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Sustainability drivers

Used here, the term ‘sustainability’ refers to sustainable development, a concept that can be defined in a number of ways.

For example, the Brundtland Commission’s report defines sustainable development as:

‘Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’

(Brundtland Commission 1987: 41)

Alternatively, the non-profit charitable organisation, Forum for the Future defines it as:

‘A dynamic process which enables all people to realise their potential and to improve their quality of life in ways which simultaneously protect the Earth’s life support systems.’

(Forum for the Future, n.d.)

John Elkington, meanwhile, coined the term Triple Bottom Line (TBL) to refer to the thinking that true sustainable development must consider not just the financial bottom line of prosperity and profit, but also environmental quality and social equity.

It must be noted that today, the notion of sustainability is no longer limited to these three aspects, and has grown to encompass many more areas, including ethical issues and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

However we define sustainability, it is accepted globally as the most effective way of resolving the issues that have negatively affected development activities on both local and international levels.

Sustainable development targets

The United Nations provides guidelines and measures through 17 sustainable development goals (formally known as Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development), set in 2015 to tackle various development-related issues. However, different nations also have their own targets for sustainability.

In the UK, for instance, carbon emissions, energy consumption and waste management are some of the most important environmental issues to address. The UK has therefore set up various bodies to pioneer activities for sustainability.

For example, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) is the UK government’s statutory body to lead monitoring of carbon emissions and monitor climate change in the UK. It was established under the Climate Change Act 2008 and one of its duties is to set mitigation targets for the nation.

The table below shows a summary of the current (2018-2032) reduction targets:

Carbon budget Budget period Reduction target (below 1990 levels) Target year
First 2008-2012 3,018 MtCO2e (25%) -
Second 2013-2017 2,782 MtCO2e (31%) -
Third 2018-2022 2,544 MtCO2e (37%) 2020
Fourth 2023-2027 1,950 MtCO2e (51%) 2025
Fifth 2028-2032 1,725 MtCO2e (57%) 2030

Source: Climate Change Committee (2018)

The BIM impact

The Architectural, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry is a major contributor of carbon emissions, both at a project’s construction stage and throughout its entire lifecycle. The need to reduce carbon emissions in the UK has led to the adoption of a variety of strategies.

Thanks to the huge amount of data that BIM is able to generate and its ability to identify high carbon emission causes and processes, it has a major part to play in helping the UK move toward sustainable carbon emission levels.

The AEC industry is also one of the major contributors to waste creation around the world, with construction, demolition and refurbishment accounting for around 100m tonnes of waste every year in the UK alone. Construction waste represents 32% of total waste (the highest in a single industry), compared to mining and quarrying (29%) and industrial waste (14%) (BRE 2006: 3).

BIM can be used to reduce waste on projects through:

  • Efficient design
  • Reduction in rework
  • Lifecycle planning
  • Utilising BIM project data from inception through to demolition

Your task

Find examples of state-of-the-art buildings around the world that have sustainability in mind.

How did they achieve their sustainability goals?

Comment on two other comments from your fellow learners.


Building Research Establishment (BRE) (2006) Developing a Strategic Approach to Construction Waste [online] available from https://www.bre.co.uk/filelibrary/pdf/rpts/waste/ConstructionWasteReport240906.pdf [24 July 2018]

Brundtland Commission (1987) Our Common Future: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development [online] available from http://www.un-documents.net/our-common-future.pdf [1 August 2018]

The Climate Change Committee (2017) Carbon Budgets: How We Monitor Emissions Targets [online] available from https://www.theccc.org.uk/tackling-climate-change/reducing-carbon-emissions/carbon-budgets-and-targets/ [10 July 2018]

Forum for the Future (n.d) Sustainability and system change [online] available from https://www.forumforthefuture.org/sustainability-and-system-change [3 April 2019]

Sustainabledevelopment.un.org (2015) Sustainable Development Goals: Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform [online] available from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300 [1 May 2019].

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This article is from the free online course:

BIM Implementation within the AEC Industry

Coventry University