BIM and sustainability

Having spent much of Wednesday (see earlier post) listening to people talk about building information modelling and sustainability, it was timely to get my latest AECbytes with a viewpoint from Scott Boutwell (blog; also previously cited in this blog here) talking about parallels in the increased adoption of pro-sustainability measures and the adoption of BIM by the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector and its customers.

It’s an excellent article, and if I could pick up just one point it is a familiar one (see my post Proto-building, to BIM is to build, for instance). Like some other commentators, Scott doesn’t simply focus on the technology angle, he says we must address people and process issues. In particular, he argues that various business model and organisational design issues may affect the rate of growth and adoption; his observations about collaborative design also echo some of the morning contributors at Wednesday’s BuildingSMART event. He writes:

BIM is not just the adoption of new technology, but it also incorporates new collaborative workflows. There is more emphasis on collaborative design and planning in the beginning phases of a project, so that costs and risks in later stages like construction and operations (where most of the costs are incurred) may be managed and contained. Green tech vendors can be involved in these early planning stages, so that a realistic assessment of cost savings and improved environmental performance are identified. Also, they can add value to the optimization process (conducting “what if” scenarios), which may lead to additional savings and benefits that may not have been readily apparent. Building modeling allows for earlier decision making in the design-build process, allowing earlier consensus building as well as a framework for trade-off discussions.

The new modes of collaboration among what were disparate and separate workgroups, along with sophisticated visualization, allow for continuous knowledge transfer, accelerated adoption of best practices, but perhaps most importantly, creating opportunities for “virtual work groups” to identify and evaluate innovative approaches for sustainability.

Scott goes to on to cover other issues including:

  • developing skills and simulation methodologies
  • the technology framework – moving to real-time scenario planning as the business intelligence sector is doing [a sector already being revolutionised by Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications too, particularly among SMEs, I would add – see this article for example]
  • portfolio management
  • the need for benchmarks and standards [also timely given this week’s UK publication of the new BREEAM system – see Mel Starr’s informed commentary – with its talk of outstanding projects being turned into exemplar case studies]

Related posts: From BIM to BIN (18 June 2008); Collaboration and lean construction (17 June 2008)

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