In the ever-evolving landscape of construction, a paradigm has emerged, transforming the way we conceive, design, and deconstruct buildings. At the forefront of this transformative wave stands Building Information Modelling (BIM), a process of developing building-related information in a collaborative manner across the project development, construction and Facility Management value chains while tackling the broader digitalisation of those processes across life cycles of built assets.
Over the last few decades, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) has been leading the way in using BIM in Luxembourg through its applied activities, its outreach activities and its research and development projects designed to shape the future applications of BIM in line with the major transformations taking place in the sector.
The challenges posed by climate change and the urgent need to reduce the environmental impact of the built environment are at the heart of LIST's research and innovation activities, with a focus on projects to harness BIM and digital models and processes to tackle the environmental transition.
"BIM and digital models are most certainly central to the development of innovations for the built environment," says Sylvain Kubicki, Lead Research and Innovation Associate at LIST. "Beyond the intended use of BIM for the design, construction or operation of a building, we need to consider it as a source of data to address other issues, including decarbonisation through life cycle assessment, environmental reporting or circularity."
In the strategy of the European Construction, built environment and energy efficient building Technology Platform (ECTP), to which LIST is actively contributing, research is also planned into the use of BIM in conjunction with artificial intelligence and digital twins. "Given climate change and the urgent need to mitigate the impacts of our built environment, we can emphasise that most research strategies see the digital transition as a necessary and short-term step to promote ambitious policies and virtuous practices in the construction and real estate sector," adds Sylvain. As a matter of fact, in the Strategic Research Agenda of ECTP, most BIM-related innovations are foreseen to be tangibly used or transferred to the market by 2030.
Bringing its innovative vision at the forefront of new BIM applications, LIST contributed to the 2023 edition of BIMLUX, an event co-organised with CRTI-B, the OAI and NeoBuild on 17 November 2023 at the Chambre de Commerce. Based on the outcomes of several of its projects, LIST organised two sessions on Digital DeConstruction and Life Cycle Assessment.
The growing quest for circular practices in construction requires more efficient deconstruction practices to reuse more building materials and components. As part of the Digital DeConstruction project, a digital workflow has been designed to support the cycle of inspection, inventory and reuse decision-making. Annie Guerriero, Senior Research & Technology Associate at LIST, explains: "Only 3% of construction waste is currently considered for reuse. There is a huge opportunity for a circular approach".
With the Digital Deconstruction platform, LIST has developed support for the entire cycle and informed decision-making. Jean-Yves Marié, CEO of BIM-Y, adds that "the support of 3D scanning makes materials inventory much faster and more cost-effective". "Applied to the deconstruction of Ettelbruck station, the process enabled us to achieve a reuse rate of 17%, which is a major step forward," adds Camille Feraud, engineer in the Ouvrages d’Art department at Schroeder & Associés, involved in many reuse inventories .
These results are very promising. Of course, digital innovation is not the only need for supporting circular economy in the construction, which will require also social innovations and new business models, but it is a first step in the good direction!
With carbon footprint reduction at the heart of future EU policies and regulations, life cycle assessment will be increasingly in demand for property development projects. Among other issues, the rationalisation of the use of BIM for LCA is set to be a game-changer, with expected gains in terms of time and cost, as well as resolving data quality issues.
Julien L'Hoest, Administrator at Energie et Environnement, explains: "The quality of quantity estimates from the earliest stages of a project is essential for setting targets in terms of embodied carbon and monitoring the impact of project decisions throughout the process". "This is why it is necessary to use software tools that simplify the mapping of BIM elements to their impacts in environmental databases", continues Florent Fontaine during his practical demonstration of OneClickLCA, one of the leading software packages on the market.
Calin Boje, research associate at LIST, goes on to explain how "research and innovation are helping to develop new approaches to data interoperability around BIM models and digital twins". He adds that "a broad approach to sustainability, including its environmental, economic and social aspects, is needed to accompany the transformation of the built environment", citing recent projects carried out by LIST and its partners, including SemanticLCA and LegoFit.
The journey towards the rationalisation of BIM in construction projects is still ongoing and the success of events such as BIMLUX shows the commitment of the sector in Luxembourg. In 2024, LIST will co-organise Sustainable Places for the European research and innovation community, a three-day event that will bring together around 150 research projects and their partners. This will be a unique opportunity to access a dynamic community and showcase Luxembourg's strong projects and expertise!