Defining sustainable construction
“Sustainability” is one of the world’s most talked about but least understood words. Its meaning is often clouded by differing interpretations and by a tendency for the subject to be treated superficially. For most companies, countries and individuals who do take the subject seriously the concept of sustainability embraces the preservation of the environment as well as critical development-related issues such as the efficient use of resources, continual social progress, stable economic growth, and the eradication of poverty.
In the world of construction, buildings have the capacity to make a major contribution to a more sustainable future for our planet. The OECD, for instance, estimates that buildings in developed countries account for more than forty percent of energy consumption over their lifetime (incorporating raw material production, construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning). Add to this the fact that for the first time in human history over half of the world’s population now lives in urban environments and it’s clear that sustainable buildings have become vital cornerstones for securing long-term environmental, economic and social viability.
The pace of change means we don’t have the luxury of time. With urban populations worldwide swelling by around one million people every week, there’s an urgent need to come up with clever ideas that optimize the sustainable performance of the buildings that we live and work in.
Building a sustainable future
Sustainable construction aims to meet present day needs for housing, working environments and infrastructure without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs in times to come. It incorporates elements of economic efficiency, environmental performance and social responsibility – and contributes to the greatest extent when architectural quality, technical innovation and transferability are included.
Sustainable construction involves issues such as the design and management of buildings; materials performance; construction technology and processes; energy and resource efficiency in building, operation and maintenance; robust products and technologies; long-term monitoring; adherence to ethical standards; socially-viable environments; stakeholder participation; occupational health and safety and working conditions; innovative financing models; improvement to existing contextual conditions; interdependencies of landscape, infrastructure, urban fabric and architecture; flexibility in building use, function and change; and the dissemination of knowledge in related academic, technical and social contexts.
You’ve seen one drain, you’ve seen them all. They are all the same, right? I can pour this cleaner down the drain because it goes to a wastewater treatment plant, right? Not so! It’s important to understand the difference between sanitary sewers and storm sewers so we can prevent environmental damage. The sanitary sewer is a system of underground pipes that carries sewage from bathrooms, sinks, kitchens, and other plumbing components to a wastewater treatment plant where it is filtered, treated and discharged. The storm sewer is a system designed to carry rainfall runoff and other drainage. It is not designed to carry sewage or accept hazardous wastes. The runoff is carried in underground pipes or open ditches and discharges untreated into local streams, rivers and other surface water bodies. Storm drain inlets are typically found in curbs and low-lying outdoor areas. Some older buildings have basement floor drains that connect to the storm sewer system. Disposal of chemicals or hazardous substances to the storm sewer system damages the environment. Motor oil, cleaners, paints and other common household items that get into storm drains can poison fish, birds, and other wildlife, and can find their way into drinking water supplies. In addition, grass clippings, leaves, litter, and organic matter can clog storm drains and cause flooding.
Here are some things you can do to help maintain our sewer systems and keep our environment clean:
- Do not pour anything into storm sewer drains.
- Keep storm sewer drains clear of leaves, grass clippings, sticks and litter
- Repair any leaks and drips from your vehicle.
- Collect and recycle motor oil
- Clean up spills and don’t wash them into a drain.
- Don’t pour paints, solvents, cleaners, etc. into any drain – take it to your local county household hazardous waste collection.
- Minimize the use of herbicides and pesticides.
Having a clean environment is of primary importance for our health and economy. Clean waterways provide recreation, commercial opportunities, fish habitat, and add beauty to our landscape. All of us benefit from clean water – and all of us have a role in getting and keeping our lakes, rivers, wetlands, and groundwater clean.
There are many definitions of Building Information Modelling (BIM), but it is simply the means by which everyone can understand a building through the use of a digital model. Modelling an asset in digital form enables those who interact with the building to optimize their actions, resulting in a greater whole life value for the asset.
Through BIM the UK construction industry is undergoing its very own digital revolution. BIM is a way of working; it is information modelling and information management in a team environment, all team members should be working to the same standards as one another. BIM creates value from the combined efforts of people, process and technology.
How can BIM help you?
BIM brings together all of the information about every component of a building, in one place. It makes it possible for anyone to access that information for any purpose, e.g. to integrate different aspects of the design more effectively. In this way, the risk of mistakes or discrepancies is reduced, and abortive costs minimized.
BIM data can be used to illustrate the entire building life-cycle, from cradle to cradle, from inception and design to demolition and materials reuse. Spaces, systems, products and sequences can be shown in relative scale to each other and, in turn, relative to the entire project. And by signalling conflict detection BIM prevents errors creeping in at the various stages of development/ construction.
What is a BIM object?
A BIM object is a combination of many things:
- Information content that defines a product
- Product properties, such as thermal performance
- Geometry representing the product’s physical characteristics
- Visualisation data giving the object a recognisable appearance
- Functional data, such as detection zones, that enables the object to be positioned and behave in the same manner as the product itself.
Find high-quality free BIM objects on the NBS National BIM Library.
The future of BIM
The future of the construction industry is digital, and BIM is the future of design and long term facility management; it is government led and driven by technology and clear processes; and it is implementing change across all industries. As hardware, software and cloud applications herald greater capability to handle increasing amounts of raw data and information, use of BIM will become even more pronounced than it is in current projects.