Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Improving Sustainable Building Practices with BIM

Rose Morrison

Global warming is no longer something humans can ignore. Rising oceans, temperatures and extreme weather have already negatively affected coastal areas on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and everywhere in between. The time has come to start thinking sustainably for the future.

Building information modeling (BIM) benefits sustainable construction. (Courtesy image)

The construction industry can benefit significantly from going green, because it is one of the biggest culprits of energy consumption and carbon emissions. Building operations are responsible for 40% of annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, but there is hope through building information modeling (BIM). This software provides the following six benefits for organizations aiming for sustainability and the resulting higher performance buildings.

1. Better Construction Planning

The benefits of BIM start with the planning process. This software means project managers can view the entire project before any contractors hit the hammers. These professionals can use 3D models to see the design and detect issues before proceeding. BIM improves the efficiency of projects and produces better results.

One of the benefits of BIM is its ability to protect workers — the software can detect hazards before anybody sets foot on the site. BIM features visual risk analysis and safety evaluations so every employee is safe on-site.

2. Improved Cost Prediction

Saving money for construction companies has become paramount, especially with supply chain issues. Labor shortages, backlogs and other problems have contributed to inflation and rising costs for the building sector. BIM can mitigate the situation by giving accurate estimates before a team begins construction.

For example, project managers can use BIM software to estimate materials costs and shipping expenses. Tools like BIM 360 can also help professionals determine the cost of labor and shipping prefabricated pieces. They can use this information to save money and find the best time to buy sustainable building materials.

3. Increased Time Efficiency

A project with frequent delays will cost the business and the client more money, so on-time completion is crucial for all parties involved. BIM can speed up the process with faster design and construction.

Time is a concern for builders, in part, because of the energy consumed during construction. Machines consume fuel and emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, so delayed projects mean more energy consumption and damage done to the surrounding environment. Increasing efficiency on the construction site means fewer carbon emissions and a better workflow.

BIM helps by improving communication efficiency with all parties involved. The stakeholders, clients, architects and everybody else can see the designs because they’re on the software. They all can see the models, the design notes, the estimates and much of the information they may need. BIM eliminates information silos and miscommunication, which can lead to unwanted delays.

4. Optimizing Green Design

Project managers can improve sustainability with the construction process, but what about the buildings themselves? BIM provides architects with digital models of the structures and allows them to see multiple renditions of the project. These alternatives show designers where they can make improvements regarding energy consumption and performance.

Being mindful of energy performance of all buildings is paramount for the construction industry to become more sustainable, as buildings are responsible for about 40% of the world’s energy consumption. Finding ways to make these structures more energy efficient will reduce the enormous carbon footprint of the real estate industry and build a more sustainable future.

One way to increase sustainability is with zero-energy buildings. These structures are part of the United States’ goal for all commercial buildings to have net zero emissions by 2050. To accomplish this feat, construction companies need to implement elements of green design, such as high levels of insulation and sealing smart HVAC systems, and also including energy-efficient appliances, and more.

5. Reducing Waste

Material waste at the construction site is another significant issue. Construction can already harm the surrounding environment. Project managers should be conscious of any waste. They can reduce this negative environmental impact by implementing BIM software.

Architects use BIM in the planning process to accurately count how much they need for the materials. Clash detection is a critical feature that helps designers avoid rework. Reworking is costly for projects, requiring additional materials architects could have avoided if they had found the mistakes in the planning phase.

Another area construction professionals can reduce waste in is the type of materials they use for building. Steel is among the most common components in buildings and is one of the worst offenders regarding CO2 emissions. Every ton of steel releases nearly two tons of fossil carbon into the atmosphere.

BIM comes to the rescue because it can show architects where they can reuse materials. Using recycled steel and other material choices can significantly reduce their carbon footprint without compromising structural integrity. Recycled materials lower the amount of waste and costs.

6. Managing Properties Sustainably

Sustainability in construction continues after the building is over. Once a team finishes a project, it can use BIM to manage properties in the future. Technology has evolved to make building management much more accessible. Digital models can provide exact details of buildings so that construction companies can make better sustainability decisions.

One of the primary concerns for high performance building management is the HVAC system. Over time, these mechanisms can become less efficient without proper maintenance. BIM can include recommendations for maintenance schedules for the mechanical systems.

Building owners who want to change details about their property can refer to BIM. The software will guide them on building-specific requirements and sustainability practices. Using BIM will assist building owners with renovations and expansions to ensure they follow eco-friendly and high-performance practices.

Using BIM For a Sustainable Future

In the 21st century, the construction industry remains one of the highest energy consumers. The future of this sector must turn toward higher performing sustainability practices because the clock is ticking — humans are already seeing the adverse effects of global warming. One way to improve sustainability is by using BIM. These six benefits show why construction professionals should use it for the whole building process.

Rose Morrison is a freelance writer with a passion for sustainable topics in the built environment. She is the managing editor of and regularly contributes to a number of reputable sites, such as BioFriendly Planet, NCCER, and the National Association of Realtors. For more from Rose, you can follow her on Twitter.

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