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Using BIM Processes for Carbon Analysis

For us to truly understand the ways that the construction industry is affecting the environment, we must analyse the data we gather as precisely as possible.

Yes, you already know, the best way to gather data is through using BIM processes!

Analysing the carbon impact from every material and process used can help us to measure and assess the ways we can minimise the damages and reduce the impact that the construction industry makes as a combined entity.

If we can find smarter ways to work in regard to efficiencies and environmental benefits, then we can make fundamental changes to our processes and destructive behaviours. As the construction industry is one of the largest global industries causing these environmental issues, there needs to be a change. And it should have happened yesterday.

Using BIM systems and processes to record the carbon usage throughout a whole project can help to identify at what stages changes need to be made. Is the main instigator embodied carbon? Are materials being sourced locally? Is there a significant amount of waste being produced? The beauty about digitalising building data means we can easily analyse the carbon usage before any processes have taken place, by reviewing existing data and already knowing that certain adaptations can reduce the impact.

The financial cost of these decisions tends to have a big say on how environmentally friendly the build will be. Unfortunately, in most cases, the economic aspect is usually the driver of decisions and is seen as more important than the cost it will have on the environment. But the numbers that your BIM database tells you cannot be ignored. How much longer are we going to ignore the data and choose money over everything else?

Using BIM can analyse more than just the carbon used on site and in the material choices. Anything from the transportation of goods, the fuel it takes to get the work force to site, and the amount of waste produced can be recorded to determine the real impact the project has had. It can also predict the overall usage from an early stage of construction or even at the design stage to help you make better decisions and change the planned schedule of works. This allows you more time to work out a more sustainable procurement route and consider where impacts can be reduced.

Hiring a local contractor, for example, might help reduce the distance that workers travel to site. Sourcing local materials means you are supporting other local businesses plus contributing to reducing the carbon through transportation.

The data that can be collected by using BIM to its full potential can allow for future changes to be made – whether that is in the design, procurement, construction or operational stage of the project. This can provide accurate measurements of the carbon levels which future developments can learn and adapt from, helping to achieve the 2030 net zero goal quicker.

Instead of estimating and shrugging shoulders, the clients in charge are the people who can really make a difference. They must be willing to get on board with building sustainably and meeting the government’s objectives, and to balance the financial benefits with the environmental.

And let’s not forget, we’re not talking about models, we’re talking about data management, analysis and informed decision making.