construction sector, BIM is the new buzzword that everyone seems to be talking about. The Government Construction Strategy in the UK was published by the Cabinet Office in May 2011, announcing the government's intention to require collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) on its projects by 2016.

Essentially, this means that all public buildings will now be constructed using BIM (or Building Information Modelling) in the attempt to reduce capital costs and the carbon burden of new builds by as much as 20 per cent. According to Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office: "The government's four year strategy for BIM will change the dynamics and behaviours of the construction supply chain, unlocking new, more efficient and collaborative ways of working."

We attended a carbon reduction conference back in February to see what all the fuss was about. Was BIM really relevant to us, as a manufacturer in the cleaning and hygiene business? Of course, we want to help save the environment, and we have already taken many steps to innovate in order to produce ‘greener' products. But how exactly could we get involved?

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Building Information Modelling provides a 3D platform for all parties involved in constructing a building - architects, engineers, builders and plumbers, for example - to share information using files that show exactly what is happening and when. Current BIM software is used by individuals, businesses and government agencies who plan, design and construct infrastructures such as water, wastewater, electricity, gas, refuse and communication utilities, roads, bridges and ports, houses, apartments, schools and shops, offices, factories, warehouses and prisons.

The primary outcome of BIM is the reduction of waste - both product waste, and waste produced by transport and materials. Carbon dioxide emissions in the UK stood at over 650 million tonnes last year, meaning there is still much to do if the 80 per cent reduction on 1990 emissions by 2050 as required by the Climate Change Act is to be realistically achieved.

One astonishing fact I learned from the conference was that 50 per cent of total carbon dioxide comes from buildings, and 40 per cent of man-made waste comes from construction, so it is clear why construction is the target sector for carbon reduction.

Our increasing carbon footprint is having profound effects on the world, and we are under immense pressure to make right our wrongs when it comes to carbon emissions. Rising temperatures and sea levels are destroying ecosystems and coastal cities and towns are slowly disappearing.

Wildlife is at risk too - according to the Nature Conservancy, one quarter of the Earth's species will be headed for extinction in 40 years if climate change increases at its current rate. Humans are noticing the negative effects of increased air pollution, which has caused an increase in respiratory problems as asthma and allergies have increased.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change is projected to increase the percentage of people in Mali suffering from hunger from 34 per cent to at least 64 per cent 40 years from now. It is therefore vital that we all contribute to carbon reduction.

With the launch of BIM, manufacturers have to prove their environmental credentials or risk their products not being featured in public buildings. Architects will essentially pick products to place in offices, washrooms and corridors and they will assess the best products by how environmentally friendly they are.

As a hygiene company, we can find energy savings in categories such as air care (air fresheners) and washroom (water saving, power saving) through innovation. Companies need to assess the environmental impacts of their products and ensure that they are continuing to innovate both in terms of new technology and environmental factors. Reducing energy consumption and spreading energy demands over the course of the day can make a huge difference.

Not only is BIM set to save the world from eco disaster, it is making buildings more valuable - low carbon buildings can benefit from a 10-12 per cent growth on their selling price. Because of BIM, facilities managers are increasingly looking for environmentally friendly ways of servicing their buildings and this is bridging the gap between cleaning and hygiene companies and the FM sector.

Of course, like every other business, we still have a way to go to become completely green. Is that even possible? I'm sure the answer to that is no. But we can have some comfort in the fact that, through innovation in our sector, we can all help to make a difference.

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