You can’t have a discussion about the building industry today without the topic turning towards "going green." New green building products and techniques are being developed and utilized every day.

The green trend has also hit the software sector, where more and more green-centric software products are being designed. No technology has had a greater impact on green initiatives in the software market than Building Information Modeling (BIM).

BIM makes it possible for 3D digital models to carry and exchange intelligent information that is maintained throughout the lifecycle of a building project. Information such as material definition, quantity and price can be associated with the building elements contained within the BIM model and can be utilized by many members of the construction team.

BIM technology lends itself nicely towards green initiatives because these intelligent building models can also carry information relating to thermal data, surface area, and geographical position and orientation.

One of the leading organizations in the green building technology sector is the gbXML Alliance. The green building XML schema (gbXML) was developed to facilitate the transfer of building information stored in CAD models. The file format enables interoperability between building design models and a wide variety of engineering analysis tools.

GBXML is fast becoming the standard format in the world of software where the exchange of green building information through digital modes is concerned. Leading companies such as Autodesk, Cadsoft, and Bentley focus on the support of the gbXML format for the transfer of green data between one BIM software tool and another for various purposes.

An excellent example of the use of this technology in the residential industry is Cadsoft’s Envisioneer software. Envisioneer is an easy-to-use BIM authoring tool aimed at designers, builders and remodelers. Envisioneer supports the gbXML format and can upload a complete home design to Autodesk’s Green Building Studio, a web-based energy analysis platform.

The gbXML format makes it possible for Green Building Studio to perform a whole building analysis of an Envisioneer model, optimize energy efficiency, and work toward carbon neutrality. GBS also accepts files from commercial-based BIM authoring tools such as Autodesk Revit. For a full list of software products that currently support the GBXML schema, visit their website.

Another interesting organization that is utilizing Building Information Modeling and incorporating green initiatives is Green 3D Home. Green 3D Home offers a free BIM authoring tool that consumers can use to model their own home and landscape. Green 3D Home users can also go to the company’s web site to exchange information via forums and learn how to reduce their home’s energy use, save money, and lessen their impact on the environment.

Green 3D Home also offers a huge collection of BIM catalogs from specific manufacturers including Anderson Windows, Lennox and Maytag. Anyone can download these catalogs free of charge and use them in other consumer-based BIM software packages including HGTV Home and Landscape and IMSI’s TurboFloorPlan.

Many organizations are adopting Green BIM technology and using it for education and advancement within the building industry. One such organization is Earth Advantage Institute, which uses a variety of BIM platforms to show builders the value of building green, and to illustrate sustainable building practices.

Earth Advantage Institute uses an Energy Performance Score (EPS) to rate a home’s energy consumption and emissions. EPS is the core of an economic "ecosystem" that can speed the adoption of residential energy efficiency.

The Institute states that EPS is superior because it enables homebuyers to assess actual energy consumption rather than compare energy efficiency levels that could be similar for both a large and a small home. It also eliminates the confusion that can occur when comparing homes to a hypothetical "index" house.

The use of BIM technology to illustrate green building practices and design helps to drive home their message in a more visual and enlightening way.

By far, Building Information Modeling has given green building the most dramatic push in the construction software industry. As more organizations embrace the union of BIM and green building practices and look to promote and facilitate the green movement, we can be sure to see more dynamic changes in building software technology.

Written by: Brad Finck

About the Author
Brad Finck oversees the business development and overall production of the Cadsoft product line for the architectural and construction industry. Software titles produced include the award winning Envisioneer software for industry professionals as well as leading consumer titles including the 3D Home Architect series, distributed through retail channels worldwide.

For the past twenty years, Mr. Finck has been involved in the CAD construction industry working with Architects, Builders and CAD vendors to create industry solutions. As a member of the Association of Architectural Technologists of Ontario, National Association of Home Builders, and the Building Systems Council, he has written numerous articles for CAD related publications for the design and construction industry.