Should BIM become a LEED Requirement?

It can be a struggle to hack your way through today’s acronym juggle in just about any industry, but especially in the AEC industry (it’s an acronym itself!). There are UAS/UAV (aka drones), LiDAR scanners (aka light detection and ranging), BIM (aka building information model), and many others in the alphabet soup.

With alternative project delivery methods, like design-build becoming more common, BIM or ‘building information models’ are becoming increasingly more popular. As technology like IPADs and other software providers make these models and the information from them more accessible, especially to guys in the field where it is needed most. BIM is a 3D model representing physical assets from entire infrastructure pieces like buildings down to the components like columns, mechanical ducts, and underground utilities.

LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council is perhaps one of the most popular green building initiatives having been deployed internationally. This system includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods.

LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. They do not explicitly tell you how to achieve LEED, and yes there are best practices from past projects, but they do however provide a framework. Using BIM for a project could be a part of this framework.

Using BIM is a method that can help designers achieve LEED status. The model enables architects/engineers to evaluate and certify that the proposed structure meets LEED standards, for example by running thermal analysis. These models can also be used, for the critical documentation process to achieve that LEED status, something that is easy to overlook. The information attached to or derived from the models can be used throughout the building life cycle.

As technology that compliments BIM continues to improve, such as augmented reality, additional benefits can be realized. This example can help reduce paper on the jobsite, reducing waste is certainly a LEED goal. Maybe even more beneficial is the incredible impact that having BIM has on facilities management, the most expensive part of the building life cycle.

While it is not an explicit requirement today, BIM will become a more common tool in the framework to achieve LEED in the coming years. We think it may even warrant a discussion on whether BIM should qualify for additional credits.