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Workplaces that Work: How Building Information Modelling (BIM) Enables Sustainable Design and Maintenance

3 March 2016

For a workplace to ‘work’, it needs to be right for your employees, customers, budget and the environment. This is a big undertaking and it’s hard to juggle your obligation to both the people that use it and the wider environment.

However, Building Information Modelling (BIM) looks set to change this by uniting every aspect of a building in one digital design.

What is BIM?

BIM is a tool that enables everyone involved in design and maintenance to fully understand a building through a digital model. The idea is that you build it twice: first digitally, and then physically. As a result, each part of the building can be optimised more effectively in the planning stages to result in a greater whole life value for the building.

A BIM model is more than an architectural design – every component of the building is captured in one place and incorporates detailed information and specifications for each asset, such as price from supplier and thermal performance. Details like this allow the sustainability of a building’s design to be accurately managed and forecasted.

The Benefits of BIM for Sustainable Design and Maintenance

For design

Last year, the US Green Building Council found that 49% of BIM users who work on environmentally certified projects used it on the majority of their projects, compared to 28% of ‘non-green’ users. What’s more, 78% of respondents who were not using BIM on green projects planned to in the next three years. As you can see, it’s quickly becoming the technology of choice for those looking to design sustainable buildings.

One of the reasons for this is that BIM allows the client to budget costs for the major elements of the building, and set environmental targets that the design team must stick to from an early stage. These can include embodied carbon, waste management and lifecycle running costs.

When it comes to selecting materials, this allows the design team to quickly compare the costs and environmental impact of multiple materials.

At the same time as allowing sustainable design, BIM helps to cut costs by enabling better decision-making and more efficient processes. BIM can eliminate time wasted having to rework designs to fit environmental or budget constraints, as well as fixes that would be costly to make once the project is underway. It also prevents projects from having to be redesigned at the last minute because they do not achieved the desired BREEAM rating.

BIM is essential for achieving the UK Government’s Construction 2025: Industrial Strategy for Construction targets, where the government in partnership with the construction industry plan to achieve a 50% reduction in carbon emissions and 33% reduction in costs by 2025.

For maintenance

When it comes to maintaining a building, there are a range of factors to be considered. Is it cost-effective? Is it sustainable? Does the building provide a good experience for those using it?

A facilities manager needs to identify all the building’s assets that require regular maintenance and plan a cost-effective regime to suit the building. With BIM, the data is already within the 3D model of the building, which can be logged in a computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) system to better plan maintenance, and more effectively select the most long-lasting replacement.

This case study of Northumbria University campusdemonstrates the extent to which BIM can enhance the maintenance of a building. From lowering response times for maintenance requests to allowing facilities managers to make more strategic decisions, when it comes to the lifecycle of equipment, BIM has huge benefits.

This not only enables buildings to be managed more efficiently, but also with more of an emphasis on sustainability.

According to the Government implementation body, the BIM Task Group, "the largest prize for BIM lies in the operational stages of the project life-cycle”. While BIM is useful for the maintenance of any building, it comes into to its own for the management of complex buildings.

From design to maintenance, BIM can create and maintain facilities that have lower carbon emissions, are more efficient, and cost less to run. To find out more about the benefits of sustainable business, read our eBook, The ‘Convenient’ Truth about Sustainable Business: Why it Pays to Be Green.

To find out how we can help to manage your facility more efficiently, visit our facilities management page.