Building Information Modelling - a foundation for better carbon performance
Find out what Building Information Modelling is, how it works, and the value it provides to a real estate project.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a collaborative tool that enables all stakeholders to comprehend a building through a digital model. The method allows for informed decision-making within a realistic project timeframe, helps stakeholders to optimise their respective roles and increases the whole life value of a building. Used as a key briefing and data management tool, BIM can achieve significant cost and carbon performance improvements.
The value of BIM
Although BIM is sometimes only seen as a 3D modelling tool, its true value comes from the information attached to the model. By using a data management system to share information throughout the asset lifecycle, building stakeholders can improve their practices and view the construction project as a whole process instead of the current separated approach. Investors will be able to make better decisions on capital investment through lifecycle analyses that offer operational cost reductions and, subsequently, carbon reduction. The BIM model facilitates the transition from design to construction and then operation.
Early stage analysis
BIM allows for true early-stage analysis of a building’s form and fabric, thus providing a flexible approach to pre-planning decision-making. With the traditional approach, these decisions are usually deferred to the detailed design stage, resulting in additional costs and delays. BIM strongly supports sustainable design by making it easier to undertake detailed design at early project stages to confirm BREEAM or equivalent targets, EPC ratings and Building Regulations Compliance. Key passive design elements can be modelled and evaluated across multiple iterations, while energy and carbon reduction targets can be redefined as the project progresses. Through embedded product data from the manufacturer, including sourcing and green guide ratings, it is possible to determine the carbon emissions associated with the whole life of products or analyse components on a cradle-to-grave basis.
Operational stage support
BIM’s sustainability advantages continue into the operational stage, where the approach provides the necessary information for a high-quality Post Occupancy Evaluation. It can be used to measure a building’s planned performance against actual operational performance and determine if any corrective issues relate to design, construction methods or maintenance. Operators are better able to plan maintenance and replacement based on detailed component information in BIM, which helps them to maintain carbon performance levels over the building’s lifetime. Facility managers will benefit from knowledge gathered from designers and suppliers as well as energy measurements and records, and this provides opportunities to optimise energy usage.
Challenges of BIM Implementation
Incorporating BIM into the building lifecycle is a key part of providing an integrated strategy for delivering built environments. However, it is not without challenges. The success of implementation is dependent on effective strategic planning that takes into account the technical and management support needed, as well as effective application of framework processes. In addition, the adoption of the technology across several organisations is also affected by many factors such as stakeholder acceptance, corporate culture, inter-company relationships and more.
However, the benefits of BIM may well be worth the challenge. Studies on the benefits of BIM have indicated improved scheduling (estimated 50% reduction in labour and work schedule in the case of an 11-storey 540,000 square-feet biomedical facility) and cost savings (up to $10 million in the case of a high-explosives material pressing facility) for organisations that have implemented BIM  . Furthermore, investments in BIM can also easily repay themselves through savings in building maintenance and utilities over time.
 McGraw Hill (2009) The business value of BIM: Getting Building Information Modeling to the Bottom Line, SmartMarket Report, 2008