BIM can help us embed sustainable principles into building design
When the government initially introduced its zero-carbon mandate in 2006 for all new homes by 2016, this was very much focused on promoting green policies and sustainability, rather than designing and constructing inherently “green buildings”. It’s only recently that political backing for the business and economic value of green buildings has also emerged, with the same zero-carbon standard being applied for all non-domestic buildings by 2019.
Although we’re still a few years away from the zero-carbon standard being mandatory for all buildings, the building industry needs to plan for this now. As well as being more environmentally friendly, there are huge financial benefits to reap.
As green building practices become more mainstream, we will collect more performance data which will make it much easier to incorporate best practices and key principles into the designs of the future
The core of green building is design and it’s important for designers to ramp up their knowledge of sustainable practices. Back in the eighties there wasn’t so much consideration about sustainability or cost of use - we built big shiny glass towers and fitted expensive and inefficient air-conditioning systems as an afterthought to make them habitable. But now, as the clean tech market matures, technology has developed and processes like Building Information Modelling (BIM) make it much easier to design sustainably, without comprising on aesthetics. For example, using BIM, designers can run simulations to test air flow and natural daylight etc at any stage in the design development process.
On a new build, technology can be used to help embed best practice principles into the design - so for example if you are incorporating photovoltaics, you can use data analysis to judge where the best places are to absorb the sun’s energy.
As green building practices become more mainstream, we will collect more performance data which will make it much easier to incorporate best practices and key principles into the designs of the future. This is important not just in terms of the initial design and build costs but, more importantly, the running costs and return on investment on the build, as owners look for the most energy efficient solutions.
As seen by the various initiatives undertaken by the government, not only through the zero carbon mandates but also planning policy statements, greener builds will become the norm. Designing for green should no longer be an afterthought; it’s time to embrace it at the start of the process. Understanding new tools and materials at the design stage will drive us to deliver better buildings in terms of performance, better value for owners, and better environments for the people who inhabit them. It’s a win-win.
Pete Baxter is vice president for engineering, natural resources and infrastructure sales for Autodesk in EMEA