A Framework for Benchmarking and Monitoring Building Construction Embodied Carbon Footprint using Building Information Models

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Virginia Tech

In recent years, the application of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) databases has enabled architects/engineers to quantify the environmental impact of building materials for whole building analysis and comparative analyses of design alternatives. The application of building information modeling (BIM) has facilitated this process by providing designers and engineers with the detailed bill of materials required for LCA. However three limitations exist: First, LCA assessments have been limited to the design phase of a project delivery or post completion phase. Consequently, it does not help incentivize the choice of suppliers and delivery strategies that minimize the cradle-to-site impacts. Second, majority LCA tools ignore the impact of construction means and methods during the construction phase. Third, there is a lack of metrics and visualization tools that assess environmental impacts of decisions made during pre-construction and construction phase. As a result, little incentive exists for suppliers to provide embodied carbon footprint rates, and similarly, for contractors to balance project costs, schedule objectives with the corresponding environmental impact. To address these challenges, we propose and develop a new framework that applies BIM for reliable, effective benchmarking, monitoring, and visualization of embodied carbon footprint of construction projects. It comprises of a benchmarking module, and a monitoring and visualization module. In the experiments, this framework is implemented on concrete placement activities during the construction of the Center for the Arts facility at Virginia Tech. The developed framework can revolutionize construction by a) a rapid assessment and visualization of the deviations between expected and released carbon footprint, b) incentivizing contractors to request that manufacturers and suppliers gauge and share their carbon footprints as a part of contractor submittal process and c) incentivizing those construction firms that can complete their project with an overall carbon footprint rate lower than what is budgeted during the pre-construction or compared to the values from the design phase, while documenting and using the performance results as a benchmark for future similar projects.

Embodied Carbon Footprint, Building Information Modeling, Construction Performance Benchmarking and Monitoring