IFC and BIM based concept for improved material resource efficiency in the built environment

Markova, Stanimira; Brück, Sabine (Thesis advisor); Beetz, Jakob (Thesis advisor)

Aachen (2019)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, 2019


The building sector constitutes a significant proportion to the global resource availability situation, consuming alone more than 50% of the material resources and producing more than 65% of the waste worldwide (European Commission, 2009, European Commission, 2011, ECN Policy Studies, 2013, European Commission, 2011a, European Commission, 2011b). The causes can be identified in some of the specifics of the typical building design process: 1) environmental performance goals focused on material recourse efficiency in buildings, such a material recovery and recyclability, material and element reusability and material waste reduction design, have not been explicitly introduced as equally important to technical, construction, safety and other design goals in the building design process yet, 2) due to the highly divergent tools and data formats utilized in a typical building project, the necessary material information for environmental performance simulation is not available in unified quantity and quality, and hence, 3) as result of 1) and 2) no reliable design-stage simulation and optimization of the building material efficiency performance over the entire life cycle can be performed at the very moment, when the majority of building performance parameters are immutably determined for the entire life cycle. This is a crucial point in the case of one-of-a-kind products like buildings, which have a comparatively long life expectancy. In the context of aiming for a clean re-introduction of materials in possibly closed, low-waste material cycles, it is essential. With the introduction and progressing adoption of the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) standard, a unified framework for the entire building related data generation, documentation and exchange was established. While IFC is the framework of the semantic content of all building and building life cycle related objects and the hierarchical organization between them (geometrical, temporal, material etc.), Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the interdisciplinary design process based environment wherein buildings are design by means of semantic objects and parameter data representation and data control. The main question underlying this work is if the "zero waste house", in other words the building design method, which enables the near to closed utilization cycle of materials after the end-of life of the building in the next building projects, is technically and practically achievable in a large scale for any building project nowadays. In this context, further supporting questions to be researched are: How should the design process be structured and organized to achieve the "zero waste house"? Which are the tools and systems to support and achieve "zero waste house" design? and which are the design goals, building parameters and variables fundamental to the simulation and optimization of any building concept towards the "zero waste house"? The focus of the work is on the development of a roadmap for design, simulation and optimization for improved building material efficiency, supported by the principles and techniques of the semantic parametric building design. In the first part of the work a methodical material efficiency concept is proposed, where the relevant parameters of the material information, as well as parametric and process interdependencies, critical for the material efficiency performance, and logic-check workflows of the concept are defined and organized in semantic and temporal hierarchical structures. The next part of the work is focused on the IFC and BIM approaches, the methods for semantic content extension and the simulation and the optimization of explicit design goals in both environments. To verify the implementability and functionality of the concept in practice, a proof of concept is defined and tested on a real building use-case. In the last section, the results are discussed from different perspectives, including the industrial and political frameworks required for the development of a software tool for the automated simulation and optimization following the roadmap. Different scenarios are outlined and critically addressed, discussing the span from the possible impact of the systematic activation of measure in the building process on the one side to possibility of complete failing of society, industry, economy and politics to react to the status quo of the resource inefficiency in the built environment.


  • Bauplan Teaching and Research Unit [213220]