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A Review of BIM and Sustainability Integration in Construction

A recent review published in Automation in Construction critically analyzed 543 articles to explore the integration of building information modeling (BIM) with sustainability. This comprehensive analysis highlighted the significant implications of the BIM-sustainability nexus across environmental, economic, and social dimensions, identifying key areas where further research is needed.

Identifying Research Gaps in BIM and Sustainability Integration
Study: Identifying Research Gaps in BIM and Sustainability Integration. Image Credit: MarleenS/Shutterstock.com

Background

Traditionally a significant environmental degrader, the construction industry is now pivoting towards sustainability in response to global challenges such as climate change, resource depletion, and population growth. In this context, BIM has emerged as a transformative tool that integrates environmental, social, and economic considerations across all phases of infrastructure projects—from design and construction to operation and decommissioning.

Optimization of materials and energy use through BIM helps reduce a building's carbon footprint and enhance sustainability. Additionally, BIM-based sustainable waste management practices improve construction and demolition waste management. Furthermore, employing emerging technologies like blockchain, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence in BIM promotes data-driven decision-making and transparency in sustainable development initiatives.

Previous Studies

Many previous reviews and informatic analysis papers have provided valuable insights regarding the role of BIM in sustainable construction using systematic literature review and gap-spotting methods. However, important aspects like life cycle sustainability analysis (LCSA), waste management, and state-of-the-art areas remain under-researched.

The building sustainability assessment (BSA) methods explored in previous studies are subject to certain limitations due to restricted databases and suboptimal keyword combinations. Additionally, there is a lack of a comprehensive comparison of various BIM applications in the green building industry. Overall, an all-encompassing critical analysis is absent as the concepts of green building, BSA methods, and LCSA approaches are all covered independently.

Research Methodology

This study critically reviewed the current literature on BIM-sustainability integration. It used a broader keyword combination as compared to previous studies to spot gaps and identify areas needing further research. The preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) framework were employed to screen the relevant existing literature, followed by an in-depth analysis of the selected articles.

The researchers selected 98 journal articles and classified them into four groups: (i) BIM-based LCSA, (ii) BIM for green buildings, (iii) BIM-aided construction waste management (CWM), and (iv) state-of-the-art topics. After a thorough critical analysis, the study highlighted the research gaps in each group and categorized them as under-researched, overlooked, or lacking empirical support.

Research Gaps

The group I LCSA approaches integrate the environment-related life cycle assessment (LCA), social-LCA, and economics-related life cycle costing (LCC) into BIM. Despite the recognized potential of LCSA in sustainable construction, each of these dimensions is not fully integrated with BIM due to some constraints and research gaps. For example, most BIM-LCA frameworks disregard the transportation of building materials, which is crucial for a project’s environmental impact assessment.

In group II, the definition of "green BIM" remains notably ambiguous. While some studies interpret it merely as the integration of BIM with green building techniques, others view it as encompassing the entire lifecycle of a project. Additionally, most research on green BIM tends to focus on energy analysis, neglecting other vital sustainable design parameters such as green material selection, sustainable site development, waste management, and water-use efficiency, which are notably under-researched.

The contribution of BIM to CWM in group III is restricted to environmental issues, ignoring the social and economic benefits. CWM is a complex system encompassing various dynamic actions, such as recycling, reusing, sorting, and transporting. Thus, dynamic analyses of all factors and their interrelationships are required in BIM-based CWM studies. However, most such studies are conducted statically due to the lack of quantitative economic benchmarks.

Group IV identifies the most promising state-of-the-art research topics within the realm of BIM-sustainability nexus. For instance, the integration of BIM-GIS (geographic information system) promotes further exploration of sustainable built environments. Other emerging technologies that can be integrated with BIM to realize smart and sustainable construction include blockchain, the Internet of Things, lean construction, digital twin, and cloud computing.

Discussion

The BIM-sustainability nexus offers solutions to several technical issues in the construction sector. However, studies on this integration face some challenges, such as the lack of consistent data sources, manual data collection and updation in dynamic studies, data loss due to software incompatibility, and the absence of formal definitions.

Comprehensive frameworks that transcend project-specific contexts should be developed to address the identified research gaps in BIM-sustainability integration. Moreover, the implications of BIM in non-residential infrastructure projects require further studies. Overall, targeted efforts can bridge the existing research gaps and ensure a more holistic and inclusive exploration of BIM applications across various sustainable infrastructural domains.

Conclusion and Future Prospects

In conclusion, this review presented a holistic understanding of previously ignored issues in the intersection of BIM and sustainability. It aimed to offer clarity and help stakeholders create a roadmap to navigate this dynamic intersection. Furthermore, it highlighted diverse perspectives surrounding BIM, clarifying its role in the multifaceted dimensions of sustainability within the construction industry. 

While BIM is widely accepted as the suitable digital representation of a physical building, further efforts are required to realize its full potential. Future studies should involve a thorough scientometric and informatic analysis. In addition, a comprehensive universal framework can enhance the visualization and semantic interoperability of BIM applications.

Journal Reference

Akbari, S., Sheikhkhoshkar, M., Rahimian, F. P., El Haouzi, H. B., Najafi, M., & Talebi, S. (2024). Sustainability and building information modelling: Integration, research gaps, and future directions. Automation in Construction163, 105420. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autcon.2024.105420, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0926580524001560

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Article Revisions

  • Apr 26 2024 - Title changed from "Identifying Research Gaps in BIM and Sustainability Integration" to "A Review of BIM and Sustainability Integration in Construction"
Nidhi Dhull

Written by

Nidhi Dhull

Nidhi Dhull is a freelance scientific writer, editor, and reviewer with a PhD in Physics. Nidhi has an extensive research experience in material sciences. Her research has been mainly focused on biosensing applications of thin films. During her Ph.D., she developed a noninvasive immunosensor for cortisol hormone and a paper-based biosensor for E. coli bacteria. Her works have been published in reputed journals of publishers like Elsevier and Taylor & Francis. She has also made a significant contribution to some pending patents.  

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