BIM News

BIM - A ‘Green’ Process


Innovation can be defined as the solving of two or more problems with a single solution. Applying BIM process and technology to environmentally friendly construction, not only addresses demands of the new ‘green agenda’, but also delivers solutions needed by industry to improve quality and reduce cost. This article examines how this can be done.

What is the problem?

Green construction is not an optional extra. Whether liked or not, it has to be taken seriously, if green design principles are applied correctly and early enough, the process is enhanced and overall costs will be the same or lower, than traditional methods.

In the current financial climate, it is encouraging to know that if it is done correctly and at the right time, it need not eat into profits. However, understandably, there are a number of questions that are causing concern.

  • What happens if the process is not applied early enough?
  • What if the wrong process is used?
  • How can costs be recovered?
  • How will the overall business be affected?
  • Who can help?
  • Can the whole thing be ignored in the hope that it might just ‘go away’?

 In reality, the last question is probably in the forefront of the mind of many industry professionals.

The bad news is that the problem will not go away. The good news is that applying BIM technology and process, to address environmental compliance, can also reduce overall costs and improve quality.

 Why do we need to think Green?

There are perhaps five reasons why we need to think and construct environmentally friendly buildings.

 1. Lower Cost and Limitation of Infrastructure

Green buildings promote efficient use of energy, water and materials. They promote better design, construction operation and maintenance. Because bills are lower and the environment is healthier, higher sale and rental prices are achievable.

Green buildings use less energy and water and subsequently, place less demand on infrastructure. This also impacts on overall costs.

2. Better Environment

Green buildings provide a safer and more pleasant living environment. In addition, the efficiency of design, optimises both living space and the orientation of outdoor areas.

3. Legislation

The time is rapidly approaching when it will be impossible to obtain planning permission for new projects unless applications meet the criteria for eco-friendly construction.

4. Politics

Green issues in various forms are prominent on the political agenda of most nations. Not only is there a requirement ‘to do’ there is political advantages in being seen ‘to do’.

5. Moral obligations

There is a need for all of us to protect the planet.

How can BIM help?


The article I wrote in December 2016, 'The BIM Process', included a comprehensive description of how, if correctly applied, BIM process and technology, reduces cost and time when compared to traditional processes.

It also focused on the integration and collaborative elements of BIM, which have been identified in the lead article of this issue, as pre-requisites for a successful ‘green design’ process.

Reducing waste and inefficiency in any guise has an impact on the environment. BIM typically can reduce construction costs by as much as 20%. However, when BIM is encompassed as part of the ‘green’ agenda, even more savings can be identified.

Typical ‘whole of life cost’ data sourced from Turner and Townsend, shows:

For a 25 year operational life of a building:

  • 3% whole of life cost is design - 1 year
  • 17% whole of life cost is construction - 2 years
  • 80% whole of life cost is run/maintain (40%), repair
  • (30%), replace/refurbish (10%) – 25 years

Clearly, savings can be made in the post construction phase will have the biggest impact on costs. A collaborative environment, essential to facilitate these savings is provided by BIM. If BIM is used during design, savings are made in a number of ways including:

  • 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, shading etc.
  • The model also coordinates individual trade designs to ensure optimum use of materials. For example, water pipe and air-conditioning ducts have the shortest possible runs with minimum bends and junctions. This saves materials, improves air/water flow and minimises leaks.
  • Reducing energy/water consumption and waste, removes the need to install oversized plant and places less demand on the national infrastructure.
  • Selecting the right operational equipment reduces ongoing 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.

Therefore, deploying BIM process and technology, not only reduces project cost, it has a major impact on the overall efficiency of building management throughout its operational life.

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