The increasing expectations of optimum processing and the ability to meet the environmental as well as structural challenges has influenced the construction industry worldwide to rapidly adopt to sustainable and resilient methods of construction. Stability between environment, economic and constructional criteria has to be developed so that a sustainable as well as resilient structure is achieved. Many tools / technologies have been devised in the past many years that are promising enough to achieve this objective. The most important goal is to bring these methodologies to light and find out how they can be incorporated to achieve an optimum synergy and help in sustainable construction. Most value can be added to the project if these tools are introduced from the earliest possible stage of the construction process (Fiksel, 2006).
In this research study, two of the most influential methods; Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), are critically analyzed. Both of these methods have known to be successfully implemented in various construction projects in order to gain both sustainability and productivity, as projects executed through these tools / techniques are considered to perform in a more sustainable and productive way (Ortiz et al., 2009). BIM has the ability to optimize the whole project with step-by-step integrated approach from initial design to end of product lifecycle. It improves communication between the team members and stakeholders, whereas LCA emphasizes on evaluating environmental performance throughout the development of the project (Eastman, 2011).
However, the challenges in ensuring that resilience and sustainability are accomplished in current construction scenario is increasing with constant changes in various aspects of the built background situation and at the same time the strain restriction of such scenarios are getting more and more inflexible (Anton and Diaz, 2014). Structure are now expected to utilize lesser spaces, manufactured using supplies coming from eco-friendly sources, are expected to be structurally unhazardous and satisfy the requirements of a large number of stakeholders and at the same time should be functionally optimum. According to research completed by Kibert in the year 2013, this is the future of any construction industry.
Sustainability and resilience are the most significant processes of today’s construction industry, especially in cases which are vulnerable to the climatic vicissitudes or natural calamities (A. Audenaert, 2013). Practitioners of the construction business have found technological improvements and advancement to be the answer to resolve sustainability and resilience issues. The introduction of applications such as BIM, and concepts such as LCA and BREAM assessment among other, are served to better the sustainability or resilience of the construction project (Arce and Gullion, 2000). It is important to perceive the importance of usefulness and efficiency of applications and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) suggested methodologies can play an important part in helping the designers and managers to choose the most suitable application during project development (Waterhouse, 2011)
The research undertaken in this study evaluates and investigates the various strategies suggested by both, BIM and LCA from the practitioners’ prospective. Collaboration between LCA and BIM will also be analyzed to find out which of the feature is best suited for the industry (Chong and Kumar, 2009). Whether or not the project requirement can be enhanced by deep and thorough understanding of the integration of the two methodologies and value of their applications is also outline in this research.
Specifically, the study address the following primary research questions;
This research seeks to outline the influence of each stated tool on the construction techniques in enhancing the resilience/sustainability in construction projects. The primary aim of the research is to find the synergies’ between BIM and LCA.
The following is the details of how this primary aim is to be achieved in this study;
The following are the primary objectives of this research.
Based on the research completed till date, the use of both LCA and BIM has not been presented by researchers and designers in the past to specifically enhance the sustainability and resilience of construction projects. BIM and LCA have been considered to ease the managerial tasks such as reducing material waste, using better resources, increasing sustainability in general and also sometimes improving the environment by doing so.
This research paper aims to take this study a step ahead and evaluate the suitability and effects by analyzing the response of construction managers / stakeholders on the impact of the constantly evolving technologies, in terms of improving resilience and sustainability of any given project. Since many of the researchers have not given due attention to this field of study in the past, this has offered an opportunity to highlight some of the practical concerns of construction engineering practitioners in terms of application of state of the art tools
Results obtained from this research will help the stakeholders to decide which applications of LCA and BIM, or its integrated form can be utilized to obtain the given results. In short, it will help in better decision making when considering the use of technology to improve resilience and sustainability. The information can be used by both, researchers and students to:
An organized method that constitutes of both primary and secondary research has been undertaken in order to accomplish the research goals of this study. Questions such as who, when, what, how and where, that are associated to the research are important to be answered (Creswell, 2013) and an evocative research has been completed keeping all aspects in mind.
The research paper initially covers the literature review to extensively describe and evaluate the previous completed work on both research and industrial scale. This has been completed for the utilization of state of the art construction management / engineering tools to enhance resilience and sustainability. The literature review outlines the technology; BIM and LCA that has been involved to achieve the desired results (Hakkinen and Kiviniemi, 2008). This study does not study the causality but the underlying research on which an improved construction system is based. The literature review provided a platform through which this research paper has been structured.
After successful completion of the literature review, primary research has been completed, details of which are given in the following sections. This included preparation of a comprehensive questionnaire that was distributed amongst the construction engineering stakeholders across the UK, but with specific focus on the locality of Birmingham. The questionnaire was prepared in light of the primary research aim and objectives documented in the previous section, so that specific information could be obtained in a logical and engineered manner
The data obtained from the primary as well desk based research was analyzed and key findings are then discussed, before drawing-out conclusion of this study. However it is important to note that there might be limitation with respect to relevance of the data obtained in this primary research, as this data may present personal opinions, like and disliked of the personnel involved. This may also suggest that the data presented in this paper may not be used as recommendations against any of the tools / techniques under study.
The global challenges such as sustainability and life cycle analyses of buildings have increased and with the invention of BIM and LCA. The designers are now required to integrate the basic performance related data from the very initial phases of the project. Examples of such analyses include quantity / quality / material surveying, energy performance, social impact and environmental performance analyses on the virtual building and virtual space framework (Kam et al, 2004).
Construction industry works on projects and each project has its own unique features. Therefore, the aim of the construction must be to utilize most of the available information in the most productive manner, and both LCA as well BIM are most suited for this purpose. However, there is a definite lack of standardization of both of these techniques. Therefore, it is not possible to evaluate the performance of any of these techniques without undertaking a comprehensive case study analyses, which not in the scope of this research (Finnveden G., 2009).
This section of the paper is aimed to highlight the most influential implications of both BIM and LCA, while examining how these provide a supporting role in the construction industry. Sustainability as well as resilience cover a wide range of construction industry’s parameters, therefore effort is made to review how introduction of these technological tools have impacted these norms in the most fundamental aspects of construction projects (Ortiz et al., 2009)
An incorporated BIM system can collaborate and communicate the various processes between different stakeholders and members of the project. This helps in development of a solid initial design to well-built structure and effective performance throughout the course of project (Hungu, 2013). BIM has a huge influence on design practice considering the fact that it introduces new methods and techniques of bringing forth new designs, techniques and services. Stakeholders want their work to be completed time effectively, with high quality and in low budgeting manner, along with additional services which do not necessarily include planning and construction techniques (Clayton et al, 1999).
Since BIM is grounded on the strong basis of active communication and exchange of information and technology, this trend is utilized to process, generate, store, transform and/or transfer information. The term ‘Building Information Model’ (BIM) appeared in the 1970’s and it originated from designing and data modeling of machines. The technique, from basic machine modeling and designing, was engaged to plan and construct buildings. Building Information Model constitutes of:
Therefore, BIM allows all stakeholders to perform quick examination of standards and models and their comparisons by engaging a visualization process, which consequently can be utilized to enhance the sustainability and resilience of the project (McGraw Hill construction, 2009). Furthermore, errors can be reduced fairly because most of the issues are addressed and resolved in the design phase, hence there will be fewer conceivable errors and models are promptly updated (Eastman, 2008). BIM encourages participation and collaboration of all the working right from the beginning of project towards better sustainable and resilient system, which not only reduces time but also cost of engineering process (Eastman, 2008).
Since BIM incorporates an integrated system in the designing process, the conformation plan of a building can be examined both quantitatively and qualitatively right from the primary stage (Eastman, 2008). Resilience and stability of a system can be kept into perspective while working under the strategies of BIM. This means encompassing a wide range of environmental as well as economic factors (Azhar, et.al., 2008). At any stage of design, the stakeholders can review and revise the materials being used to enhance the sustainability, reduce the cost and/or increase the lifespan of the product. BIM is not just a structurally stable strategy but it also cuts the energy costs by letting the stakeholders plan and integrate their design and constructions using proficient energy modeling tools, hence optimizing the sustainability parameters (Hakkinen, 2008).
The overall sustainability of the building can be enhanced using environmentally friendly and competent material selection, waste management, better performance of equipment and efficient error detection/removal system. With the help of optimized designing, it is possible to foresee the structure and view the building at any point of construction, and even after the construction is completed. For cases where specific conditional parameter are needed to be considered, the use of this computer aided tool can aid the project management in rapidly change (in real time) the simulation conditions so that an optimum environment / structure is developed that can have the strength to meet the specific project requirements. The structural calculation can also be integrated into BIM data base, which, which mean only one software can be used for the overall project management. Therefore, application of these practices through an engineered tool and integrating these efforts can hence enable construction of resilient structure.
Managers prefer the use of BIM not only because of its excellent approach towards resilience and sustainability, as stated above, but also because it saves time and cash (McGraw Hill Construction, 2009). Problems are identified before their physical existence and henceforth the communication, understanding, chemistry and concern between the different teams such as planners and builders are developed. Locating and eliminating these errors leads to a stronger, resilient, sustainable construction procedure that decreases expenses, lowers legal debates and accelerates the construction procedure (Eastman, 2008).
According to McGraw Hill Construction, a study concludes that architects feel more comfortable and add value to the work if there are less hinders and clashes in the project. Even in case of an honestly overlooked human error, the lapse is quickly identified and swiftly corrected resulting in a near perfect execution (Eastman, 2008). The components are in the form of 3D visualizations in BIM hence they can be produced using digital technology which means not all of them have to be constructed right on site (Azhar, et.al, 2008). This saves expenses and development time. Moreover, the waste on site is reduced if the components are shipped from off-site which reduces waste management expenses and time (Smith, 2007). Hence this method is considered to be much more sustainable than any other technique.
Implication of BIM in construction projects also helps the site managers by offering a large number of data sources to choose from which can be used to check the order and function as the construction proceeds (Eastman, 2008). This includes the materials quantities, sizes, costs, along with details such as warranties and insurance of various components, helping the planners in managing the project (Ballesty, 2007). The design and construction tools such as quantitative data bases, programme development functions, simulations, dynamic modelling, logic control systems, delivery frameworks and automated creation of BOQs are at service of all stake holders as soon as the project planning begins when using BIM (Sahely, 2005).
Hence it be concluded that the implication of BIM had definitely introduced systems that can effectively enhance the sustainability as well as resilience of the construction project in various forms. When utilized properly, this engineered tool can produce many benefits for the stakeholders of this industry
LCA can be defined as a systematic methodology to assess the influence of environment that is related to the product’s lifecycle from “cradle to grave”. A complete LCA deals with each phase of a product’s lifecycle and considers the concerned waste streams, withdrawal of raw material, subsequent uses, material handling, product manufacturing, utility, transportation, restoration, conservation, and discards related to the product as well as the recycling and end-of-life disposal service. It is important to note that the practice of construction plays a vital role in regional, global and national environmental impacts. Quite a large amount of research has been done on the raw material processing and manufacturing and a few researches have also looked into the after-use possibilities of commercial buildings (Guggemos and Horvath 2003).
However, the applications of LCA in construction industry can be referred to sustainable designing, as it emphasized on careful evaluation of the environmental impact of chosen materials and component(s). This is accomplished by using the already available techniques and models. As discussed earlier, LCA can be defined as the collectiveness and evaluation of feedbacks, outputs, and all the energy contributions to and by the product throughout its lifespan. (Guinee et al, 2011).
The LCA methodology can not only insight the product’s energy consumption, but also of the built environment and the hazard resistance of building structures, which is why this method can be applied at the primary design stage of construction projects. But can this technique provide support in terms of resilience of civil engineering structures? In order to answer this question, it is import to review the basic functionality of the complete LCA system when applied to construction projects (Heijungs R., 2010).
There are a number of principals that considered before performing life cycle assessment (LCA) on a construction project.
Aim of LCA depends on the type being performed and the results needed to be catered in a construction process, such as to analyze most sustainable and resilient solution for the construction design. This purpose or aim of assessment can then be further divided into smaller units within the project to perform a comprehensive study and present results that are based on factual information (Baumann and Tillman, 2004). It is also important to know the scope of assessment to find energy consumption, waste management and economic impacts of each unit under analysis.
Inventory analysis consists of gathering and demonstrating data for further study. Data is in the form of inflows and outflows of individual units or phases of design and construction process (Baumann and Tillman, 2004). Availability of data is ensured and quality of data also plays an important role in visualizing a desired output design. Targeting sustainability and resilience, it is made sure that all material provided in different phases are standardized and reliable. Data and information is cross checked to avoid any unforeseen circumstance. At the end of an inventory analysis, data is in the form of figures representing the energy consumption, emission, waste production and resources utilized throughout the project (Sophia, 2009).
The purpose of impact analysis is to make the results made from inventory analysis easy to comprehend and communicate between stakeholders and development phases. Impact analysis helps choosing the right category based on its impacts on overall developmental project for a certain factor and helps in dealing. It therefore smooths the flow of tasks and aids the inventory analysis procedure. Impact can be long lasting or short lived, depending on the inventory under consideration. This step plays an important role in attaining a sustainable and resilient system by eliminating the long term negative impact and including an alternative that has a slightly better or less grave impact (Baumann and Tillman, 2004). Material is chosen on the basis of their long run results in impact analysis.
LCA has also been found to play a significant role in assessing the effect of a construction assembly during the course of its existence and afterwards. The International Organization of Standardization’s 14040 series defines steps for typical LCA assessment based on materials, construction, demolition of a building, and this information is further computed into energy and carbon footprint equivalents, as well as the demonstration of source utilization and discharged radiations. The data is used by architects, structural engineers, workers, and vendors that have to deal with prediction of environmental and structural impacts during the course of a structure’s life.
As discussed previously, LCA involves a detailed Inventory analysis which includes collection and modeling of data and then forming the results in the form of a chronological flow chart that is basically the collective effect of inflows and outflows of various processes (Baumann and Tillman, 2004). Based on the available data, each process can be examined under the light of their resilience and sustainability attributes. Cross checking the data makes the source more trustworthy and data quality is enhanced. By the end of inventory analysis, the practitioners can have the figures of overall radiations, waste material, energy consumption and raw material utilized during the whole lifecycle (Baumann and Tillman, 2004). This helps the stakeholders build a more sustainable and resilient structure that is well researched and more rich in information.
The next step right after the inventory analysis is to assess the impact of the data available. The impact can be environmental, social, economic, ecological and/or structural. This make the results obtained more easy to understand and communicate the important factors between various levels of stakeholders. This leaves out any unimportant data results that are useful for one stakeholder but unimportant for others. The environmental impacts are divided into some vast categories namely, resource use, human health, and ecological consequences (Ochoa et al., 2002). Further categories of important factors, such as for structural resilience, can again be categorized for priority cases by the stakeholders of the project. According to the research completed by Baumann and Tillman in 2004, the specified steps to perform impact assessment that are standardized for many types of LCA studies are;
A LCA model essentially consists of four phases that are repeatedly used in the process. The steps include objective and aim designation, life-cycle standard LCI evaluation, life-cycle control estimation, and investigation. LCI is a common practice when LCA study is not applicable due to structural compatibility, incomplete development and other such issues in LCIA stage. Several LCA development strategies are progression-based (Keoleian et al. 2000) or IO methods (Ochoa et al. 2002). A substitute is a mixture LCA displaying which incorporates the features of both these systems to create a system that is a crossover.
LCA development model is a complex tool because it is dependent upon numerous sets of data resources. Creating a framework for the project and assigning various data resources and integrating data can be puzzling from a large scale as well as smaller point of view while keeping consistent units and unit conversions in mind (Ortiz, 2009). The whole construction procedure is divided into a number of smaller units for each construction specific process, which is unique in one way and very common to each other by many ways. Many of the construction model processes comprise of fuel combustion, and related fuel equipment to find out the transportation needs and to estimate the total expenditure of temporary materials in construction. Structure and complexity of the mode are determined through extensive examination tools as an assessment method to find out the significance of a scheme.
Usually the impacts of on-site construction are overlooked, resulting in a gap in understanding of realistic environmental impacts due to construction process. A recent study on construction projects during the 2008 Beijing Olympics revealed that the air quality is also affected by the construction activities. Life-Cycle Assessment is an efficient ecological administration methodology that comprehensively breaks down and evaluates the natural effects of an item or procedure. It can be used for decision making to conserve the global, national, and provincial effects on social and biological issues, for example, human wellbeing, asset exhaustion, and biological community quality. It is specialists are frequently confronted with making difficult selections identified with choosing the fitting degree or limit of the investigation, the wellsprings of information for lifecycle inventories, programming, and effect evaluation practices.
A study completed by Kubba (2012) and Becerik-Gerber and Rice (2010) shows that evaluation of a proposed scheme and deciding whether or not it fits the criteria set by the owner can be easily assessed by creating schematic model before the actual detailed building model. This can help decide the important factors like sustainability, resilience and functional requirement and also aid in increasing the project performance and general quality of service.
Therefore, it can be suggested that the utilization as well achievements of technological tools are dependent upon the priorities and objectives of the project stakeholders, and both the techniques have definite potential to enhance the sustainability as well as resilience of the construction projects. These techniques can also be integrated to meet the standards set for the projects. A technique suggested by Jrade and Jalaei (2013) focuses on achieving a sustainable design while taking in account environmental impacts by combining BIM, Management Information Systems, and LCA; so that resilience as well as sustainability goals are successfully achieved for a given construction project.
But what is the link or the common parameters of the LCA and BIM? What are the basic parameters that are covered in both the techniques?
The basic parameters that are influenced through both BIM and LCA in terms of the sustainability and resilience are quantification of resistance to hazard, building design, durability of materials and material analyses. BIM makes it possible for various disciplines to superimpose their information. Hence structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and lighting etc. information is placed over at a single model (Tucker and Newton, 2009). It allows the practitioners to understand the step by step processes involved in construction and envisage the 3-dimentional placement of the building (Eastman et al, 2008). Whereas each stage of a construction life-cycle assessments can have influential impact on processing of natural resource, production, construction, usage and preservation, repairing and finally demolishing, which can consequently perform a significant role in environmental influence and resilience. Studies propose that the threats related to environment during construction stage are not well acknowledged (Hendrickson and Horvath 2000). LCA is the best known tool to calculate and evaluate the environmental impacts of a product or process.
Of most of the research work completed on these technologies, the comparison between any two is extremely difficult, owing to the fact that each of these tools focuses on a different aspect. Although both LCA and BIM can be a good source to enhance the sustainability as well as resilience of the project, both of these techniques have their specific / unique application models and purpose of utilization. BIM is fundamentally used for overall project management;
Whereas LCA technique primarily offers;
A solution to revolutionize design methods and effectively producing high-performance designs for proposed buildings is possible through a combinational with BIM technology and LCA, as synergies exist between both of these techniques in terms sustainable and resilient design strategies. Since, BIM facilitates the complete project through an integrated designing strategy and LCA is considered as the method best suited to assess the environmental impact, a broader approach could be adapted to integrate LCA with BIM to achieve higher level of sustainability, efficiency and resilience for any given project. This integration can also potentially eliminate the limitations of any one tool, such as lack of data availability for LCA, encouraging ease of decision making during early design stages of the project. Alton, A in 2014 completed a SWOT analyses on this integration suggesting the strengths of the engineered integration as;
According to this assessment, integration of these tools can resulted in exceptionally resilient and sustainable structures. This can possibility revolutionize the way data is manipulated, errors are compensated, and buildings are foreseen at any point in time, specifically with reference to environmental performance. This can lead to unmatched prospects of production, storage, enhanced resilience, stability, and sharing / transformation pivotal information. Data could be exchanged and best processes can be chosen based on its stability, and resilience keeping the environmental issues in perspectives (Garagnani, 2013). This collating of information, incorporating consistency and fostering collaboration and coordination among different actors and professionals can result in structures that are more intelligently managed. This is further discussed in the later sections of this paper.
As indicated in the literature review section of this paper, utilization of state of the art computer aided technologies, such as BIM and procedural frameworks, such as LCA, can definitely provide support in improving reliance as well as sustainability of the construction projects. However, during the desk base research, it was found that since BIM is a more user friendly and a multidimensional tool, it is at advantage especially with reference to constructional resilience. Whereas LCA, when applied to enhance the sustainability, can produce optimum results for any construction project. However, it has been proven difficult to extract a comparative-based results on these techniques from the reviewed literature. Therefore, it was important to obtain views of the construction engineering practitioners; to develop understanding of these tools these are being utilized to enhance sustainability and resilience, and also find the user-prospective on the connection between the two technologies under investigation.
Therefore, a survey questionnaire was developed which included descriptive as well as multiple choice easy to fill questions. This was them distributed across a number of construction companies across the UK as well as within the city of Birmingham. Site managers, assistant site managers, site supervisors, project leads and executive project managers were engaged into taking the survey. The questionnaire was distributed among large and small construction companies, including the designing companies that were part of building business for over 5 years. The project managers, project leaders and project directors having relevant experience in the field and construction industry were the target of this survey.
The details of the questionnaire has been included on the appendix section of this paper. Out of the 150 practitioners contacted online (through e-mails and/or online available contact), 57 personnel responded. Some of the respondents were associated from the same organization, however this data was not filtered since the aim was to members at different stages of project completion.
Some of the practitioners did not hold enough accreditation to be made part of the research and their information was not included in the data processing. Moreover the responders that were not using BIM or LCA tools had to be excluded since they fail to serve the purpose of this study. So out of 57, 46 survey questionnaire forms were considered (Please refer to Appendix for details about the questionnaire)
Following is the pie chart of designation of people that took part in this survey.
Figure 1: Roles of interviewees (sources: data obtained from questionnaire)
Although most of the questionnaires were mailed to companies, some were delivered by hand to related companies situated inside the Birmingham city. It was encouraged that the survey was filled by a senior concerned member of construction team such as site manager or assistant site manager.
The main focus of this primary research was to views in terms of; the best solution from LCA and BIM, how to improve resilience and stability in a construction process., the impact of LCA and BIM on resilience and sustainability of a construction project, the connection between LCA and BIM, how can the practitioner describe resilience and sustainability and which technique, and to obtain views on which of the technique can be best utilized to achieve resilience and sustainability. The descriptive questions were not customized so that the practitioners could present their opinion in their own words on the basis of their practical knowledge.
The multiple choice questions were customized for both LCA and BIM techniques, on the basis of performance, importance of resilience and sustainability on construction projects. Furthermore, question related to prioritizing the factors on the basis of importance in construction process and overall life cycle and the Importance of environment impact on the end product were also included in the questionnaire. Connection between LCA and BIM on the basis of performance in construction projects, importance of an environment friendly methodology, which technique is better and which is comparatively difficult to implement were also considered / included while drafting the questionnaire
Scope of descriptive questions was to find out the approach of participants towards basic methodologies and how can sustainability and resilience be enhanced by using LCA and BIM according to their point of view. The table below presents the basic questions included in the data collection
Table 1; Descriptive interview questions
How would you describe resilience / sustainability in construction projects?
What are the connection / link between the LCA and BIM?
What do you think is the impact of LCA/BIM in terms of resilience and sustainability of projects?
In your opinion, which of the techniques can more effectively addresses sustainability and resilience issues, and why?
In your opinion, what do you think is the best strategy to optimize and/or integrate the project sustainability and resilience?
In response to the question related resilience and sustainability and their connection, majority of the respondents suggested that although these terms can be expressed as similar in general prospective, however in a more technical prospective, these terms hold their specific relevance. As one the respondent quoted;
“Resilience and sustainability cannot be used interchangeably; this is because they present different aspects in construction system. Projects are managed in such a way that the system present sustainable practices, however it may or may not ensure that structure itself is designed with resilient qualities“
(Senior Construction consultant / site manager)
Another respondent to this question in a different way;
”A sustainable system can be defined as a system that has the ability to overcome instability, which is the same as for resilience. A sustainable building will face minimum outside disturbances and a resilient system will overcome them very quickly. This means that a resilient system points towards sustainability”.
To the question related the connection between LCA and BIM, majority of the practitioners agreed that BIM and LCA both play a vital role in achieving resilience and sustainability, one way or another. In many of the form received, the connection was defined as an ‘engineered approach’ that is adopted in both techniques to enhance the overall productivity of construction, as indicated by the responses as below;
“LCA and BIM both works towards sustainability and overall project performance enhancement. BIM is a project management tool whereas LCA increase the lifecycle, and both helps in sustainable construction in so many ways”
“Both allows sustainable construction approach and enhances work ethics. Increases productivity”
Upon asking which tool has so far helped them more in attaining sustainability and resilience, an amazing number (38/46) replied that BIM has been utilized for more effectively in their experiences. Many of the respondents suggested BIM is more actively used and addresses many of the constructional activities, hence suggesting that it the tool that can be best utilized under varying circumstances
“Depends on how one uses it. BIM is being more frequently and effectively used than any other construction tools. LCA is a good approach, however less utilized on construction sites”
“BIM is an effective system. LCA has its own advantages such as energy conservation, waste management and enhanced product lifecycle. BIM on the other hand, makes the construction process more manageable”
When enquired about the best strategy to optimize and/or integrate the project sustainability and resilience, majority of the respondents suggested that it is the approach towards construction that matters the most. Many of the personnel who filled the forms indicated that the optimum strategy is to undertake the best practices and consider all the elements involved. Some of the respondents also added that an integral form of approach can results in the best results. Some of the response were as follows;
”Neither BIM nor LCA can be taken out of the picture. LCA increases lifecycle which is excellent and BIM eases the processes. May be the future is for an integral approach”
“…Construction is a complicated practice, as the complete life cycle of the buildings have to be considered, sustainability and resilience against harsh environments requires use of both techniques… and “…In order to meet the diverse set of client requirements, a combinational use of techniques are required…” and “self-sustaining, self-sufficient system requires the use of both BIM and LCA”
From the results obtained / presented, it was observed that for most of the construction managers, the decision of selection between LCA and BIM is dependent upon the project priorities, such how much importance is given to resilience, sustainability, the ability to cut energy costs, waste management, timely delivery and evenly distributed work load etc. Most of the site representatives were convinced that BIM is important for a successful completion of construction project and even after during the whole product life cycle. On the other hand, it seemed that there is a general lack of information for complete implementation of LCA stages. However, LCA was suggested as an extremely important practice when addressing the environmental concerns of materials used in the construction process
The multiple choice questions were targeted to obtains practitioner’s views on specific elements of the construction requirements. When asked about how important do they think is sustainability for their projects, the following response was received;
Figure 2: Fundamental research questions (sustainability importance) results
This response showed that more than 65% of practitioners believe that sustainability is the most important attribute in a construction project. 32% thought it to be important and only 2% thought it to be fairly important.
Similarly, upon asking the importance of resilience for their construction project, the response received looked like this:
Figure 3: Fundamental research questions (resilience importance) results
In this case, 56% of the managers beings asked about resilience replied it to be most important. 39% of the practitioners declared resilience to important for their construction projects. Only 5% considered resilience for their buildings fairly important. This results show that sustainability is slightly more important from the prospective of site managers. Since none of the practitioners that were being surveyed think that sustainability and/or resilience is not important, confirms the fact that all personnel involved had utilized BIM and/or LCA in their previous 5 years of practice to enhance sustainable practices at their respective construction sites.
In order to gain opinion of the technology is best suited for the subject matter, various question were drafted for the practitioners. Following graph demonstrates the performance and applicability of BIM by the participants in terms of resilience and sustainability.
Table 2; BIM Rating (sources: data obtained from questionnaire)
As shown in the graph above, majority of the responses are divided into either excellent or good rating. 45% of the participants that took part in survey pointed that the application and its performance is excellent. On the other hand 48% rated the performance and application of BIM to be good. To another question most of the participants also suggested that BIM is a relatively better technique in terms of impact. From these results, it was observed that the overall rating of BIM on the basis of their practical application and advantages is excellent. Users of this tool are hugely satisfied with their choice. BIM was clearly number one choice for achieving better results in a construction project.
Following graph demonstrates the performance and applicability of LCA rating by the participants in terms of resilience and sustainability.
Table 3; LCA Rating (sources: data obtained from questionnaire)
The graph based on the answers given by the responders demonstrates that LCA is not an as favored tool as BIM when it comes to performance and practicality. Many companies do not use it altogether and some of those that do utilize it at a very later stage of construction (once the construction resumes or procurement practices are initiated). Majority of the participants further suggested (to another questions) that LCA is a relatively more difficult technique to implement, especially with reference to resilience. Based on this survey, it is safe to state that LCA needs to be brought more into light and research must be done for stakeholders so that they are able to fully benefit from it.
The link / connection between the two tools under study were suggested as follows;
Table 4; Link between BIM and LCA (sources: data obtained from questionnaire and interview)
As it can be seen from the table 4 above, almost all the participants agreed that both tools (BIM as well as LCA) are able to enhance sustainability and project productivity; as it was suggested as the strongest links (. Environmental performance enhancement was also considered to be a strong link by 33 participants, however a lesser number (27) believed that resilience is a strong link between the two tools. A similar pattern was observed to another question in which the participants suggested that sustainability and productivity is the prime concern of the practitioners
Another set of questions which were tailored to gain views on how the systems can be improved which strategies can be utilized to obtain the optimum results. The implications of these results are outlined in the Chapter below.
It was observed from the primary research completed that the stakeholders prefer to use BIM and highly recommend it. The most common logic that can be drawn from practical research and literature review suggests that since BIM allows to foresee the various phases and helps in resolving conflicts of interest, undertakes comprehensive designing / simulations, increases cost efficiency, BIM has been preferred by the practitioners. BIM is considered to have an equally influential impact on both resilience as well as sustainability, as observed from the research completed.
Another interesting observation that was being made during the survey was the fact that many stakeholder may not consider the product life cycle and environmental impact as their primary concern, probably because this impacts years after the completion of the projects, as indicated from the summarized results presented in below. Site engineers are less keen on environment conservation and impact their built project bring to it, as compared to other factors. Also, product’s lifecycle, which comes once the building is ready to be used, is observed to be relatively underestimated by stakeholders when, in fact, it is the extremely important stage when sustainability and resilience is being tested and judged. These factor could have resulted in the lack of optimism received with respect to the utilization of LCA in construction industry
Figure 4: Results Comparison (questionnaire), 2015
Note: The results above presents processed data in a summarized form, obtained from various question included in the questionnaire
The figure 4 above shows how the participants responded over questions related to the importance of various attributes for optimum project management. For example, according to a large number of respondents, sustainability was considered as the most important factor / attribute. However, It was obvious from the above bar graph that a large number of construction managers consider resilience, sustainability, the ability to cut energy costs, waste management, timely delivery and evenly distributed work load as important factors and use them as a decision making tool for choosing BIM or LCA. This goes on to show that since the stakeholders prefer most of the attributes as important, they are keen to work with the system that can cater all these attributes with minimal effort.
Although some of the site representatives were convinced that both of these techniques (BIM and LCA) are equally important for a successful completion of construction project and even during the whole product life cycle, however overall results indicated that LCA was not rated as highly as BIM especially with reference to the initial stages of projects. In case of most of the projects, there is an overall absence of data in the primary stages so BIM comes in handy where a number of options and implications of each tool are placed in front of manager to choose from. It gives a degree of freedom to all the stakeholders as the project proceeds. Each stakeholder is involved and hence demands are well catered at any stage of construction. This was also indicated form the results where most of the respondents stated that step by step understanding of the design related parameters is extremely important, and hence probably BIM was preferred.
A large number of participants agreed to the statement that “A devised methodology must focus on sustainability / resilience along with product’s energy consumption”. They further agreed that “Well defined procedures (through a central agency / frameworks) requiring specific use of tools can enhance the sustainability as well as resilience of construction projects”. These statements highlight the fact that there is a need to develop a standardized forms of tools which can be managed and implemented through a central governing agency. However, in the current industrial scenarios, sharing of critical information is quite difficult.
Summing down the previous discussion, it was concluded that a sustainable and resilient are the tools to judge a construction’s performance based upon environmental, social and economic criteria. This helps in fair and informed comparison between various alternatives while design framework is kept in perspective and this makes the handling of a huge amount of data fairly easy. According to primary research, sustainability and resilience can be achieved by both the techniques under study; BIM and LCA. This not only helps the environment but also keeps important factors such as life cycle, energy conservation and waste management process stress-free. In short, the techniques, in one way or the other, help all the stake holders directly or indirectly related to the project.
Sustainable design should be comprehensive, having more ventures made in the initial stages, but at the same time regarding the life-cycle of the building as an entire piece. Sustainable construction is not a complex or luxurious trend that does not pay off, it is an implementation of integrated design which considers all aspects of a project within a complete model instead of being analyzed as an individual component. Design plays the most important role. One must try to restrict the use of energy, excessive resource and end up creating an environment that is low in cost, functional, practical, and comfortable and environment friendly. These are elements where BIM plays a highly influential role, and hence much utilized in the current construction industry of UK.
LCA also offers resilience and sustainability attributes but it has yet to find its proper implication to get fully benefitted from this tool. Dealing with environmental impact and insinuations caused to it by the construction project. Working on LCA also increases social awareness and hence conserves environment while the project proceeds. Final budget of project does not include environmental effects; hence this can help in lowering of costs immensely. Moreover, conserving environment means conserving nature and ecosystem which contributes to sustainability and resilience against some of the most challenging and extreme nature conditions. Need of the time is to realize the importance and impacts of environment in human’s daily lives. Stakeholders need to realize that most significant part of sustainability is environmental and both others: economic and social hugely depends on it.
The reason why LCA is not favored by many is because there are no methods or tools designed entirely for measuring the impacts of life cycle assessment process. It is so far underrated because the extent of resilience and sustainability offered by LCA process depends on the databases available and inclusion of factors. During the project, many factors keep changing and it is impossible to predict the results completely on the basis of incomplete data, hence LCA cannot be evaluated on the basis of all the factors. Thus the results are vague and not very reliable. Furthermore, there is a lack of input during the designing stage of the project in this technique, especially in terms of the design of the structure, therefore it has not been widely appreciated with respect to structural resilience.
LCA focuses more of environmental stability whereas BIM promises socio-economic betterment from a project. Both are two different but equally important approaches. It is the need of hour to incorporate or integrate both these techniques to achieve a long-term, sustainable and resilient solution for the construction projects. This will help stake holders belonging from various domains to achieve their specific goals without compromising on their dynamics and elements. LCA helps in overall product’s lifecycle whereas BIM is the systematic approach during product creation to achieve the best form of a building. BIM brings all the investors close and benefits them all without damaging any one’s interests. LCA comes into play once the product is out and about the market. It smartly considers a number of data sources to form a flow chart and identifies the strength and weakness at a given time. Many onsite engineers and managers fail to provide the constantly changing data at the time of project execution. Hence most of the practitioners rated LCA as a more difficult technique to implement with limited resources of data at earlier stages
Therefore, a more integrated approach to research and practice is required especially for the incorporation of various disciplines, sections and phases of project. This approach can offer a solution that is based on extensive communication between various levels and stakeholders as well as on the basis of life cycle analyses of the structures. This approach can offer all shareholders to execute quick inspection of criterions and quality by comprehensive evaluation and this can be used to enhance sustainability and resilience of construction during and after project execution.
Furthermore, this approach can avoid complexities dealing with environment and lifecycle of product fairly easily. The integrated systems can have the potential to cater all the stakeholders and their conflicting interests without straining the cost and product’s usage / life cycle. This approach was also preferred / recommended by practitioners who took part in this research
Since energy conservation helps in cost control which is the ultimate goal of any stake holder, this data can be integrated into the computer aided tool such as BIM to attain best possible results, as cost and energy reduction are the two main factors considered while deciding the tool to be used in project management. Moreover, a system that is resilient must also be cost effective and vice versa. This simply implies that a resilient system will return or try to return to its stable state without an outside effort i.e. budget on maintenance is reduced to its minimum. Therefore this recommended approach can prove to be viable solution for the construction industry.
Therefore, future research is recommended to work upon the procedures or a computer aided tool / application to be developed which can meet the attributes of both BIM and LCA, and in which data can be easily shared / transferred across different formats. Moreover, research can also be completed on aspect of LCA so that can be more extensively and effectively utilized in the current UK’s construction industry
According to the literature reviewed and the research conducted in preceding chapters, it has been observed that BIM is more commonly used technique and preferred over LCA when considering the resilience and sustainability of a construction project. Indicated by the data obtained, most of the site workers/engineers rated performance and applicability of Building Information Modeling (BIM) better than that of Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA). This is supported by our literature review in secondary research which says that since BIM is more systematic and orderly process which involved communication between various stakeholders, it is mostly preferred over LCA which plays a role in later stages of development.
More than 80% of our survey participants felt more comfortable in using BIM for effective project management. This trend was also explained by literature review: BIM allows the stakeholders to visualize the construction at any stage of construction phase. This helps in foreseeing any errors or potential threat to the design and a strategy can be devised accordingly. This hugely cuts down effort and finances required to bring a change in the structure of an under construction building. LCA on the other hand does not necessarily support the stakeholders but rather is used for the product itself. It can determine the environmental impacts of a building and its performance analysis once it becomes a practical part of environment and help in energy consumption analysis and conservation. However its attributes specific to resilience of structures is yet to be addressed as it normally not a part of the designing processes.
Our survey suggested that more that 65% of clients and stakeholders are interested in a cost efficient solution for their construction project. Both BIM and LCA can save money when used in construction during and after the manufacturing of product or building. BIM helps in timely identification and removal of errors that result in a resilient, sustainable, cost effective and sound construction procedure that is not only cost effective but also long lasting.
Architects are more at ease while working with BIM techniques and this trend is indicated by our survey. This is because BIM adds value to work, resolves conflicts of interest between different stakeholders and different levels. It also helps identifying structural or design error way before it actually occurs and impacts the sustainability of building. This reduces on-site management tasks and burden can be divided in various levels, hence BIM makes the process manageable for all the stakeholders. BIM plays a great role in improving both sustainability and resilience by using technology that has been more recently optimized. The stakeholders communicate for the best possible solution for construction issues which fosters effective understanding, consideration and interest among them. LCA is systematic process that is environment friendly with minimum waste material disposed to the environment.
High quality, cost effectiveness and time conservation are among the main concerns of stakeholders when they choose a framework for the construction project. LCA offers high quality end product provided all the data resources are already known and calculated. LCA offers a systematic solution which is based on collecting and modeling of data. In most of the cases, estimating the data at the beginning of a project is realistically impossible. Many stakeholders do not have enough resources to collect and foresee data which is why LCA cannot be effectively implemented on a large scale.
However LCA still requires addition work and effort so that it can be effectively implemented. Better researched plan can include inventory analysis and inflows-outflows of processes, this increases data quality and in turn helps stakeholders build sustainable and resilient buildings that will be able to withstand unfavorable conditions. LCA underscores influences of various types of data in overall integrity of building before, during and after the development process. LCA is environmental, social, economic, ecological and/or structural friendly technique. All the stake holders, in one way or another, can make use of this technique in order to achieve the desired output from the project.
There is a strong link between LCA and BIM. The connection was suggested as; productivity, sustainability, environment and resilience (sustainability being the most relevant). Since both these techniques are highly useful, and integrated approach in the prospective future is recommended to enhance the overall performance of construction is today’s demanding era. This reveals an opportunity for the researchers, IT specialists and other stakeholders to work towards integrating the benefits offered by systems such as LCA into a more comprehensive computer aided tools.
During this research, it was also observed that there is no legal framework or any other form of system that details the necessity of using the state of the art technological tools. Even BIM on its own do not have a standardized format and is unable to integrate import information from other sources / software / tools into its data base. LCA on other hand on can be utilized through so many different methods and techniques. Therefore, a lot of work is required to standardize all the technologies have to offer, so that a wider range of teams can benefit from such resources.
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The Impact of Technology in Improving Resilience and Sustainability in Construction Projects – Case of BIM and LCA
R Assistant site manger
Executive project head
Less than 1 year
R More than 5 years
Both LCA and BIM
Descriptive questions (Please briefly answer the following questions)
Both are different technically, but can have some common backgrounds
Sustainability and environmental aspects
BIM for both sustainability where as LCA for sustainability and environment
BIM makes the task very, very easy for the managers. LCA has its own plus points such as energy conservation, waste management and enhanced product lifecycle. BIM
BIM has been far more used than any other construction tools. This does not mean that we do not use LCA; it simple means that LCA has smaller, but nevertheless, a role in the overall effectiveness of our construction.
Multiple choice questions (Mark the best answers, more than 1 can be selected where appropriate)
R Most important
BIM R Excellent LCA Excellent
Satisfactory R Satisfactory
R Fairly important
R Strongly agree
Both LCA and BIM
Both LCA and BIM
Product’s lifecycle 2
Environmental impact 3
Energy consumption 4
Cost effectiveness 3
Other (please specify) (____________)
Raw material disposal and handling
R Step-by-step understanding of design
Not environment friendly
Both enhances sustainability
R Both enhances resilience
Both enhances environmental performance
Both enhances project’s productivity
Other (please specify) (____________)
Thank you for taking time to complete this questionnaire!