BIM + Project Management Software: The Next Generation of LEED Credit Tracking


ERP Analyst, Software Advice

In 2009, we published an article on how to track LEED credits with project management software. Back then, tracking LEED credits was a new feature in general construction project management systems. Today, there are now software solutions designed specifically to help construction firms track their LEED credits. These LEED-specific solutions can drive efficiencies in the accreditation process.

We typically see a 25-30% average in time saved when using Greengrade’s LEED Management Software, but often experience an even greater savings when working on larger projects. – Ryan Ennis, LP Consulting Engineers

According to Mike Stuart, President of Greengrade, a 12 million dollar LEED project takes (on average) 400 hours of consulting work and LEED management services are typically billed at $100 per hour. So, with a 25 percent average time savings, a customer can shave $10,000 (100 hours saved x $100/hour) off an average project.

In addition to tracking and managing LEED credits, some construction firms are also using Building Information Modeling (BIM) to plan LEED credits. BIM is a building development tool that can create a multi-dimensional design of a facility that incorporates the quantity, location and type of materials (among other things) for a building design.

By using a combination of BIM and LEED project management software, construction firms can more accurately plan for LEED credits and document project progress. Here are five ways these technologies make it easier to achieve LEED certification.

BIM Helps Plan for LEED Credits

Although BIM is not a new technology, it’s becoming more relevant to LEED projects. BIM is useful during the design phase of a LEED project because it allows architects to add several layers of information to a 3-D model. For instance, a BIM model of a facility can show what percentage of building materials come from recycled content, and where materials were made. This is important to know because LEED credits (e.g., MR Credit 4.1) are awarded for using recycled and local materials.

The real work in LEED is during the design phase, not the construction phase. Construction is the easy part, it’s just about execution. – Phil Williams, Vice President of Webcor

According to Williams, BIM models allow Webcor to predict which LEED credits each project will quality for. Williams says that this kind of predictive modeling was an important factor in helping 98 percent of Webcor’s projects achieve LEED status.

Manage LEED Projects from a Workbench

LEED credit submittals require a laundry list of documentation, such as drawings, photos, receipts, and product spec sheets. Amid all this documentation, it’s easy to lose sight of how close the project is to LEED certification. To help LEED project managers stay on track, vendors provide visual project overviews.

Users can monitor the number (and type) of credits planned for a particular project. Green indicates that the project team plans to obtain this credit while red indicates that the team will not. Yellow and orange indicate a “maybe”–yellow means “probably” and orange means “probably not.” This lets team members know where to focus their energy–and where they might be able to snag a few extra credits.

Assign Tasks for Project Plans

Beyond providing a snapshot of the credit status of every project, it’s important to manage project charettes–plans on how to achieve a particular credit. Charrette functionality allows users to look up credits available for a particular project, prerequisites, and the options for achieving them.

With this functionality, team members are able to assess if it’s worth completing a project by rating it against the overall project goal. In this case, the goal is to achieve Gold Certification, and Option 2 is worth four credits. Team members can also assign project tasks to the person best-suited to complete them.

Look Up Regional Priorities

Environmental Building Strategies’ LEED Edge offers a useful feature called the Regional Priority Credit Reference Tool. This allows users to check if bonus points are offered in their region. Users need only select their project type and enter their ZIP code.

A few bonus points can go a long way–especially when you consider that the difference between a LEED Certified building and a LEED Silver building is only 10 points.

Share Best Practices in a Knowledge Database

A final useful piece of functionality is a knowledge database, which allows team members to capture and share best practices for completing a project. This improves the efficiency of projects as team members don’t have to go back and rework a problem if a similar one has already been solved. Knowledge databases are currently limited to intra-company communication, but there are plans to enable inter-company communications in the future.

Areas to Improve Moving Forward

These technologies represent improvements over the functionality we featured in 2009. But there is still room to take it to the next level. Here are a few things we’d like to see:

  • Direct integration with BIM models to manage design plans and credit tracking within one system.
  • Ability to aggregate best practices from multiple LEED APs in a single database.
  • Direct integration with carbon accounting software to improve allowable emissions estimates.

As this technology continues to mature, we’ll surely see even more advanced features built into these systems. In the meantime, please leave your thoughts on what you want from these technologies in the comments section.

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