According to the UNEP-SBCI (United Nations Environment Programme – Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative) 2021 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction (https://globalabc.org/sites/default/files/2021-10/2021%20Buildings-GSR%20-%20Executive%20Summary%20ENG.pdf), in 2020 buildings accounted for 36% of global energy demand and 37% CO2 emissions. Having in mind that the built environment is expected to double by 2040 to around 230 billion square meters, serious goals have been set for reducing the carbon footprint of new and existing buildings. To achieve the Paris Agreement goals: By 2030, the built environment should halve its emissions, whereby 100 per cent of new buildings must be net‑zero carbon in operation, with widespread energy efficiency retrofit of existing assets well underway, and embodied carbon must be reduced by at least 40 per cent, with leading projects achieving at least 50 per cent reductions in embodied carbon. By 2050, at the latest, all new and existing assets must be net zero across the whole life cycle, including
operational and embodied emissions.”
The BIM technology contributes significantly to greater sustainability of the built environment. In the design phase BIM applications offer tools for analysis and optimization of the BIM models in terms of energy efficiency. Even in the concept phase designers are able to quickly and easily decide about the positioning, orientation and form of buildings so that the energy requirements are optimal. As the building design progresses, BIM models contain sufficient information about various aspects of sustainability, including the carbon footprint of the designed building, its energy requirements, etc. The accessibility of BIM tools enables designers to reflect about the project’s sustainability without major difficulties even when there are no specific demands for this. No measure for energy efficiency can be as efficient as measures undertaken during the design phase. The building’s proper positioning on the site, its orientation in terms of the sun, its form, the selection of materials, the possibilities for natural ventilation as well as the functional positioning of the rooms, are principles that cannot be replaced even by advanced thermotechnical systems for heating, cooling and ventilation. BIM technology is a real game changer in design, with great benefits for clients and population in general. Having in mind the fact that an increasing number of countries (primarily on the European continent) are introducing legal limits on the carbon footprint of new buildings, BIM applications are becoming indispensable tools for footprint control during the design.
In the construction phase, construction companies can precisely plan the construction based on BIM projects and BIM construction applications. 3D BIM models and the information they contain make it possible to plan a quick and efficient construction, where waste is minimized, pollution is smaller, transportation is optimized, less energy is needed for the construction, etc. BIM technology is bringing back prefabrication. BIM models precisely list, describe and optimize construction materials and thus companies can efficiently use prefabricated elements made in a controlled environment with a minimum environmental impact. Prefabrication as well as the use of robotics and AI (artificial intelligence) are on the rise in construction. These technologies should ensure that the construction industry is as efficient as the automotive or aviation industry.
However, major financial savings as well as carbon dioxide reductions (compared to buildings designed and built without BIM technology) are noticed in the phase of building operation and maintenance. Automatic regulation systems based on sensors and information are nothing new, but when these systems use BIM models and their information, the possibilities for management and control are even greater. The Digital Twin technology in construction, which uses BIM models, will provide even more advanced intelligence in terms of building use.
The built environment’s green transformation is an irreversible process. BIM technology is at its core. BIM applications are constantly updated with new advanced functionalities. Year by year professionals have increasingly serious tools. Tools to shape the future. A future for a better life for us and the future generations.
About the Author
Architect and BIM Consultant at ZWEI, BIM instructor at SEMOS Edukacija.