openBIM and Environmental Sustainability


From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 1

Regardless of which side of the openBIM debate you may be on, the benefits that an open, collaborative workflow can provide is clear in terms of how it can aid innovation within the development of buildings processes as a whole. However, there are other areas in which openBIM can be adapted to be beneficial, and one of the ways that these effects can be projected is in the reduction of a building’s environmental impact.

All companies face an increasing amount of strategies that need to be implemented that focus on reducing environmental impacts caused by day to day living. But where does openBIM come into the equation and how can it be beneficial in ensuring environmental sustainability in buildings and associated construction work?

As BIM can provide a clear understanding of how a building can be designed and constructed, the way a building performs can be altered and improved in order to provide environmental sustainability too[48]. Performance gap accepted. The concepts of ‘building green’ and ‘wellness’ refer to the lifecycle of a building, including conservation of resources, protecting the environment and reducing pollution among other aspects. So if this is going to be successfully implemented on a global level then openBIM may well be the key[49].

If businesses work together and share information on sustainable construction amongst one another as part of this collaborative workflow, then the process of making this change more widespread will be increased. However, there is an argument that for certain people who have been working in the construction industry for many years and have been successful at what they do, there is an unwillingness to change their ways and adapt to this new go faster technology. But the sooner the industry is fully on board with openBIM the sooner sustainability can be incorporated on a much bigger scale.

One example of where there has been considerable efforts made to implement openBIM in relation to sustainable buildings is in the Nordic region, where buildingSMART has been working closely with various organisations across Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden to promote an open and collaborative workflow[50].

Environmental sustainability has been one of the main focuses of buildingSMART’s work with openBIM in the Nordic region and positive responses towards the idea have been gleaned in the seminars that have already taken place. In fact around thirty five different organisations have participated in buildingSMART’s “openBIM for a Nordic Sustainable Building Industry” programme, including the likes of Skanska, Aalborg University and FSR to name a few[51].

There is cooperation in the UK of course, at least in the sense that there are a lot of businesses that are on the openBIM side of the debate that are willing to work with an open and collaborative workflow, but it is not the same degree of cooperation as evidenced elsewhere in the world. Whether this will change in the UK and elsewhere over the course of the next few years we will see, but the benefits are definitely there and openBIM can be a positive influence on making construction work more environmentally friendly.

There are of course associated drawbacks to the benefits of openBIM in regards to making buildings more sustainable, not least the costs associated. But it is understood that despite all of the positives that BIM brings to the construction industry, the technology is currently only being fully utilised by the larger companies who can afford the costs that come with it. Smaller businesses are aware that BIM is making a positive difference to the industry, but the money and resources are not available to implement BIM in their work just yet but it is on the horizon. Putting them at an immediate disadvantage to the larger competitors already using openBIM to its full effect however.

Yet openBIM and sustainability can work perfectly in conjunction with one another, and in the future we may very well be seeing the two complimenting each other in the construction industry much more.

This alone shows the wider reach and influence of the sector in regard to the entire built environment. It also further shows that openBIM is indeed open to all.

Read all (and more) in BIM Journal