Special Issue "Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Guillaume Habert
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Interests: life cycle assessment; climate neutral buildings; waste valorization; low carbon cement; sustainability assessment; applied clay science; earth construction; engineered natural building materials
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Alexander Hollberg
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Chalmers University of Technology
Interests: Life Cycle Assessment of buildings; Parametric design; Real-time analysis methods
Prof. Dr. Alexander Passer
E-Mail
Guest Editor
Institute of Technology and Testing of Building Materials, Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria
Interests: Sustainable Construction; LCA; BIM

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Digitalisation can facilitate collaborative design and could provide new opportunities for planning sustainable buildings. Especially the integration of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) into the design by means of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has the potential to facilitate environmental performance assessment. By linking material properties with the geometry, material-related environmental impacts such as embodied energy and greenhouse gas emissions can be calculated based on the digital model. In addition, BIM can provide the basis for building performance simulation and therefore the environmental evaluation of the use phase of the building. Furthermore, the recycling potentials of components and their materials can be directly derived from BIM and will provide information for circular material flows. The costs of the construction throughout the life cycle can also be easily calculated based on BIM. While substantial research on frameworks has been published in the last decade and individual case studies have shown the potential of BIM for sustainable construction there are still many challenges regarding applying BIM-based environmental performance assessment and optimization on a large scale.

This Special Issue calls for papers that contribute digital approaches to a transformation to a net zero carbon built environment. These topics include, but are not limited to

  • BIM-based Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and/or Life Cycle Costing (LCC)
  • BIM-based building performance simulation
  • BIM-based workflows for integrating sustainability assessments in the design process
  • BIM-based support for building certification / sustainability assessments
  • Assessing circularity based on BIM
  • Visualisation and design integration of LCA/LCC results
  • Optimization approaches towards life-cycle environmental performance including AI
  • Tool development and parametric scripting


Prof. Dr. Guillaume Habert
Dr. Alexander Hollberg
Prof. Dr. Alexander Passer
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Building Information Modelling (BIM)
  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
  • Life Cycle Costing (LCC)
  • Sustainable Construction
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Optimization
  • parametric design
  • building performance simulation
  • embodied energy
  • greenhouse gas emissions

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Article
How to Obtain Accurate Environmental Impacts at Early Design Stages in BIM When Using Environmental Product Declaration. A Method to Support Decision-Making
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 6927; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12176927 - 26 Aug 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1155
Abstract
The construction sector plays an important role in moving towards a low-carbon economy. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is considered one of the most effective methods of analytically evaluating environmental profiles and an efficient tool for calculating the environmental impacts in building design-oriented methodologies, [...] Read more.
The construction sector plays an important role in moving towards a low-carbon economy. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is considered one of the most effective methods of analytically evaluating environmental profiles and an efficient tool for calculating the environmental impacts in building design-oriented methodologies, such as building information modelling (BIM). At early design stages, generic LCA databases are used to conduct the life cycle inventory (LCI), while detailed stages require more detailed data, such as environmental product declarations (EPDs), namely documents that provide accurate results and precise analyses based on LCA. Limitations are recognized when using EPDs in BIM elements at different levels of development (LOD) in the design stages, especially related to the data consistency and system boundaries of the LCA. This paper presents a method of achieving accurate LCA results, that helps with decision-making and provides support in the selection of building products and materials. The method is validated by its application in the structural concrete of an office building located in Germany. The method defines a safety factor adopted for embodied impacts (“cradle-to-gate”), based on EPD results to predict the environmental impact of BIM elements at different LODs. The results obtained show that by integrating the method to conduct the LCA, the range of errors and possible inconsistencies in the LCA results can be reduced. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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Article
The BIM2LCA Approach: An Industry Foundation Classes (IFC)-Based Interface to Integrate Life Cycle Assessment in Integral Planning
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6558; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166558 - 13 Aug 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1299
Abstract
An increasing degree of digitalization in construction planning offers significant potential for building life cycle assessment (LCA) to reduce access barriers, as well as the assessment effort itself. To realize the widespread application of LCA tools and their potential to effectively minimize life [...] Read more.
An increasing degree of digitalization in construction planning offers significant potential for building life cycle assessment (LCA) to reduce access barriers, as well as the assessment effort itself. To realize the widespread application of LCA tools and their potential to effectively minimize life cycle impacts, an open approach is required that allows for flexible application of comprehensive LCA studies and early integration in planning processes. The authors present an approach for LCA integration in all phases of digital planning which aims at a DGNB (Deutsche Gesellschaft für nachhaltiges Bauen) certification based on the open Building Information Modeling (BIM) standard Industry Foundation Classes (IFC). The approach takes into account varying levels of development and resulting data availability during integral planning phases, as well as resulting LCA application contexts. It goes beyond existing strategies and allows one to consider both BIM and LCA software through a workflow based on a single data format. The assessment framework is operationalized through standardized interface development and technical realization following the information delivery manual (IDM) process standardized for IFC interfaces. The Extensible Markup Language (XML) schema, as a specific implementation for certification, provides the target system for LCA data requirements and is generalized to a planning phase specific IDM base table. The technical realization based on respective model view definitions and distributed data suggests a pathway to the standardization of LCA-IFC integration based on an open approach. The overall approach exemplarily applies to the “LERNZENTRUM” at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) campus. We conclude that an open BIM approach for LCA integration in model-based planning is feasible, but requires several adjustments in IFC, LCA, and planning practice. Adding a lifecycle element to the IFC to connect BIM and LCA provides comprehensive feedback for informed decision making based on environmental impact. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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Article
Recommendations for Developing a BIM for the Purpose of LCA in Green Building Certifications
Sustainability 2020, 12(15), 6151; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156151 - 30 Jul 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1033
Abstract
Building information modeling (BIM) and life cycle assessment (LCA) are two methods that can be helpful when designing buildings with lower environmental impacts. One of the most significant examples of environmental impact assessments in construction is green building certification. Certified buildings have improved [...] Read more.
Building information modeling (BIM) and life cycle assessment (LCA) are two methods that can be helpful when designing buildings with lower environmental impacts. One of the most significant examples of environmental impact assessments in construction is green building certification. Certified buildings have improved performance and greater asset value. In this study, four certification systems were investigated for their potential interconnections with BIM and LCA. The main tasks were (1) to review a BIM-based workflow, (2) assess its usage as an input for the LCA within green certifications, and (3) provide suggestions for developing building models. Building models can be helpful during the design process, but the best results are expected when the specifically described steps are followed. These suggestions aim at improving building models in terms of their usage for green building certifications and particularly for LCA. All the investigated results were clarified and adjusted using a model of a recently finished building in Zug. As reference tools, One Click LCA and a manual process were selected. The outcomes were aligned with those of other studies and confirmed the necessity of good data and management quality for building projects. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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Article
Using Open BIM and IFC to Enable a Comprehensive Consideration of Building Services within a Whole-Building LCA
Sustainability 2020, 12(14), 5644; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12145644 - 14 Jul 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1486
Abstract
Holistic views of all environmental impacts for buildings such as Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) are rarely performed. Building services are mostly included in this assessment only in a simplified way, which means that their embodied impacts are usually underestimated. Open Building Information Modeling [...] Read more.
Holistic views of all environmental impacts for buildings such as Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) are rarely performed. Building services are mostly included in this assessment only in a simplified way, which means that their embodied impacts are usually underestimated. Open Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) provide for significantly more efficient and comprehensive LCA performance. This study investigated how building services can be included in an open BIM-integrated whole-building LCA for the first time, identified challenges and showed six solution approaches. Based on the definition of 222 exchange requirements and their mapping with IFC, an example BIM model was modeled before the linking of 7312 BIM objects of building services with LCA data that were analyzed in an LCA tool. The results show that 94.5% of the BIM objects could only be linked by applying one of the six solution approaches. The main problems were due to: (1) modeling by a lack of standardization of attributes of BIM objects; (2) difficult machine readability of the building services LCA datasets as well as a general lack of these; and (3) non-standardized properties of building services and LCA specific dataset information in the IFC data format. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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Article
Integrated BIM-Based LCA for the Entire Building Process Using an Existing Structure for Cost Estimation in the Swiss Context
Sustainability 2020, 12(9), 3748; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12093748 - 05 May 2020
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 2113
Abstract
The building sector has a significant potential to reduce the material resource demand needed for construction and therefore, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Digitalization can help to make use of this potential and improve sustainability throughout the entire building’s life cycle. One way to [...] Read more.
The building sector has a significant potential to reduce the material resource demand needed for construction and therefore, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Digitalization can help to make use of this potential and improve sustainability throughout the entire building’s life cycle. One way to address this potential is through the integration of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) into the building process by employing Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM can reduce the effort needed to carry out an LCA, and therefore, facilitate the integration into the building process. A review of current industry practice and scientific literature shows that companies are lacking the incentive to apply LCA. If applied, there are two main approaches. Either the LCA is performed in a simplified way at the beginning of the building process using imprecise techniques, or it is done at the very end when all the needed information is available, but it is too late for decision-making. One reason for this is the lack of methods, workflows and tools to implement BIM-LCA integration over the whole building development. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to develop an integrated BIM-LCA method for the entire building process by relating it to an established workflow. To avoid an additional effort for practitioners, an existing structure for cost estimation in the Swiss context is used. The established method is implemented in a tool and used in a case study in Switzerland to test the approach. The results of this study show that LCA can be performed continuously in each building phase over the entire building process using existing Building Information Modeling (BIM) techniques for cost estimation. The main benefit of this approach is that it simplifies the application of LCA in the building process and therefore gives incentives for companies to apply it. Moreover, the re-work caused by the need for re-entering data and the usage of many different software tools that characterize most of the current LCA practices is minimized. Furthermore, decision-making, both at the element and building levels, is supported. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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Article
A BIM-Based Framework and Databank for Reusing Load-Bearing Structural Elements
Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3147; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12083147 - 14 Apr 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1693
Abstract
In a context of intense environmental pressure where the construction sector has the greatest impact on several indicators, the reuse of load-bearing elements is the most promising by avoiding the production of waste, preserving natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing [...] Read more.
In a context of intense environmental pressure where the construction sector has the greatest impact on several indicators, the reuse of load-bearing elements is the most promising by avoiding the production of waste, preserving natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing embodied energy. This study proposes a methodology based on a chain of tools to enable structural engineers to anticipate future reuse. This methodology describes the design of reversible assemblies, the addition of complementary information in the building information modeling (BIM), reinforced traceability, and the development of a material bank. At the same time, controlling the environmental impacts of reuse is planned by carrying out a life cycle assessment (LCA) at all stages of the project. Two scenarios for reuse design are applied with the toolchain proposed. A. “design from a stock” scenario, which leads to 100% of elements being reused, using only elements from stock. B. “design with a stock” scenario, which seeks to integrate as many reused elements available in the stock as possible. The case study of a high-rise building deconstructed to rebuild a medium-rise building demonstrated that the developed toolchain allowed the inclusion of all reuse elements in a new structural calculation model. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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Article
Uncertainty Analysis of Embedded Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Using BIM in Early Design Stages
Sustainability 2020, 12(7), 2633; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12072633 - 26 Mar 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1623
Abstract
With current efforts to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of buildings in the operational phase, the share of embedded energy (EE) and embedded GHG emissions is increasing. In early design stages, chances to influence these factors in a positive [...] Read more.
With current efforts to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of buildings in the operational phase, the share of embedded energy (EE) and embedded GHG emissions is increasing. In early design stages, chances to influence these factors in a positive way are greatest, but very little and vague information about the future building is available. Therefore, this study introduces a building information modeling (BIM)-based method to analyze the contribution of the main functional parts of buildings to find embedded energy demand and GHG emission reduction potentials. At the same time, a sensitivity analysis shows the variance in results due to the uncertainties inherent in early design to avoid misleadingly precise results. The sensitivity analysis provides guidance to the design team as to where to strategically reduce uncertainties in order to increase precision of the overall results. A case study shows that the variability and sensitivity of the results differ between environmental indicators and construction types (wood or concrete). The case study contribution analysis reveals that the building’s structure is the main contributor of roughly half of total GHG emissions if the main structural material is reinforced concrete. Exchanging reinforced concrete for a wood structure reduces total GHG emissions by 25%, with GHG emissions of the structure contributing 33% and windows 30%. Variability can be reduced systematically by first reducing vagueness in geometrical and technical specifications and subsequently in the amount of interior walls. The study shows how a simplified and fast BIM-based calculation provides valuable guidance in early design stages. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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Article
Investigating Critical Non-Value Adding Activities and Their Resulting Wastes in BIM-Based Project Delivery
Sustainability 2020, 12(1), 355; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010355 - 02 Jan 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1097
Abstract
Building information modeling (BIM) is deemed a useful innovation for technological and sustainable development of the economy. It is partially used in building projects in Singapore, although its implementation is mandated by the local government, resulting in various wastes and suboptimal productivity. Little [...] Read more.
Building information modeling (BIM) is deemed a useful innovation for technological and sustainable development of the economy. It is partially used in building projects in Singapore, although its implementation is mandated by the local government, resulting in various wastes and suboptimal productivity. Little is known about how non-value adding (NVA) BIM implementation practices were perceived by the local practitioners and how these practices affected productivity in building projects in Singapore. This study aimed to identify critical NVA BIM implementation activities and investigate the criticality of their resulting wastes to productivity performance in the current project delivery process in Singapore. The results from a questionnaire survey of 73 experts and four post-survey interviews in Singapore revealed that 38 NVA BIM implementation activities were deemed critical, among which “lack of involvement by contractors to contribute site knowledge” in the design development phase was ranked top; the top five resulting wastes with highest criticalities were reworks/abortive works, requests for information, design deficiencies, defects, and waiting/idle time. Furthermore, an independent-samples t-test was conducted to examine whether construction firms and upfront stakeholders perceived the NVA activities differently. It was discovered that most NVA activities exerted more agreement from construction firms than upfront non-construction organizations. Six strategies were proposed to mitigate the NVA activities and wastes. The findings can help practitioners identify weak areas of their BIM implementation practices and prioritize resources accordingly to eliminate the wastes and foster sustainability, as well as help overseas project teams, with minor adjustments, customize their own NVA BIM implementation activities and management strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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Article
Development of a Carbon Emissions Analysis Framework Using Building Information Modeling and Life Cycle Assessment for the Construction of Hospital Projects
Sustainability 2019, 11(22), 6274; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11226274 - 08 Nov 2019
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 1695
Abstract
Buildings produce a large amount of carbon emissions in their life cycle, which intensifies greenhouse-gas effects and has become a great threat to the survival of humans and other species. Although many previous studies shed light on the calculation of carbon emissions, a [...] Read more.
Buildings produce a large amount of carbon emissions in their life cycle, which intensifies greenhouse-gas effects and has become a great threat to the survival of humans and other species. Although many previous studies shed light on the calculation of carbon emissions, a systematic analysis framework is still missing. Therefore, this study proposes an analysis framework of carbon emissions based on building information modeling (BIM) and life cycle assessment (LCA), which consists of four steps: (1) defining the boundary of carbon emissions in a life cycle; (2) establishing a carbon emission coefficients database for Chinese buildings and adopting Revit, GTJ2018, and Green Building Studio for inventory analysis; (3) calculating carbon emissions at each stage of the life cycle; and (4) explaining the calculation results of carbon emissions. The framework developed is validated using a case study of a hospital project, which is located in areas in Anhui, China with a hot summer and a cold winter. The results show that the reinforced concrete engineering contributes to the largest proportion of carbon emissions (around 49.64%) in the construction stage, and the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) generates the largest proportion (around 53.63%) in the operational stage. This study provides a practical reference for similar buildings in analogous areas and for additional insights on reducing carbon emissions in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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Review

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Review
Key Parameters Featuring BIM-LCA Integration in Buildings: A Practical Review of the Current Trends
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 7182; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12177182 - 02 Sep 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1174
Abstract
The construction sector is responsible for 40% of carbon emissions, 14% of water consumption and 60% of waste production in the world, generating a state of unsustainability. In order to keep these values under control and make the most sustainable choices starting from [...] Read more.
The construction sector is responsible for 40% of carbon emissions, 14% of water consumption and 60% of waste production in the world, generating a state of unsustainability. In order to keep these values under control and make the most sustainable choices starting from the earliest stages of building design, a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) can be used. This consists of an analysis of the environmental impacts of a product, activity or process throughout all phases of the life cycle. The fundamental problem of implementing this analysis process in the construction sector is the difficulty in managing the fragmented building information that covers all aspects of buildings life stages in an integrated way. The Building Information Modeling (BIM) approach offers the possibility of managing a complex information system in an integrated manner. The BIM-LCA integration solutions proposed in recent years made LCA analysis faster, cheaper and usable by more professionals. This paper proposes an analysis of the state of the art of the research published in the last ten years regarding the integration of BIM-LCA as a methodology whereby the BIM approach can support and simplify data management for LCA analysis. The aim was to present the work methodologies tested so far and to describe all the factors that were considered in applying the BIM-LCA integration. The novelty of this review consists of identifying a series of more recurrent parameters and measures used by most researchers deriving a trend of possible and consolidated workflows. The result is, therefore, to present evidence of a general heterogenous framework and to define the common and widespread approaches identifying the main features. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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Review
BIM and LCA Integration: A Systematic Literature Review
Sustainability 2020, 12(14), 5534; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12145534 - 09 Jul 2020
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 2439
Abstract
To foster sustainable development, the environmental impacts of the construction sector need to be reduced substantially. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is the established methodology for the quantification of environmental impacts, and therefore has been increasingly applied to assess the environmental performance of buildings. [...] Read more.
To foster sustainable development, the environmental impacts of the construction sector need to be reduced substantially. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is the established methodology for the quantification of environmental impacts, and therefore has been increasingly applied to assess the environmental performance of buildings. By coupling LCAs with digital design tools, e.g., building information modeling (BIM), the identification of environmental hotspots and their mitigation is possible during the design process. The objective of the study is to identify the current integration approaches, and determine the pros and cons of the integration process from different viewpoints, namely, technical, informational, organizational and functional issues. Therefore, a comprehensive systematic literature review (SLR) was performed. We identified 60 relevant BIM-LCA case studies and analyzed the applied BIM-LCA workflows in detail. A total of 16 of the reviewed studies applied LCA during the early design stage. These studies used a manual or semiautomatic data exchange between the BIM models and LCA tools. In most cases, contemporary BIM-LCA workflows utilized conventional spreadsheets (e.g., Excel sheets in 16 cases). However, the analysis shows that an automated link between LCA and BIM can be achieved when overcoming the technical, organizational and informational issues discussed in the paper. This could enable the streamlining of LCA applications in design practice, and thus support the necessary improvements in the environmental performance of buildings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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Other

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Case Report
Detailed Assessment of Embodied Carbon of HVAC Systems for a New Office Building Based on BIM
Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3372; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12083372 - 21 Apr 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1569
Abstract
The global shift towards embodied carbon reduction in the building sector has indicated the need for a detailed analysis of environmental impacts across the whole lifecycle of buildings. The environmental impact of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems has rarely been studied [...] Read more.
The global shift towards embodied carbon reduction in the building sector has indicated the need for a detailed analysis of environmental impacts across the whole lifecycle of buildings. The environmental impact of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems has rarely been studied in detail. Most of the published studies are based on assumptions and rule of thumb techniques. In this study, the requirements and methods to perform a detailed life cycle assessment (LCA) for HVAC systems based on building information modelling (BIM) are assessed and framed for the first time. The approach of linking external product data information to objects using visual programming language (VPL) is tested, and its benefits over the existing workflows are presented. The detailed BIM model of a newly built office building in Switzerland is used as a case study. In addition, detailed project documentation is used to ensure the plausibility of the calculated impact. The LCA results show that the embodied impact of the HVAC systems is three times higher than the targets provided by the Swiss Energy Efficiency Path (SIA 2040). Furthermore, it is shown that the embodied impact of HVAC systems lies in the range of 15–36% of the total embodied impact of office buildings. Nevertheless, further research and similar case studies are needed to provide a robust picture of the embodied environmental impact of HVAC systems. The results could contribute to setting stricter targets in line with the vision of decarbonization of the building sector. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integration of LCA and BIM for Sustainable Construction)
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