Green Building Design: How BIM Can Make All the Difference

By Neel Doshi

When initiating a new building project, the design team has traditionally worked separately from the construction team. Usually, each team strives to produce the most effective and efficient system components to provide the most benefits at the lowest possible cost. But this non-collaborative method can cause inconsistencies, which may incite problems and delay the project’s progress.

Modern design has solved this dilemma with the integrative approach. This design approach prioritizes cost-effectiveness over the long and short term, and includes all team members. When both the design and construction team collaborate, they can identify effective relationships and synergies within systems. The entire team recognizes overlapping components between systems so that interdependencies and benefits can be utilized. The final goal is to achieve elevated levels of building performance, human performance, and human health benefits. This goal evokes LEED certification but, more importantly, creates sustainable buildings that minimally impact the environment. Buildings that have the highest level of LEED certification incorporate designs that feature technologies like ambient light and clean air. These features are proven to increase productivity and improve health.[1]

An example of design and construction generating a more sustainable environment is limited parking, which inspires alternative modes of transportation. Bicycle storage, alternative fuel facilities, and preferred parking for green vehicles can promote sustainability as well.

Another example of environmentally-friendly building design is green roofs, which have become a trend in modern ecological projects. Designers have begun to incorporate this innovative technology in new buildings. They offer many sustainability benefits, such as temperature control for both summer and winter seasons, and they visually enhance the environment while boosting productivity. Some cities like Toronto have already made it mandatory for new buildings, while other cities like Chicago offer financial assistance in order to promote it.[2]

While green design can be challenging, Building Information Modeling (BIM) simplifies the process. A prime example of a state-of-the-art green building utilizing BIM is the Miami Science Museum. The architects involved in this project incorporated BIM in every stage of designing this impressive building. For instance, they integrated the position of the sun into the building’s shape design. By using BIM to model different weather conditions, the design team could garner solar energy to power the building when natural light was not an option. This solar design is a critical part of the heating and cooling systems.[3]

Simulations through BIM also contribute to MiaSci’s ventilation system. Architects could decipher wind strength at various parts of the building. Through a multitude of tests, designers created a balance and accommodated guests with comfortable air conditions throughout the museum. These simulations were also essential to determine the ideal roof shape and height of the building.

The roof provides the base for MiaSci’s water strategy. The belvedere water feature uses natural elements like mangroves, green roofs, and green walls to filter rainwater and harvest it. Water that is not harvested is poured into wetlands or injection wells. Additionally, all the MiaSci water exhibits utilize the harvested rainwater. While the Miami Science Museum is one example of BIM paving the way for green technology, there are countless more buildings that have used BIM to promote green environments.

The MiaSci building is just one example of how green design is not the future of buildings: it is the present. BIM technology allows architects to design these sustainable structures easier and more efficiently than ever before. By digitally modeling building features, architects can better interpret how the design of the building will affect the construction, heating and cooling systems, water and airflow systems, and other elements that determine sustainability. BIM and supporting technologies are necessary to create green buildings moving forward.