BIM in the Green


BIM (Building Information Modelling) is a system capable of holding vast quantities of data in relation to a wide range of building design objectives. One of the key areas of focus, especially for the government, is sustainability, including energy costs and wastage – this is the 6th ‘D’, and linked to BIM Level 3 (which is currently under development).

It can be tricky or complicated to change over to a new system, but BIM really does cut the mustard with design systems. With the potential to be a fully integrated method of design, build, maintenance and servicing, it could save time and money – and the planet – one building at a time.

We’ve put together a brief beginner’s guide to BIM as well – to get up to scratch just read our guide here.



Various research bodies have looked into the issue of sustainability in construction, with some concerning figures:

  • 40% of carbon emissions around the world come from buildings, and 45% in the UK
  • Construction & demolition of buildings contributes 32% of landfill sites
  • 13% of products ordered for construction are sent directly to landfill

Clearly there is plenty of room to improve the sustainability of buildings; the government has set strategic targets under the ‘Construction 2025’ title. By enforcing BIM uptake in government projects, the targets are more achievable, with BIM providing fluid data and analysis to reduce waste and unforeseen problems. Targets in the Construction 2025 project include cutting whole life costs of buildings by 33%, and overall greenhouse gasses reduced by 50% by 2025.

Inherently the decision to create a new building is going to produce a certain amount of carbon, but through the use of systems like BIM, and the collaboration of sustainably-minded architects and designers, this can be greatly reduced.



From the starting point of design, all the way to ongoing maintenance in a building, BIM can help reduce wastage. By co-ordinating all elements of the building process in one central model (the key premise of BIM), any updates and changes are easy to view and simple to analyse for problems. With 30% of the cost for building tied up by problems, poor management, inefficiency and error, having a centralised system will reduce many of the issues.

The key areas of waste that BIM can reduce include:

  • Reworking and redesign reduction
  • Highlighting flaws in design and risk analysis
  • Bad communication between supply chain members
  • Incorrect maintenance leading to problems

For example, when changes are made to the model, data auto-updates materials quantities so error is minimised, materials are not over- or under-ordered, and efficiency on site is improved, reducing carbon consumption from vehicle movement and material production amongst others.

Building design clashes are highlighted, and can be altered before building begins, meaning reduced reworking and time use on site. Above all, improved communication between parties in relation to building and maintenance can help manage the overall lifetime cost and expectations, all of which reduces carbon consumption.



By combining BIM and what-if analysis programs, it is becoming easier to analyse the environmental impact of a building during the design process, and to compare alternative options. This is a step forward from time consuming post-design analysis, which leaves the process open to error on a larger scale, and requires reworking and revisions by the design team.

Environmental analysis programs are available for some design areas – for example ArchiCAD’s EcoDesigner application works with thermal analysis, and EASE program analyses acoustic data. These are still being developed and are not 100% accurate, but give a clear indication with only around 5-10% margin of error, and allowing for key comparison of designs at a much earlier stage.

Some of the key analysis areas include:

  • Acoustics
  • Thermal retention
  • Daylighting
  • LCA (life cycle analysis)
  • Energy requirements (including renewable energy options)

This long term planning for buildings is also linked to comfort of the user, another key driver in the design.

Completing analysis prior to building is also beneficial as adding eco-design features post-build is inherently more expensive and less effective. The opportunity for testing out alternatives when using a 3D modelling system prior to building means enhanced knowledge for all involved – making sustainability part of the design process.



BIM data should still link with the key regulations for standard building types. BIM allows for the previously separate analysis areas to be combined in one system, meaning a reduction in remodelling by separate specialists for each area. The most used system in the UK is BREEAM but there are some others:



By understanding the true overall carbon output of a project, it is much easier to see where reductions and improvements can be made.

For example, a wall made from bricks will contain information on carbon produced from:

  • Material production (materials for the manufacture of the bricks)
  • Manufacture of the bricks
  • Transportation
  • Installation
  • Demolition

Currently this information is gathered by the government in a database using COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange), allowing the owners or users to see ongoing costs in various forms.

Again this process hinges on up to date, reliable data being attached to the models, but shows how effective the system can be.



By having a comprehensive and up to date selection of maintenance information about a building or elements within a building, ongoing commissioning and upkeep are much simpler. Having everything in one place allows for a more streamlined maintenance program and simpler future planning – rather than having everything separate and often in paper form.

Combining the information can reduce waste, energy use and carbon emissions by offering a more efficient program of maintenance, and allowing those looking after the building to combine jobs and have a clearly defined requirement, also assisting with cost management.



BIM’s key advantage is a centralised system holding a comprehensive range of data in relation to all areas of the building process. All analysis is hinged on the provision of up to date, accurate information being held in the models.

BIM provides an ongoing, fluid specification which is visible along the entire construction chain. Any changes or updates can be seen for the whole lifetime of the building and offers a much more transparent framework for construction projects.

Throughout the design process, BIM opens up the potential for simpler, faster analysis and comparison of building design options, and has the potential to provide a comprehensive, fully integrated design that can be utilised from design, to construction, all the way through to planned maintenance of a building, ensuring maximised efficiency, sustainability and longevity of design.

The future is BIM.