Sustainable Construction Opps Offered by Green BIM
International construction giant Skanska has deep ambitions to work with its customers and project stakeholders towards the delivery of future proofed Deep Green projects â high quality buildings and infrastructure with nearly zero environmental impacts. Encompassed by the contractorâs Journey to Deep Green, the sustainable vision is being supported with Building Information Modelling (BIM).
BIM is the process of creating digital representations of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility, a practice that has moved from an innovative approach to design and construction for early adopters just a few years ago, to commonplace within the industry. As demands for green solutions continue to increase in complexity, the application of BIM to promote project sustainability (known to Skanska as Green BIM) has significant potential to offer added value to the industryâs triple bottom line.
Skanskaâs Business Development Director and resident BIM expert Tiina Koppinen said: âFor us, BIM offers new opportunities on our Journey to Deep Greenâ˘ when combined with environmental project data and used to promote sustainability. Green BIM helps us and our project stakeholders, such as architects and designers, to make informed decisions earlier in the design process. This makes a greater impact on the resource efficiency and performance of a building or infrastructure project.â
Though BIM is widely regarded as an essential tool, the use of this technical software does require an upfront, and sometimes additional, financial investment. This can be problematic for businesses when they are tendering for a project and do not want to make a risky investment at that stage. However, earlier investments and analyses will generally create cost reductions later on in the project life cycle, for example in the operations period. Such investments help to fully optimize the building and its use, resulting in significant life cycle savings.
âWhen using BIM in carbon, water and energy aspects of projects, upfront time, resources and costs will be higher, but this tends to be recouped over the project life cycle. It has been recognized that the earlier you target a project, the greater the impact you can have in life cycle analysis-related reductions. So it makes sense to invest resources into this in earlier project stagesâ Koppinen said.
Skanskaâs history of BIM began in 2003/2004 when the Finland region implemented its use, followed soon after by other areas. Uptake in operations was accelerated by a new goal set in 2008 by Johan KarlstĂśm, President and CEO of Skanska AB, whereby all projects for which Skanska has design responsibility should use BIM. The additional Green use of BIM was then adopted in 2009 as one particular application.
Drivers for BIM
The main driver for incorporating BIM at Skanska wasnât actually for the improved green credentials it brought. The company wanted to make its own operations more efficient, particularly in terms of quality, schedule and cost control. The synergies between the company’s green and efficiency ambitions were identified soon after.
By taking the industry as a whole, BIM is driven primarily by public sector clients and large-scale contractors. Such contractors have the finances available to implement its use, and subsequently facilitate further uptake by demanding the practice from suppliers and partners.
BIM in practice
One example of Skanska effectively using BIM in one of its projects is during the design stage of the energy-positive Powerhouse One development in Trondheim, Norway. BIM models and 3D geometry were used to orientate the direction and inclination of the roof to the sun in order to optimize energy generation from solar power systems. The roof orientation and building footprint were then used to design the envelope and the building interior.
Another example is during the New Karolinska Solna Hospital project in Sweden, where Green BIM was used to calculate life cycle risks over Skanskaâs 28-year operation and maintenance contract, including the regular upkeep of components and the periodical replacement of larger equipment. The models are also being used in energy simulations for the building, which will support the project in achieving its ambitious energy targets.
Skanska considers BIM, and in particular Green BIM, a fundamental part of present and future construction, and is therefore looking to substantially increase its use across the industry and throughout its supply chain.
As the use and scope of BIM continues to grow, buildings can be tested virtually. Project stakeholders are able to walk through buildings and decide how to optimize them. Skanska believes the construction industry is becoming more like the aviation sector, where everything is virtually designed and tested before being built.
Though the evidence of benefits is still in the process of being collected, it is clear that BIM has the potential to transform the industry. With more contractors such as Skanska driving its use, this potential can certainly be realized.
Jake Yeoell is a sustainability consultant with IMS Consulting.
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