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Debunking Common Misconceptions in Architecture during Design and Construction: Sustainability and BIM Integration

green city (2)

We have noticed in our role as BIM Consultants how on some projects, several points have been raised that highlight a need for a deeper understanding of sustainability and Building Information Management/Modeling (BIM). While the intentions behind these projects are noteworthy, it’s crucial to address and correct certain misconceptions to ensure these initiatives truly benefit our communities and environment in the future.

Rethinking Sustainability in Architecture

Sustainability in design and construction is often misunderstood, focusing on superficial aspects rather than holistic practices. There are two points that we have seen emphasized recently that require re-evaluation:

  1. Extra Parking as an Added Value

While additional parking might seem beneficial, true sustainability nowadays advocates for reducing parking spaces and promoting walkable environments. By designing communities with services and amenities nearby, we can discourage vehicle use, thereby reducing emissions and fostering healthier lifestyles.

  1. Longevity of Buildings

The lifespan of a building is often highlighted as a key sustainability factor. However, sustainable design is about more than just longevity. It involves a circular approach to materials and lifecycle management. This “cradle-to-cradle” philosophy, endorsed by the LEED standards and certifications, emphasizes the use of materials that can be recycled and reused, minimizing waste and environmental impact over time.

Understanding BIM: Beyond Technology

The discussion on BIM (Building Information Management/Modeling) during various meetings and across several projects, revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of its core principles. Here’s what needs to be clarified:

  1. BIM is a Methodology

BIM is not just about using a specific piece of software. It encompasses processes, standards, technology, and people. Effective BIM implementation requires well-defined workflows, standards, and commitment from all stakeholders, especially from the top levels of an organization.

  1. Contractor’s Role in BIM

When the contractor involved in a project, declines to use the BIM models and follow a BIM process during construction, it highlights a critical gap in understanding. That is why, to ensure everyone is on board and accountable, successful BIM implementation starts with clear standards and contractual obligations. Without these, BIM processes can easily be neglected, leading to less-than-optimal project outcomes.

  1. Setting Clear BIM Standards

Asking for BIM is like only asking for ‘a building’. Just as we specify materials, construction practices, and timelines, we must establish precise BIM standards. These standards should outline the goals, uses, data requirements, and timelines for the BIM models. For instance, adopting the ISO 19650 framework can provide a comprehensive approach to managing information throughout the lifecycle of a built asset, ensuring consistency and clarity. This ensures all parties are aligned and can effectively contribute to the project’s success.

Linking Sustainability and BIM

Sustainability and BIM are not just complementary but essential partners in modern design and construction practices. Their integration can lead to more efficient, environmentally friendly, and economically viable projects. Let’s reflect on how these projects could have significantly benefited from both:

  • Holistic Project Design

A well-implemented BIM process supports sustainable design by enabling detailed planning and efficient resource management. It ensures that sustainable practices are embedded from the outset and maintained throughout the project lifecycle.

  • Material Lifecycle Management

One of the key benefits of BIM is its ability to manage the lifecycle of materials effectively. By tracking materials from procurement to disposal, BIM ensures that the principles of the circular economy are adhered to. This cradle-to-cradle approach reduces waste, promotes recycling, and enhances sustainability. If BIM is effectively utilized, it can ensure that materials chosen are not only durable but also recyclable, aligning with true sustainability goals rather than just focusing on building longevity. New standards are on the way regarding the materials’ lifecycle. For instance, there is a new European Standard known as the Digital Product Passport that aims to enhance transparency and sustainability in the product’s lifecycle. This digital passport will include essential information about the product’s origin, composition, repair and maintenance guidelines, and end-of-life handling. By enabling better tracking and sharing of product data among manufacturers, consumers, and recyclers, the Digital Product Passport seeks to facilitate more informed purchasing decisions, improve product longevity, and ensure more efficient recycling and reuse processes. And when it comes to managing information, this approach can be further streamlined through a BIM process.

  • Operational Efficiency and Reduced Environmental Impact

 BIM facilitates better operational efficiency by providing detailed insights into the building’s performance. If BIM Requirements are in place, meaning assets that are needed for Maintenance and Operations are ‘tracked’ during design and installation data collected against them during construction, this will enable the proper data for access and maintaining the assets and their performance, as well as monitoring of energy consumption, water usage, and other critical sustainability metrics throughout the building’s lifecycle. This means that BIM can provide a clear roadmap for maintaining sustainable operations, identifying potential areas for energy savings, and reducing the overall environmental impact.


It’s vital to approach projects with a comprehensive understanding of sustainability and BIM. By rethinking our approach towards the environment, and properly integrating BIM from the start, we can create truly sustainable, efficient, and lasting project solutions.

That’s where we come in. At Summit BIM, we specialize in serving as your trusted third-party consultant, advocating for your interests and developing robust BIM Standards that align with your goals. We collaborate with you to integrate comprehensive BIM Requirements into your projects, ensuring every aspect is designed with future maintenance and sustainability in mind. We help you enhance RFPs with detailed BIM specifications, assess whether project teams fully understand and can execute the BIM process effectively, and audit design and construction phases to ensure adherence to your standards. By leveraging BIM to your needs, we ensure your projects not only meet current standards but also set a benchmark for future developments. Feel free to reach out to us for more information on how we can support your next project.

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