Can BIM help the construction industry to tackle climate change?


BIM stands for Building Information modelling. It is a digital model of a building that brings together information about the different components of a building allowing it to be accessed and shared for a number of different purposes. BIM is a new but rapidly developing technology and it is not just for buildings, it also applies to the civil engineering industry.

BIM is widely believed to have the potential to unlock 15-25% savings in the global infrastructure market by 2025 ( But the benefits of BIM go beyond just time and money savings. it could provide some major opportunities for the construction industry to tackle with the challenges of climate change that lay ahead including the waste, energy consumption and resilience of the built environment. 

Waste reduction

Waste is a major issue in the construction industry and its reduction will help to tackle carbon footprint by cutting down on the carbon associated with raw materials, manufacture, transportation and disposal. The EU BIM have highlighted how BIM can benefit projects with more accurate material ordering which leads to less waste going to landfill. 

Ahankoob, Khoshnava, Rostami and Preece (2012) explained how BIM provides accurate visualisation for all members involved in a project allowing for opportunities to minimise waste to be incorporated at the design phase by detecting future conflicts at early stages of the project.  They have identified the following basic BIM solutions for waste reduction: conflict, interference and collision detection, precise quantity take off, construction sequencing and construction planning, reducing rework and synchronising design, detection of errors and omissions, synchronising design and site layout. 

Transparency and reporting with carbon data

The development of digital databases of the environmental impacts of building materials and components and their increasing incorporation into BIM alongside whole life modelling, will enable designers to gather and analyse data across multiple buildings, reducing risk, life cycle costs and whole life carbon. 

Building obsolescence

In order to render our built environment as sustainable as possible, obsolescence needs to be addressed, both in new construction and in remediating the built environment. Whilst BIM is widely used for new buildings, it is less commonly used for the refurbishment of existing buildings due to the greater complexity of applying BIM technology retrospectively (Butt, Francis and Greenwood 2015). There is however an opportunity for BIM to be used more widely in the future for retrofitting and renovation.

BIM as a tool for retrofitting and renovation

The existing building stock is likely to be an area where significant improvements can be made to combat climate change particularly by retrofitting and renovating with a view to improving the quality of housing stock and its energy efficiency. Scherer and Katranushkov (2018) proposed a structured approach to the creation of a building information model of an existing building and its use for retrofitting and renovation in their paper on BIMification published in Advanced Engineering Informatics. Their approach includes templates to help fill in modelling gaps in the needed system identification cycle.

Facilities management – recycling and data

BIM allows for the management of information throughout the entire cycle of an asset and is underpinned by the creation, collation and exchange of share three dimensional models and intelligent structure data attached to them.

National planning policy and sustainable development

Last but not least, BIM can be used effectively in public planning and consultation to build support for new or updated public infrastructure which helps to ensure that infrastructure is well designed and aligned with the needs of the local community and this will often come with better social and environmental benefits. BIM facilitates easy sharing and exchange of information between key stakeholders. In their Urban planning and BIM report for the Centre for digital built Britain, Allemendinger and Sielker (2018)  state  that BIM has the potential to allow optimisation of the built environment throughout the construction, manufacturing, maintenance, operations and decommissioning phases. They mention a strong potential for better delivery of the national planning policy and stakeholder engagement with BIM.


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Adam Salt, Design Engineer and BIM Expert at Wavin
Adam joined Wavin in 2014 and is the BIM / Revit Specialist for the UK. Adam has been heavily involved in Wavin’s BIM project covering all aspects from content creation to working alongside BSI to achieve Kitemark Certification for our Revit content.  He also focuses on our above ground and commercial product offering