Designing for Sustainability With BIM: Optimizing Energy Efficiency

With the concerns of climate change and depleting natural resources, sustainable architecture design has gained importance in recent years. Engineers and architects are searching for methods to maximize sustainability and cut expenses.

The building and construction sector accounts for 39% of carbon emissions worldwide. While there has been no alternative to eradicate carbon emissions totally, BIM is gradually helping to reduce carbon emissions in the building sector. 

BIM is the comprehensive process of creating and managing information for a built object. It creates a digital representation of an asset throughout its existence, from planning and design to building and operations, based on an intelligent model made possible by a cloud platform. 

This article discusses sustainable construction, BIM and sustainability, and the ways BIM can help achieve sustainability. 

What is a Sustainable Building or Construction? 

A measure of architectural potential, technological mastery, and transferability, along with social responsibility and environmental performance, is known as sustainable construction, and it is becoming more important in construction sectors nowadays.

In the construction industry, sustainability refers to developing projects that benefit society and the environment. Sustainable structures satisfy existing needs without endangering the potential of future generations to satisfy their own. The aims of the sustainable building include

  • Improve the surroundings where people live, work, and play for individuals and communities.
  • Choose recycled or sustainable materials like steel, especially those with little or no environmental influence.
  • Adapt to the environment naturally.
  • Use renewable resources when feasible.
  • Maximize their construction site's potential while preserving the area's ecological system.
  • Improve and maintain indoor environmental quality.
  • Produce the least amount of waste and use the least amount of energy.
  • Strive for energy efficiency and, whenever feasible, avoid energy loss or waste.
  • Maintain the building's sustainability by implementing sustainable operations and maintenance procedures.
  • Protect the area's water resources and practice indoor and outdoor water conservation.
  • Maximize building space by making the most of each available square foot.
  • Ensuring buildings are durable and able to run continuously even under the worst conditions.

Sustainability and BIM

Even though BIM is just becoming more popular, its principles have existed and been used since the 70s. As technology evolves, the use of BIM keeps advancing and is utilized in more construction processes. 

There are three main points where BIM and sustainable construction overlap. 

Design Phase

BIM increases transparency during the design phase for parties considering the sustainability of materials and design principles long before contractors ever break ground. 

BIM allows architects to visualize the building's appearance and functionality prior to the start of construction. 

When design information is uploaded to a shared model, individuals working on the project can get a real-time summary of the proposed items and materials, how they will be placed, and expected performance when the project is finished.

Using BIM, architects can more precisely make the choices needed to increase building sustainability.

The transparency offered here enables early advice on the building's construction and operation from builders, energy engineers, suppliers, and others, leading to enhanced sustainability at the design stage before spending any money. 

Construction Phase

BIM can increase productivity throughout the building stage once the plans are finished and the contractors are brought in. The development can take many different forms, such as the use of robotic layout systems driven by BIM or the use of prefabricated construction techniques to speed up the completion of construction projects.

Sustainability in the building sector involves more than just using reused steel or recycled lumber. The project's carbon footprint grows larger each time a contractor fires up a piece of heavy machinery.

Due to the expedited real-time collaboration and simulation made possible by the 3D models supplied by BIM, workflows may be analyzed and improved at each process level.

As a result of increased efficiency, fewer deliveries to the project site and less residual material that might wind up in the landfill at the end could be projected as being needed to finish the project.

Several positive knock-on benefits for sustainability include time savings, increased productivity, improved design, decreased errors, and a quantitative chance to lower the building's long-term environmental impact. The successful outcomes are consistent with the entire philosophy of sustainable construction.

Operational Phase

The simplicity with which 3D models may be shared after a project is finished implies that a building's continuous operations can be carried out to the fullest extent possible. BIM can still offer extra control during the operations phase once construction is finished. 

Once construction was finished, the contractors typically had nothing to do with the building or its operations and instead preferred to leave it in the new tenant's hands. Newly installed Internet of Things (IoT) devices that can track everything from lights left on during the day to room temperatures can easily incorporate these applications because they are simple to do so. 

The connection to sustainability becomes clear as the structure's long-term upkeep comes into focus. All stakeholders can eliminate surprises as the finished project thrives since all data on replacements, renovations, and renewals is easily accessible.

To do this, some industry professionals are utilizing this feature by incorporating long-term, ecologically responsible operational advice and maintenance plans into the final project specifications. 

This increases the value for building owners, enhances sustainability generally, and improves client relationships. Even new tenants can implement the sustainable decisions the architects make during the design phase throughout the operating phase.

Choosing energy-efficient equipment, utilizing a smart thermostat to regulate the interior temperature, or opting for natural light over artificial lighting are all excellent ways to achieve those building sustainability goals.

Simply said, the elements of integrative design, multi-stakeholder collaboration, common goal-setting, effective concept presentation, prompt decision-making, and stakeholder communication are equally essential to sustainable design processes as they are to BIM construction.

Use of BIM in Sustainable Construction

Here are the specific benefits of BIM in sustainable construction. 

Optimizing Energy Efficiency

Optimizing energy efficiency is one of the main advantages of BIM. Architects and engineers can find places where energy use might be cut back by simulating a building's energy performance. 

Designers can choose the right materials and technology to utilize to increase a building's energy performance by considering its energy use.

Energy Analysis 

By replicating the building's energy use, daylighting, and thermal performance, BIM can be used to examine a building's energy performance. The building's architecture can be improved using this data to use less energy and be more efficient.

Waste Reduction

Using BIM, designers can use materials more effectively and produce less waste during construction. 

Likewise, BIM enables designers to mimic the construction process, spotting possible conflicts and guaranteeing that material are supplied to the site in the right order, cutting down on waste and boosting productivity.

Material Selection

Using BIM, you can compare and classify materials according to how they affect the environment. BIM may give information on the energy content, carbon emissions, and environmental effect of materials by examining the life cycle of such materials. 

Using this knowledge, construction participants can choose materials that have less of an influence on the environment.

Cost Reduction

Designers can lower the project's overall cost by maximizing energy efficiency and cutting waste. To minimize expensive rework during construction, BIM can help identify potential conflicts early in the design phase. 

By foreseeing potential issues early, designers can save project costs by ensuring that construction runs smoothly and on schedule.

Water Efficiency

By examining the water demand, identifying water-saving fixtures and appliances, and replicating the water distribution system, BIM can be used to improve a building's water use.

Improve Collaboration

The seamless collaboration of engineers, architects, and construction specialists is made possible by using BIM. 

Designers can interact in real-time using BIM, guaranteeing that everyone uses the same information set. This fosters better teamwork and lessens the possibility of expensive errors by decreasing errors and misunderstandings.

Improve Indoor Environmental Quality

Designing a building that offers a cozy and healthy indoor atmosphere is possible with BIM. BIM can optimize the indoor setting for occupants by replicating the building's HVAC system, lighting, and acoustics.

Ensure Safety

Designers can find possible problems and fix them before construction starts by simulating the construction process. Using BIM; architects can produce thorough construction plans that give workers the knowledge they need to do their jobs safely.

Facilitate Maintenance and operations

By giving current and accurate data about the building's systems, equipment, and components, BIM can be utilized to optimize a building's upkeep and operation. 

Using this data, a maintenance strategy can be developed that keeps the building operating at peak efficiency for the duration of its life. BIM also enables the monitoring of building performance, which can be used to pinpoint problems and raise a structure's energy efficiency.

Facilitating Prefabrication and Modular Building

BIM can find prefabrication and modularization options by simulating the construction process, which can decrease waste, increase efficiency, and cut costs. 

To ensure that prefabricated and modular components come together seamlessly during construction, BIM can also aid in optimizing their design.


There is more need for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability in all life’s aspects. The construction and building aspect can play its part by incorporating the use of BIM to achieve sustainable building design.  

In addition to environmental sustainability, BIM also helps reduce waste, improve collaboration, and help every worker involved in building and construction. It is time for every construction agent to embrace the use of BIM in construction.

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