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How to Incorporate BIM in Green Building Engineering

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Making the construction industry sustainable is far from a straightforward task. Thankfully, new technologies make green building engineering easier and more effective than ever. One of the most beneficial of these technologies is building information modeling (BIM).

BIM is software that enables construction professionals to create, analyze and share digital models of their projects. It’s become increasingly popular among construction firms, mainly as a means to reduce costs and shorten completion times. With the right approach, it can also serve as an effective way to design, create and sustain green buildings.

BIM is already a widely used tool, with 73% of construction firms employing it as of 2020. Here’s how these professionals can incorporate it into green building engineering.

Use BIM to Create Sustainable Designs

BIM provides more visibility during the design phase of a construction project. Architects and engineers can use this to their advantage to create optimal green building designs. Just as these solutions help craft better designs for traditional buildings, they can help design more sustainable ones.

For example, daylighting, which can lead to lighting energy savings of 60%, relies on optimally placed windows to achieve its full potential. Since it takes less time to create and edit digital models than physical ones, architects can compare multiple design choices. They can compare different window placement schemes in BIM to find the most sustainable design.

Many of these programs can also support data analytics. Data from similar projects can suggest design changes in a new model to maximize sustainability. The more often companies use these resources, the more accurate these analytics will become, too.

Prevent Mistakes Before They Arise

One of the primary selling points of BIM is a feature called clash detection. These tools point out flaws in a design that may cause problems during the construction phase and beyond. Teams can then fix them in the design phase before they become more pressing concerns.

It may not seem like it at first, but preventing these mistakes is a crucial aspect of green building engineering. The rework required to fix these problems in construction can account for as much as 30% of the total labor on a project. Avoiding rework means substantially less time and energy spent in the construction phase.

Construction work consumes a lot of energy and produces a lot of carbon emissions. Consequently, the longer a project goes on, the more environmentally damaging it becomes. Using new digital tools to prevent mistakes shortens construction time, lessening projects’ carbon footprint.

Perform Energy Analysis

Understanding a project’s lifetime energy consumption is a significant part of green building engineering. Predicting how much electricity a building will use can be a challenge with traditional methods, but BIM makes it easier. Some BIM programs can link to energy analysis tools, making this process more straightforward.

After designing a building in these programs, architects can run an energy analysis. Since it doesn’t take long to modify virtual models, they can do this after making minor adjustments, too. This checking process can help them design a building that will use as little electricity as possible across its lifetime.

Buildings account for 28% of total energy consumption in the U.S., so these analytics can have considerable consequences. Even making marginal improvements can lead to substantial savings over a building’s lifetime.

Minimize Material Waste

Another way construction companies can incorporate BIM in green building engineering is waste reduction. In 2018, the U.S. generated 600 million tons of construction debris, more than double the municipal solid waste that year. Effective BIM implementation can help building crews just what they need, minimizing this waste.

In the planning phase, architects can compare different models to find the most material-efficient designs. Data analytics can show how they could minimize the resources they would need to construct a structure. The accuracy of these digital models can also help teams order only what they need for the job.

Since clash detection features prevent mistakes, they also reduce material waste in the construction phase. When workers don’t have to tear down and rebuild anything, they save a considerable amount of materials. All of this combines to produce less wasteful buildings.

Capitalize on BIM-Adjacent Technologies

Using BIM opens doors to a range of other technologies that can help engineer greener buildings. One of the most promising of these is robotics. While construction robots are still new and have yet to see much adoption, using them with BIM can save lots of time and energy.

Virtual models and plans from BIM can guide robots in assembling parts of a building. This guidance helps machines work with utmost precision, and automation helps shorten project completion time, reducing energy consumption. As a result, these two technologies work together to minimize both material and energy waste.

Similarly, BIM can guide 3D printers. Since 3D printers use only the materials they need, they also reduce waste, and digital building models can ensure they’re accurate. While both robotics and 3D printers can work apart from BIM, using them together expands their respective benefits.

Monitor Buildings After Construction

Green building engineering is a continuous process that goes on even after project completion. A building’s lifetime after construction can provide a lot of useful information about energy use and other environmental factors. Monitoring this data can improve BIM models in the future, leading to even more sustainable buildings.

If a building’s energy efficiency declines over time, it could be due to a design problem or material choice. Recording that data can inform models for future projects, helping avoid the same mistakes. The more companies do this, the better they’ll get at designing and constructing green buildings.

Having a single source of truth in a BIM model can also inform more efficient repairs and maintenance. Teams will be able to look to these records to find issues and possible solutions faster. Less time on maintenance means less energy expenditure, improving the building’s carbon footprint.

BIM Takes Green Building to New Heights

Green building engineering is a complicated, multifaceted process. Technology like BIM lets construction companies take more control over more of these factors, creating more sustainable buildings. As BIM adoption rises, the building and construction industry has the opportunity to become greener.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine. Revolutionized explores the latest innovations and trends in science, technology, and industry.

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