The environmental impact of new buildings on a site is substantial and should not be underestimated. This impact extends beyond the fate of the existing vegetation—which at worst implies its complete removal, and at best, peaceful coexistence with man-made constructions—, but also encompasses the building’s future generation of waste, management of wastewater and impact of vehicular access once everything is up and running. All of these factors contribute significantly to the overall environmental footprint of the construction, and are an opportunity to reflect upon how to minimize it.
As we have seen in previous articles, BIM is a game-changer when it comes to mastering the different aspects of a project, as it gives designers, contractors and stakeholders full control over complex variables such as project timelines, cost estimations, and resource allocations. But most importantly, it facilitates the integration of sustainable practices by providing a holistic view of the project’s environmental impact, enabling informed decision-making to optimize resource efficiency, reduce waste, and enhance overall sustainability.
So… what exactly is sustainability?
Sustainability implies the use of resources so that the ability of future generations to meet their own needs is not compromised in any way. If everyone who picnics at a park decides to leave their plastic and food waste behind, then the next person who comes to enjoy themselves will not be able to do so fully. It is then about finding ways to go about life without depleting resources or degrading the environment.
In the context of construction and our built environment, sustainability implies a commitment to “green” practices that ensure the long-term well-being of both the planet and its inhabitants. It involves designing, constructing, and operating buildings and infrastructure in a way that minimizes negative impacts on the environment, conserves resources, promotes energy efficiency, and prioritizes social and economic considerations. This approach encompasses a range of factors, including reducing carbon emissions, optimizing resource use, enhancing resilience to climate change, and fostering social equity within communities affected by construction projects.
What BIM does for sustainability
Promotes a better “passive” design.
Through simulations of a building’s volume, BIM enables experimentation with various window configurations. This allows for the assessment of the optimal building orientation and placement of openings to enhance daylighting and solar gains. By strategically optimizing these elements, BIM contributes to a more efficient passive design, ultimately reducing the need for “active” interventions such as artificial lighting and excessive heating or cooling. This not only enhances energy efficiency but also aligns with sustainable practices by minimizing the building’s overall environmental impact
Improves the building’s energy efficiency.
BIM allows analyzing data such as thermal mass, building orientation and energy leaks, enabling the identification of problematic areas within the structure. By pinpointing these inefficiencies, stakeholders can work collaboratively to devise effective solutions. BIM’s ability to model and simulate various scenarios allows for the implementation of energy-efficient strategies, such as optimizing insulation, refining HVAC systems, and integrating sustainable materials. This proactive approach not only reduces the building’s energy consumption but also aligns with the broader goal of creating environmentally responsible and resource-efficient structures.
Evaluates the feasibility of renewables in a project.
BIM plays a pivotal role in assessing the viability and integration of renewable energy sources within a construction project. Through advanced simulations and analysis, BIM allows stakeholders to model and evaluate the potential impact of incorporating renewables such as solar panels, wind turbines, or geothermal systems. This proactive approach helps in optimizing the placement and efficiency of these sustainable energy solutions. By considering factors like sunlight exposure, wind patterns, and geophysical conditions, BIM assists in making informed decisions about the feasibility and implementation of renewables. This ultimately contributes to the broader goal of reducing dependence on non-renewable energy sources.
Assesses the environmental impact of chosen materials.
BIM plays a crucial role in evaluating the environmental footprint associated with the materials selected for construction. By integrating lifecycle analysis tools, BIM enables a comprehensive assessment of materials from extraction and production, to transportation and eventual disposal. This holistic view empowers decision-makers to make informed choices that prioritize sustainable and eco-friendly materials. By considering factors such as embodied energy, carbon emissions, and recyclability, BIM contributes to minimizing the environmental impact of the construction process, fostering a commitment to responsible material sourcing and usage in the built environment.
The fusion of BIM and sustainability propels the construction industry toward greener practices. Harnessing BIM’s power to optimize designs, enhance energy efficiency, and assess environmental impacts is key to building a more sustainable future. As builders, designers, and stakeholders, let us embrace this transformative tool. Take the initiative to explore BIM applications, integrating sustainability seamlessly into construction projects. Let yourself be guided by experts who have been doing this for quite some time. By embarking on this transformative journey, we not only shape more environmentally conscious structures, but also contribute to a resilient and responsible built environment that will be enjoyed for generations to come.