The Potential of BIM to Support Environmental Sustainability in Construction

Modified: 15th Mar 2021
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Today, the construction sector faces two major challenges in lowering the environmental influence of its projects and enhancing the effectiveness of construction processes, providing adequate solutions for clients that meet their needs. Methodologies for project integration described as Building Information Modelling (BIM) has come out currently in response to the need to complete projects that meet environmental criteria. Construction’s environmental impacts, among others, arise due to the heterogeneous combination of building materials and building components. Building contributes forty percentages of worldwide carbon release. Since 2016, the Government has made it mandatory to all public construction projects to issue BIM achievements. According to the Government, another main attraction of BIM is that it can organise structured design and construction steps. Therefore, sustainability is to be found first in the construction component and hen later in the whole building or infrastructure. BIM provides more detailed data, fewer rework and shorter deadlines for the project and is spread widely throughout the United Kingdom and the Northern Europe. Green BIM characterises sustainability and the data for assessing the efficiency of energy is provided by BIM. This approach is embraced by the design team to allow construction and design by maintaining energy efficient buildings. This study illustrates the potential of BIM in providing support to maintain environmental sustainability in construction projects.

Keywords:BIM, Green BIM, Sustainable construction, Environmental sustainability


Building Information Modelling (BIM) is revolutionising traditional practices of the building industries and strengthening the effect of the designing process on the overall life span of the building project. Through the commitment of clients to the green buildings and designs, the industries are moving towards sustaiability. Environmentally sustainable buildings and the rating systems, however, have been facing several barriers that retard their sustainability. (Ayman M.I. Raouf, 2019)

Building Information Modeling has been at the forefront of building technology for a long time, hence it can play an important role in accomplishing sustainable development objectives. (David, 2018).

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been championed for its potential creation of more advanced cost-effiective buildings through more accessible knowledge and collaboration. Nevertheless, BIM has an underlying strength of potentially contributing to the designing and development and it also commissions buildings with lower environmental impact, whether in energy conservation, emission mitigation or increased use of less material (Sofie, 2013). BIM’s adequate implementation can have a positive impact on project’s productivity and compliance with specifications (Xu et al., 2014).

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Another problem faced in recent years by the construction sector is how to minimise the impact of its operations on the environment. BIM is an efficient tool for strategic decision making throughout the project lifecycle (Kent & Becerik-Gerber, 2010), encouraging and enhancing collaboration and communication between project stakeholders. This leads to more efficient designs being created as a result of collaboration between the various stakeholders (Tenget al., 2012; Baiden & Price, 2011). However, many organisations consider the IPD concept as the most efficient method for incorporating BIM as a design tool for determining the effectiveness of sustainable buildings (Bynum et al., 2013; Jones, 2014).

The scope of this research study is to illustrate the potential of BIM in improving the environmental sustainability within the construction project. It also focuses on the advantage of implementing BIM which will help in the maintenance of sustainability at each stage of construction.


Presence of BIM in the construction sector provides a number of advantages with the implementation of integrated digital models to minimise errors and reworks, especially in improving team performance and productivity. Using technology would result in more efficient communication and coordination among the team members. Kubba .S, 2016 has insisted that the economic beneficiaries of green building would help in optimising cost savings, increasing productivity, and advancing property values and marketability. In addition, it benefits by enhancing image and reducing risk.

BIM is a creative way of achieving sustainable designs by reducing energy use and carbon emissions that ultimately result in greener buildings. It is a building design, construction and management strategy using a structured digital archive that holds a wealth of information throughout the buildings’ lifecycle. It is therefore a rich repository that stores multidisciplinary knowledge in all respects of the building’s life cycle in a single virtual building image. (Schlueter .A and Thesseling .F, 2009)

Building Information Modeling is characterised as a collection of interrelated procedures, methods and technologies producing a systematic accession of captious information to the management for the digital construction of design and project data during the whole lifecycle of a building. (Penttila H. 2006). Building project decisions are made and communicated using 3D models in such a system (Li H., 2008)

BIM allows multidisciplinary knowledge which aids in overlapping within a single design which implements environmental performance analyses and sustainability-enhancing accomplishment of efficient and effective interventions (Brown et al., 2010 and Schlueter A., 2008)

Recently, ' Green BIM ' has been an extremely popular word and philosophy in the building sector. Green BIM is known to use BIM resources for accomplishing sustainability and enhancing project performance goals. Wu and Issa has mentioned that green BIM is collaboration of BIM with green building that aims to attain sustainability. Alawini et al.  has cited in their article that green BIM is used as a means to aid industries to incorporate sustainable components effectively, especially in implementing the efficiency of energy into the construction project.

Fig.1. Lifecycle view of BIM (Ustinovicius, L, 2015)

BIM has the capability to save, process and exchange all forms of construction-oriented information and the environmental effect of the facility can be decreased in respect to: energy, materials and water usage, management of waste, carbon footprint, etc. (Marius Reizgevicius,2018)

Benefits of BIM helps to streamline sustainability in an beneficial and effective way at three key phases


Design Phase

      Co-ordinating and collaborating

      Visualizing

     Analysis and evaluation of performance

Construction Phase

     Extended analysis for environmental impacts

     Accurate details of designs

     Material take-offs

Operational Phase

     Monitors & records building performance

     Renovated alterations & changes to the building

     Seasonal commissioning and maintenance

     Accessing sustainable information

Table.1. Role of BIM in sustainable construction

Building efficiency, environmental, financial and public consequences affect the sustainability of a building (Sara Kamel)

2.1.         Greater transparency at design phase

BIM encourages a highly transparent process in the designing phase. Once design data has been applied to a model, project participants may access a real-time overview of the proposed components, their deployment and performance expectations after completion of the project.

Transparency allows architects, energy experts, manufacturers to contribute their insight and understanding to the comprehensive construction and operation of the building, creating highly competitive project in the designing phase before any money being spent on materials. It includes the most environment related materials and methods and saving time and cost by averting alterations and scheduling construction detainment  by enhancing front-end preparation (David, 2018)

The combination of design and analysis optimises building efficiency, while reducing errors and miscalculations by enhancing data quality. (Sara Kamel)

2.2.         Greater efficiency at the construction phase

3D interactive designs created using can be easily shared and utilised to test the structure and sequence of design in real-time participation and simulation. Each phase in the design and building, from evaluation to the current project management, is checked and augmented to the level of incorporation of BIM technology(David, 2018)

  •  Offsite processing removes waste during buying, reduces waste and permits the reuse or recycling of cut products. 
  • Parts must fit together on site and are assembled using a structured model
  • Less shipping and less removal of waste from site minimising transport, fuel consumption, carbon emissions, traffic congestion and noise pollution (Sara Kamel).


2.3.         Greater control during operational phase

The simplicity with which 3D models can be exchanged after a project has been completed ensures that a building's ongoing operations can be performed with maximum potential. The relation with sustainability is clear as the structure's long-term maintenance comes to the fore. Since all data relating to replacements, upgrades and renewals are readily available, all stakeholders can remove them.

To this end, some construction professionals take advantage of this factor by including in their completed project criteria long-term, environmentally conscious operating guidelines and maintenance schedules. It adds value to building owners, increases overall performance and strengthens customer relationships.

    1.      Research question and hypothesis

How BIM can support improvement of environmental sustainability in a construction project?

In the course of the conceptual designing stage of a building, Green BIM arised as a common energy performance assay method. Green BIM can be promoted by comprehensive design knowledge and partnership for its ability to promote building growth in a way that is environmentally sustainable. (Wong and Zhou, 2015)

3.2.         Purpose

The research project is aspired to master a comprehensive understanding of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and its impact in the improvement of environmental sustainability within a construction project. The following will be done to achieve this objective:

  • Reviewing existing literature to perceive the knowledge about the importance of environmental sustainability in construction
  • Providing thought provoking vision into the drawbacks in the concept of existent literature on Green BIM
  • Outlining the essential guidance for further research

This paper will take on a design of qualitative research, with multi-articles approach assisted by a structured data collection interview process. The review of literatures will look at scientific studies on sustainability of the environment and their application in construction projects using BIM.

Practical work should take into account the challenges and constraints enforced on project management and solutions and technologies that can be implemented to enhance the sustainability of projects in the construction region.

3.3.         Research type

This research project will be a fundamental study to build knowledge and understand the effects of Building Information Modelling (BIM) on environmental sustainability progress within projects. Authors hunting insight from disclosed questions have published related research inclusive of Wong and Zhou (2015) and Dowsett R. M. and Harty C. F.

This study will enhance information consciousness of the subject by virtue of descriptive analysis, the cause and consequences of the association between BIM and environmental sustainability will be examined by explanatory research.

3.4.         Epistemology

An epistemological query concerns the consideration of an agreeable methodological awareness. Positivism is an epistemological position which is always in association with the imitation of natural sciences (Bryman, 2015)

There are several knock-on effects of BIM on sustainability: it saves time, improves efficiency, enhances architecture, decreases mistakes, and offers a quantifiable opportunity to minimise the long-term environmental impact of the construction. The positive results are in line with the entire philosophy of sustainable building.

3.5.         Research methodology


The strategy of the research topic will be deliberate establishing a theory using existing works, and a focus will be set to test the hypothesis on empirical observations of the study. This method is better suited for the study as knowledge creation approach is imposed by the association of theory with social research (Bryman, 2015).

Combining BIM with green buildings is the “green BIM” idea that has been discussed on the basis of several related approaches including green buildings, sustainable design and construction through previous studies.

Wong and Zhou summarised and described the preceding work on green BIM as  “a model that is based on creation and management of organised and persistent building data during the life span of the project that will help in augmenting energy-efficient conduct of buildings and assisting the completion of established targets of sustainability”.

The research adapts this concept of green BIM, describing the key principle for selecting and reviewing articles and applications of BIM, to define the nature and characters of the BIM framework for green buildings.

A dimension that holds up the option of introducing interpretive epistemology added to the disputes faced by project managers, is the concept of environmental sustainability which is mirrored by the recognised decisions, (Bryman, 2015)

3.6.         Research method


A qualitative method of analysis will enable to study the concepts of sustainability in construction environment as suggested in literature; it will be viewed by people with different viewpoints, indicated in several ways of using them in action

The duration of collecting data through interviews method along with subjective data collection is a major drawback that could occur in the approach chosen(Carson, 2005).

A communion will be established between the participants and the staffs along with the research term which would aid in the encouragement of interviews combined with intense listening with constructive questioning (Bryman, 2015). The case study will be clear-cut with various challenges, procedures and approaches.


Voluntary participation will be accepted along with a consent form. The objective, scope and advantages of the formal interview along with the academic research issue will be disclosed to all participants before engaging in the study. An explanation on the content, methods and framework will be provided to the participants.

Every participant invited for the study will be given information regarding the policies of ethical and confidentiality, whereas the sensitive content is unrevealed unless the participant accepts, this document will comply with the rules and regulations of Northumbria University, Newcastle.


Sustainability is a global term, not limited to regional systems, which, in addition to other economic and social criteria, requires a variety of environmental requirements to be met. Even in small-scale projects, the different environmental analysis should be carried out for each design. To emphasise the importance of environmental analysis in the conceptual design processes, more understanding should be achieved and disseminated among architects and stakeholders.

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Future green BIM strategies should include the definitions of reducing, reusing and recycling for the initiatives of modification and development. BIM integrates with the manuals of operational maintenance to efficient manage carbon emission. Therefore, the costs and design management for BIM in future research work optimization algorithms should be include in some form assisting in making decisions throughout the asset life-cycle time in their operating and maintenance plans.


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