BIM allows architects to demonstrate the consequences of every choice, explains Johnathan Munkley

Sustainability has always played a part in the concept stage of any project at Niven Architects. However with traditional sketching and 2D CAD, sustainability decisions are made through the knowledge and experience of the architect alone.

When a feasibility study is complete the client then may give the go-ahead for the project to move to the next stage. The project will then be validated by the mechanical team by running the concept through a building simulation platform such as IES. They will then inform the design team of the buildings heating and cooling requirements.

Through a BIM-based workflow we take a different approach. We are able to optimise our building during the very early concept stages. With the use of tools such as Sefaira we are able to take our very early BIM-based concept data and simulate every aspect of the building’s performance and running cost within minutes of a concept’s inception.

For example, take brise soleil. We may place this on a curtain-glazed facade for solar shading purposes. Within our concept workflow Sefaira allows us to simulate 15 variable lengths of the brise soleil and what effect this has on running costs based on the client’s cost per unit of power.

With this process we can simulate the effect of varying glazing specification on running costs, so when the client asks us to reduce the budget for glazing we are able to inform them of the consequences on running costs.

We can simulate every aspect of the building from varying wall and roof insulation specification, to what effect adding a photovoltaic array will have on power usage. This allows us to deliver sustainable architectural solutions that have the smallest running cost, carbon footprints and, most importantly, reduced yearly costs.


To find out more about the benefits and practical application of BIM visit the BIM Show Live, which is being held at Manchester Central 23 - 24 April. To find out more go to