From Design to Demolition: How BIM Aids Sustainable Construction

09. September 2022 | 6 min read

Meeting the growing demand for modern and safe living spaces while ensuring sustainable development is one of the major challenges the construction industry has to tackle. We talked with Pipelife’s BIM Expert Giuseppe Palmeri about the emerging trend of building green and how BIM helps turn sustainable construction practices into reality.

A tablet with a BIM plan on the screen |  Pipelife

Why Do We Need Greener Construction and Is BIM the Answer?

According to the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, buildings currently account for around 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and 35% of its greenhouse gas emissions. The construction sector is also responsible for more than 35% of the waste generated in the EU. These figures highlight how current construction practices complicate achieving the goals of the European Green Deal, especially as the real estate market keeps growing.

“When we talk about more than a third of all waste in Europe being generated by the construction industry, it doesn’t mean just the waste on construction sites, but the whole lifecycle of buildings — from raw material extraction to production, transportation, construction, operation, demolishing and waste management,” explains Giuseppe Palmeri, PIM/BIM Manager at Pipelife, “It is important to understand that all of these phases can be optimized by having more information about the products, their properties and requirements, and by sharing this data among all stakeholders.”

Green Buildings Lifecycle | Pipelife

Achieving Higher Design and Construction Efficiency

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a collaborative process that allows designing and constructing buildings in a smarter and more efficient way. By using various tools and technologies, BIM allows suppliers, architects, engineers, constructors and even building managers to share, create and manage information across the various lifecycle stages of a building.

One of the key advantages BIM offers is greater transparency during the design phase which leads to a more efficient construction process on-site. BIM enables automatic clash detection and allows looking for better solutions before any materials or supplies have been erroneously ordered or even installed. A virtual 3D prototype of the building is created allowing all stakeholders to interact and share their expertise in real-time.

“BIM helps minimize errors during both the design process and the construction,” clarifies Palmeri, “From a sustainability perspective, this means less material used and wasted by mistake. Less material used to complete the building also means less transportation and lower emissions.”

Planning Energy Efficiency Ahead

High energy efficiency is an impactful way of keeping living costs, carbon emissions and the overall environmental impact of buildings low; therefore, the interest in such houses is growing. However, achieving high energy efficiency in practice can be challenging, as many complex factors are involved. Via in-depth analysis and simulation, BIM models provide valuable information about a building’s operational behavior even before the construction starts.

“With all the data at your fingertips, you can analyze and simulate the behavior of the building and make changes if needed. For example, you can check how energy-efficient your building will be with single-glazed windows and how the energy efficiency changes with double-glazed windows,” Palmeri says, “This way, stakeholders can easily make sure their choices fully meet the requirements of each project, sustainability and energy-efficiency requirements included.”

Better Data for Optimized Building Management

Typically, there is not much interaction between builders and facility managers once the building has been completed. This gap often complicates lifecycle assessments and optimizing maintenance. However, 3D plans created with BIM can be easily shared with building owners, managers and operators after the construction and commissioning. Thanks to all the relevant product data readily available, keeping track of buildings’ health and maintenance needs becomes easier and more efficient.

“If you have the data about your building and its systems and materials, maintenance tasks and repairs can be better coordinated and synchronized. It allows minimizing the disruptions and environmental impact of operational tasks,” says Palmeri, “For example, if you receive complaints about a malfunctioning ventilation system and you also have data that the plumbing system is approaching the end of its life cycle, you can plan to carry out the maintenance of both systems at the same time.”

Visualization of a sustainable city infrastructure | Pipelife

Material and Production Efficiency for Sustainable Construction

Prefabrication and tailor-made solutions are two other key possibilities for making construction practices greener. Manufacturing products that are tailored exactly to the needs of a particular project saves raw materials and minimizes waste while requiring less time and energy to complete the installation.

BIM models provide precise information about the properties and performance requirements of each product. This data allows manufacturers to explore and test the possible solutions for off-site production and select the best option.

“With BIM, designers can express their requirements in a very detailed way. It allows for practices such as prefabrication or tailor-made solutions to be more attractive, reducing waste and over-ordering,” says Palmeri.

Pushing BIM Adaptation Forward

The appliance of BIM in Europe has been steadily increasing over the last decade and is expected to rise even further. According to the European Architectural Barometer Q2 2021 report, currently more than 90% of architects are familiar with BIM, and 41% are using it.

Pipelife started to create BIM content in 2016 and has been continuously expanding and updating its BIM libraries ever since.

“Currently, around 50% of our products are represented in the BIM libraries, and our goal is to reach 80-90% by 2025. We are working closely with our customers to ensure these data are not only available but also structured in the best possible way for streamlined use and exchange,” concludes Palmeri.

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