Using BIM for optimized energy efficiency in buildings

Today’s pressing issues of digital transformation and energy transition are having a profound impact on the building sector, which is facing significant change. One solution that would seem to address both issues in tandem is Building Information Modeling (BIM).

Building Information Modeling is set to become more prevalent in the years ahead         

Before we look at how BIM could transform our energy usage in the building environment, let’s begin with the assertion that BIM is set to boom over the next decade, in both the construction and building renovation sectors.

So what is BIM? BIM is a digital representation of a building and all its characteristics. More than merely a tool, it is a shared knowledge resource that brings together the whole supply chain of trades involved in the build process, from early design through to completion. As a digital avatar of the physical build, the added value of BIM compared to more traditional architectural software is its ability to update changes in real time. The input data relates to all aspects of the building such as connected objects, furnishings and equipment.

BIM in France is currently growing at a rate of 10-15% per year[1], with an adoption rate by businesses of over 35%. This trend is largely driven by public procurement: 66% of BIM projects are initiated by local authorities, 19.5% by the French government and 9% by social landlords. These figures reaffirm the government’s commitment to promoting this type of collaborative methodology. Indeed, it was back in 2014 that the Department of Housing first launched a financing plan intended to encourage industry professionals to adopt digital modeling.

BIM and energy efficiency

How does BIM allow us to achieve gains in energy efficiency?

Materials analysis, thermal simulation, equipment maintenance, and so on. From the early design phase right through to maintenance of the completed build, the digital avatar is used to collect precise measurements of thermal and energy performance. It provides an accurate overview of the building and all of its technical characteristics for each different stakeholder in the build process. Inarguably, BIM is a valuable support tool for the design and decision-making processes, and is effective in reducing the carbon footprint of our buildings.

The relevance of this type of methodology will surely increase in step with the emergence of connected buildings. The data collected by the different sensors in a smart building will indeed give an even more detailed insight of a building’s lifecycle. Following the inter-connected example of Industry 4.0, we are also observing a rise in smart technology for residential and commercial buildings, paving the way for us to better estimate or even predict when maintenance tasks are due (boiler, lighting, lift, etc.).

From BIM to CIM?

The emerging use of BIM in new construction and renovation projects does indeed suggest a cleaner, greener future for our buildings. Given that our cities are set to become more densely populated, with 70% of the world’s population predicted to be living in urban areas by the year 2050, this design method appears to be unavoidable.

Going forward, the concept of BIM is expanding to a city-wide scale with the emergence of CIM (City Information Modeling). The digital modeling of cities, based on the digital modeling of buildings and other technologies such as smart grids, should have a much greater impact in terms of reducing our eco-footprint. With the concept of smart cities growing in popularity, CIM is opening up new possibilities for urban planners and developers, providing them with a more complete picture of a neighborhood or a city, helping to build more efficiently.

[1]  Source of figures: CNOA (French National Council of the Order of Architects)