edie explains: Building Information Modelling

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a comprehensive tool revolutionising the sustainable construction. But what does it look like in practice? In the latest edie explains, we find out what BIM really is, and why your business might want to use it.

What is BIM?

Building Information Modelling is essentially a piece of 3D visualisation software. However, it goes far beyond being just a simple visualisation tool by allowing a digital prototype of the building to be made before construction begins.

Libraries of building data can be applied to the model allowing for early-stage problem solving and enables greater collaboration between different design teams.

How does it apply to sustainability/sustainable design?

BIM models allow for buildings to have environmental considerations integrated from the start of the project. The libraries of data contained within BIM models make the environmental and lifecycle comparison of different material and product specifications vastly easier than a manual calculation. This better informed decision-making at early stages reduced the risk of abortive design or the bolting on of ‘eco-design’ features in later stages.

The amount of energy that is consumed each year by a building accounts for the majority of the running costs. BIM also enables life-cycle modelling so that energy use and potential carbon reductions can be calculated while still in the virtual building stage. This may be through improved design of the building fabric and services, use of renewable energy and even through the building’s position with respect to its environment.

BIM will have a significant role in the construction industry meeting the 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment target as set out in the UK construction strategy.

What does it look like in practice?

Are green businesses using it?

BIM is now the industry norm following the Government initiative in 2010 which saw the launch of BIM regional Hubs throughout the UK. The UK is in an enviable position of being among the world leaders in BIM adoption and implementation.

Sainsburys used BIM in 2008 to construct its largest store in Hayes, turning a single-floor 1980’s shop into a 21st century, two level superstore; increasing the floor space by 60%.

Marks and Spencer (M&S) has stated its intent to embed the use of Building Information Modelling in its programme of retrofits to its stores as part of its Plan A. As M&S has hundreds of older stores, the retailer aims to use the technology to bring about energy savings to pre-existing buildings.

Leading UK construction and infrastructure company Balfour Beatty is using BIM to help its customers make more informed choices as they construct new buildings, bridges, roads, airports and railways, resulting in continual improvement in the overall standard of the built environment.

Where can I find more information?

The National Buidling Specification (NBS) group has a comprehensive range of articles covering BIM and a national report for 2014 covering the industry.

BIM at Sustainability Live 2015

Building Information Modelling will be discussed in detail at Sustainability Live 2015 in April. A dedicated session at the Energy Efficiency Theatre on Day 1 of the show will explore what BIM means for facilities management; the benefits for owners and occupiers and the operational advantages.

Find out more and register to attend Sustainability Live 2015 for FREE here.

Lucinda Dann

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