The role of materials for a sustainable construction and sustainability information in BIM environment

Posted by Lena Huhn , Albert Berenguel - 21 July, 2021

Compared to other construction materials like steel or plastic, concrete has a much lower environmental impact as per kilo basis. However, as it is the second most consumed substance on earth besides water, its high usage multiplies this low impact by 10 billion tons per year. Additionally, the key ingredient of concrete, cement, accounts for 8% of all global CO2 emissions and is an intense energy and material consumer.

But how can you alleviate and further digitally measure these environmental damages?


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

To achieve an increased resource efficiency and likewise reduced ecological footprint and energy consumption, it is a key of today’s construction industries to develop an innovative circular economy which reduces, reuses and (to some extent) recycles the materials. Master Builders Solutions innovative products have already shown how to achieve such quantified sustainable benefits – read more here.

  1. Master Builders Solutions_life cycle of a concrete building_reduce, reuse, recycleReduce: Using admixtures technology, digitalisation and mix formulations, one can reduce the need of raw materials, energy, transportation and time. As said by the European Cement Association Cembureau, such innovations and technical progresses “can reduce cement in concrete by 5% in 2030 and 15% by 2050” and thus contribute to a sustainable construction.
  2. Reuse: Diligent proactive maintenance and the repair of concrete buildings are the most efficient approaches to sustainability. With adequate protection, structures can be (re)used indefinitely once built and not only avoid a loss of functionality but further demolition and the need for new constructions. Extending the life cycle of concrete structures through durable solutions is thus efficient to “dilute” the original impact of concrete and to avoid monetary and further environmental costs.
  3. Recycle: Although it can be perceived that recycling is an environmental-friendly action, it must be realized that the recycling of construction materials is not energy neutral. Through crushing, separation or melting of materials, it is a resource-consuming process. Even though its emissions are lower than the extraction of new materials, designing durable and long-term concrete structures is still the most sustainable way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

How does BIM fit with sustainability?

With an evolving digitalization, virtual design and construction tools are transforming conventional computer adapted design software. Building Information Modeling, BIM, intelligently manages complex construction projects from planning and material usage over to the full life cycle of a building. Developing an “as build digital twin” is the key to construction’s digital revolution. In this digital twin one can implement any damage and following repair or maintenance job into the system. BIM can thus accurately document the evolution of structures over the years.

Master Builders Solutions_"as-built" digital twin in BIM environment

The clear advantage is the deep dive into the structures without needing to look on-site. At Master Builders Solutions, we have further developed an Online Planning Tool (OPT) to easily manage projects – simply download a customized specification report including BIM objects, certificates and all product related documentation in only 3 steps. Try it out here.

Although standard maintenance procedures can be implemented in the BIM environment, so far, the system still does not recognize itself when repairs will be needed depending on the exposure of a concrete structure and the influence that protective membranes will have in the durability of the structure and thus, in the maintenance needs.

Master Builders Solutions_implementing Maintenance procedures in BIM environment

From the point of view of a materials producer, much information can already be included in a BIM object. The basic properties of the products to the ones related to its environmental impact and the time of use as well as other environmental certifications (as an example the eCOB® initiative developed by ITEC and GBC in Spain), but topics like durability or materials maintenance and specially the impact of waterproofing and protection materials in the durability of concrete structures are not yet fully implemented. These topics still have difficulties to be properly implemented due to the interoperability of different softwares that are used in Facility Management.

Eco-Efficiency analysis

Hence, the Eco-Efficiency analysis (EEA) is the tool to document the environmental impact of a concrete structure including production, use, maintenance, waste disposal and the evaluation of life cycle costs including materials, labour, production, energy and waste disposal. Since 2010, Master Builders Solutions​ has been using the EEA methodology to examine the environmental life cycle of sustainable concrete solutions. The power of the Eco-Efficiency is that it is calculated for a specific functional unit and can evaluate the effect of different solutions or products in this specific structure.

As an example, the increase of durability that a protection membrane can offer to a concrete structure or the difference in maintenance needs of alternative products will be considered in the analysis and the environmental and economic impact of these alternatives is calculated, allowing the owners and planners to take decisions based on these data. Find more information here.

The development of digital solutions and softwares will progressively allow the inclusion of these valuable information complementing the 6D and 7D dimensions of BIM. With the appropriate softwares and plug-ins being developed, and the use of predictive models, the possibility to include all this critical information to evaluate sustainability of a complex structure in the product objects will be a reality.

Ready for the future

Even though BIM is still in its development of sustainable digital construction solutions, it already includes important features for maintenance and the extension of the life cycle of concrete structures. In the future with technology on the rise, BIM will play a decisive role in planning and developing environmentally friendly buildings. Master Builders Solutions, as part of MBCC Group, already offers a wide range of digital solutions - have a look at our digital offerings to explore the world of the new digital construction era here.

For further interesting reads related to the topic of BIM, have a look at our selected range of blog articles:

All Information vs. Information Overload
Master Builders Solutions partners with European Union’s BIM project
Who is driving the development of BIM?

Discover more about how Master Builders Solutions products deliver quantified sustainable benefits here.

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Topics: Sustainability, BIM

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