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Waste Management: Building Information Modeling Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 17th, 2020


The amount of waste generated in construction and demolition (D&C) processes is enormous and is considered the largest portion of global waste. Waste generation statistics from countries indicate a range of 34% in Europe to up to 65% in Hong Kong. This significant amount of generated waste by the construction industry is a growing problem that requires planning, management, and monitoring. At present, several studies on efficient C&D waste minimization and management have been conducted, however, there are insufficient decision-making tools to support effective construction waste minimization evaluation and implementation throughout a project’s life cycle. A limited but growing body of recent literature suggests that building information modeling (BIM) has the potential to assist stakeholders to minimize waste on their projects. It is suggested that BIM helps project participants improve the processes and technologies in the planning, design, construction, and demolition phases, thereby managing and minimizing C&D waste efficiently.

Through a review of current literature and conducted case studies this paper will investigate the limitations of C&D waste minimization and management and identifies the opportunities BIM can provide to minimize waste more efficiently throughout the planning, design, construction, and demolition phases of a project.


The amount of construction waste that can be produced either during the process of building or demolition of a certain object is tremendous. As this issue has been more prevalent within the last several decades, many scholars have conducted studies focused on effective C&D (construction and demolition) waste management and its reduction to the lowest possible minimum. Nevertheless, 8 technology-related and 21 process-related limitations regarding appropriate waste management remain unresolved to the present moment. BIM (building information modeling) implies a digital process of a particular building’s erection. It assists engineers and architects in such activities as designing, planning, constructing, and demolishing projected buildings. Hence, these operations also help professional engineers to manage and minimize all the C&D waste that is expected to be generated in real-life conditions. Therefore, BIM is a helpful technology that can be used to consider and prevent potential accidents or actions that might lead to an increase in construction waste. Not only is the use of BIM essential in the process of planning a building, but it is also an indispensable tool for overall efficient C&D waste management.

Limitations in the Use of BIM

As mentioned in the introduction section above, Won and Cheng (2017) outlined 21 limitations regarding the minimization and appropriate management of C&D waste. The authors claim that “C&D waste minimization is generally classified into reduction, reuse, and recycling” (Won and Cheng 2017, p. 4). If the production of C&D waste seems to be inevitable, it is necessary to reuse all the generated materials or utilize them in one of the multiple disposal enterprises. All the limitations outlined in the relevant table by Won and Cheng (2017) are divided into three different categories: technology-related, process-related, and policy-related. All the process-related limitations are fully listed in the following context:

  • The first limitation implies the extended period of storing C&D waste in the territory of an object’s building.
  • The second issue is presented by the calculations of engineers who disregarded the important strategies of C&D waste management during the process of planning.
  • The third limitation occurs if the amount and types of waste were not identified for separate phases of erection (Zhang et al. 2015).
  • The fourth issue occurs when people without appropriate education use BIM not effectively
  • The fifth issue can appear due to the absence of analyses intended to outline several possibilities to reuse all the available materials.
  • The sixth process-related limitation is the lack of optimization regarding the design intended to minimize the number of necessary building materials.
  • The next limitation can occur due to frequent changes in the design of the project (Zhang et al. 2015).
  • Some elements of the erected project were neither measured nor considered during the process of engineering.
  • The ninth limitation implies the presence of excessive materials that might cause fractions of other pieces situated in the construction territory.
  • The tenth issue is determined by the untracked movement of C&D waste and unawareness of its final destination.
  • The lack of space necessary for efficient C&D management.
  • The twelfth limitation can occur if necessary materials are not stored appropriately in areas protected from adverse impacts of weather.
  • According to Arayici et al. (2018, p. 171), inefficient sorting of C&D waste also might present a limitation to its management.
  • The fourteenth issue emerges if waste is not kept in specific containers covered with plastic.
  • The fifteenth limitation is based on a coordinator’s irresponsible approach to his or her work. This employee is often not even hired by investors of the project.
  • The next issue could be present if no one contributed to the process of C&D waste management during the phase of construction.
  • The seventeenth limitation implies the lack of communications among workers that are supposed to discuss the management of the generated waste (Zhang et al. 2015).
  • All the actions and responsibilities regarding C&D waste management were not planned, whereas the relevant responsibilities were not delegated to workers.
  • The nineteenth issue occurs if separate elements of work are not done according to the initial project.
  • To avoid all the limitations mentioned above, it is essential to keep the working territory well organized and clean (Zhang et al. 2015).
  • Finally, the last limitation might appear if the generation of additional C&D waste was not prevented in advance.

All the limitations from the list are detected and recorded by Won and Cheng (2017). To outline such an extended number of issues that can be solved or remain unavoidable when BIM is used in the process of construction, the authors observed several objects and stated the problems that they had a chance to witness in these territories. It is an interesting fact that the discussed research was performed in Hong Kong, where massive residence buildings and multiple skyscrapers are located. Therefore, all the information present in this section can be considered reliable and relevant to BIM uses.

As all the organizational moments were described in the previous section with process-related limitations, the following context will present a list of issues that can occur during different stages of the project’s realization and are based on certain technological rules and policies as to the management of C&D waste. Won and Cheng (2017) claim that “poor procurement and planning can lead to additional construction waste generation due to long storage periods of materials on-site and raw material residue” (p. 5). Therefore, it is important for engineers, builders, architects, and all other individuals contributing to the process of construction to avoid violating the following limitations (technology-related):

  • The precise amount of materials necessary for erection was neither calculated nor accurately assessed at the beginning.
  • Out-dated equipment and systems were not replaced by new tools.
  • The next limitation is presented by unused materials that are made of recycling components.
  • The fourth issue occurs if “prefabrication or industrialized systems that generate limited C&D waste were not commonly used” (Won and Cheng 2017, p. 5).
  • The spreading of used materials around the working territory if small containers are not used to store C&D waste outside.
  • The sixth limitation can be observed if all the equipment set to reuse, sort, and recycle the waste is not used regularly.
  • Another issue appears when the appropriate C&D waste management system is not used frequently.
  • Finally, the last limitation on this list implies workers’ refusal to implement innovative methods and techniques to demolish buildings, which has a tremendously adverse impact on the environment in the territories adjacent to the object.

The article by Won and Cheng (2017) also observes and provides a list of policy-related limitations regarding the management of C&D waste. A table displayed in the text identifies the category of each limitation and determines the phase during which a certain event has to be considered and prevented in future projects. Won and Cheng (2017) outline 13 policy-related limitations. All of them are listed below:

  • The first limitation occurs if the process of C&D waste management is not considered by engineers and architects at the initial stage of their projects.
  • The second issue is prevalent when the regulations and instructions for the person responsible for C&D waste management are disregarded.
  • The recommended packaging materials for storing waste are not used by builders.
  • The next limitation occurs if subcontractors responsible for the management of C&D waste do not sign all the documents imposing the relevant duties on them in advance.
  • All the rules, regulations, and essential instructions as to the waste management must be presented to builders who work on the project. Otherwise, an enormous amount of time will be required to fix all the unaddressed issues at the end.
  • The sixth issue is common if the development of the C&D waste charging schemes is not accomplished.
  • The lack of financial means is a significant problem that might stop the process of C&D waste management.
  • To avoid the eighth limitation, it is advantageous to secure all the markets to sell materials that can be recycled in the future.
  • The next issue can only be prevented by appropriate management of both C&D and R&D.
  • Another crucial limitation appears if not all participants of the building project are informed about the importance of C&D waste management.
  • The eleventh issue can be witnessed if, “C&D waste minimization cultures within institutions were rarely set up” (Won and Cheng 2017, p. 6).
  • Finally, the last limitation is evident when particular considerations regarding the impact on adjacent territories and the environment, in general, are ignored.

The article written by Wu et al. (2014) emphasizes the importance of quantification about C&D waste management. The authors claim that different types of limitations, outlined previously, can be prevented or averted with the help of accurate and precise preliminary calculations and quantifications. In turn, the article by Arayici et al. (2018) identifies another limitation that implies the negative influence of building processes on neighboring territories. Indeed, the problem was stated before, but the authors suggested a solution to the specific limitations mentioned that required the installation of higher fences or specifically produced cloth that stops all the dust from spreading among houses and offices situated nearby. Moreover, the study by Arayici et al. (2018) is aimed at energy-saving activities that cannot be realized currently because of particular limitations in both planning and trading contexts: “This scenario illustrates how an energy-efficient building or a group of buildings and its neighborhood can be analyzed and holistically optimized throughout the whole life cycle” (Arayici et al. 2018, p. 171). In conclusion, it must be stated that energy-saving activities are also related to the use of BIM because this strategy can prevent various issues that often occur during the process of construction with wired electricity (wire breaking, short circuits, and so on).

Potential BIM Uses

The main intention of BIM is to minimize the amount of C&D waste that is generated during the process of building. The article by Won and Cheng (2017) outlines 8 potential BIM uses and determines relationships between them, along with several practices aimed at C&D waste management and the reduction of waste to the possible minimum. The following list presents some of the authors’ suggestions regarding the possible benefits from the implementation of BIM:

  • Digital project creation; one of the most important BIM uses performed at the phase of planning.
  • Estimation of expenses required for efficient waste management at the phase planning.
  • Review of the building’s design; another essential BIM use that is frequently conducted at the phase of design.
  • 3D coordination, which can avert several practices that are expected to produce a major part of C&D waste. This activity can be performed during the process of the project’s design or construction. Moreover, professional engineers are recommended to edit the 3D model of various elements they work on to prevent issues that emerge during the construction term.
  • Site utilization planning; beneficial for immediate disposal of C&D waste. It is recommended to perform this BIM use at the stage of construction.
  • Design of construction systems, which will help a contraction team of workers to understand what equipment they will be required to use when approaching particular elements of the object. Usually, this use is set at the stage of planning.
  • Digital fabrication; this reveals all the possible imperfections at the phase of planning (Hardin and McCool 2015).
  • 3D planning and control of the construction progress, which must be generated at the stage of construction.

In turn, the article was written by Chou and Chen (2017) identifies several more BIM uses intended to minimize and establish proper management of C&D waste. The authors base their study on observations of building processes in Taiwan. They also claim that there are a tremendous number of difficulties when it comes to BIM uses because the majority of engineers are not trained to work with this method (Chou and Chen 2017). Therefore, it is necessary to teach both architects and builders on how to use the 3D models. However, another BIM use determined by the scholars brings into question whether or not this method helps address a so-called beneficial index. There are three major derivatives of this index: “RCR means the effects of reducing costs associated with rework; SDR & DPR mean the effects of mitigating delays that occur due to construction interface coordination or rework, as well as the effects of reducing the penalty costs associated with overdue delivery; AQE means the effects of improving the ability to estimate the amounts of building materials and resources” (Chou and Chen 2017, p. 2). Another benefit of the suggested BIM is the reduction of investments required to manage C&D waste efficiently.

Cheng and Ma (2013) focus their research on a technical part of BIM implementation, also known as the phase of projecting. Therefore, the BIM use identified in this context is beneficial for the identification of potential C&D waste generation and its early prevention. Although this function was already discussed in the previous section of the paper, Cheng and Ma (2013) suggest using BIM practices to evaluate the amount of future C&D waste that can be produced by every element of a building. The system requires a formula to be entered in a specific space, which will be later used with squares and other measures of each part of the building (floors, doors, walls, columns, windows, etc.) (Akinade et al. 2015). This function also reduces the time needed to assess all the potential waste and demonstrate the most dangerous parts of the building.

Rajendran and Gomez (2012) emphasize the fact that “waste could be minimized through designing-out-waste by using BIM tools” (p. 559). In turn, their colleagues Ahankoob et al. (2012) observe several BIM uses, including prefabrication, design validation, and quantity take-off. The authors of these two articles also agree on the point that, “clash detection and design review have high potential to reduce construction waste generated on construction sites by virtually identifying during design phase those constructability issues that can be resolved ahead of time” (Ahankoob et al. 2012, p. 197). According to what was said above, it is clear that this manner of BIM implementation appears to be the most beneficial method for owners of different projects due to the sensible reduction of both initial and supporting investments.


As mentioned previously, BIM is a piece of software that offers enhanced opportunities for the creation of future building projects. With its use, engineers can identify ways to minimize or even eliminate possible C&D waste (Hardin and McCool 2015). Although the main aim of such computer programs is to assess projects delivered by architects, it can also be successfully used as a platform for risk management and prevention of C&D waste generation. The program demonstrates all the possible defects or changes that occur as consequences of particular actions (for example, wall replacement and floor rearrangement) (Hardin and McCool 2015). Nowadays, C&D waste minimization and appropriate management are crucial to minimizing adverse impacts on the environment. Indeed, this practice is relatively new to the construction industry, but it is inevitable due to various cities that develop rapidly and negatively affect the surrounding nature by dumping all the superfluous materials that are unable to decompose.

In their article, Ding et al. (2017) discuss the importance of C&D management at both the construction and design stages of the project. Their research also discusses the technological progress and urbanization of China. It appears that the Asian country faces the problem of inappropriate C&D waste management more than any other region on Earth. However, Ding et al. (2017) claim that the efficient implementation of BIM can reduce approximately 40% of the amount of general waste in the country. According to the article, it seems that construction waste quantities increase rapidly as the stage of erection goes on. Hence, investors are obliged to deal only with 5 tons of the waste by the eighth month of their projects, whereas in 22 more months they will have to manage approximately 17 tons without the use of BMI (Ding et al. 2017). According to another scenario with BMI, the general quantity of the produced waste is expected to amount to only 500 kilograms by the eighth month (Ding et al. 2017). In comparison, this number will increase by 3 times in the 22 following months.

The research conducted by Liu et al. (2015) observes the situation regarding C&D waste minimization in the United Kingdom. Indeed, the amount of generated waste here is not comparable to that of China’s. Nevertheless, the environment of the European country is also adversely affected by numerous architectural projects being erected in it due to the relatively small surface area of Great Britain. According to Liu et al. (2015), local engineers use BIM to elaborate on the details of their projects. This aspect also appears to be significant in C&D waste minimization. To make an accurate model of a certain building, a specialist has to consider every detail of it (attachments, columns, windows, design solutions, and so on). Such precise work gives people a fuller understanding of what actions they are required to perform to receive the planned digital model in real life (Liu et al., 2015). As every stage of the building is planned, it is clear what materials should be purchased and how they will be implemented in the process of erection (Liu et al., 2015). Multiple projects have been built with the help of this approach and it is common among British engineers due to the economical use of all the necessary materials that do not turn into wastewater.

In their work, Akinade et al. (2015) appraise the existing methods regarding the use of BIM in the prevention and minimization of C&D waste. The authors of the article determined 32 tools for waste management that were outlined under five separate categories. These categories include: “(a) waste management plan templates and guides, (b) waste data collection and audit tools, (c) waste quantification models, (d) waste prediction tools, and (e) geographic information system (GIS)-enabled waste tools” (Akinade et al. 2015, p. 3). Particular evaluation criteria identified by the work’s authors were used to compare the effectiveness of all these tools. It is an interesting fact that almost all waste quantification models made with the help of BIM functions appeared to be the most productive activities regarding C&D waste minimization during the building stages.


Some of the identified process-related limitations in the use of BIM are the following: the extended period of storing C&D waste, strategies of C&D waste management disregarded by engineers during the process of planning, no identification of waste type for separate phases of erection, the lack of optimization about design, frequent changes in the project’s design, untracked movement of C&D waste and little awareness of its destination point, coordinator’s irresponsible approach to his or her work, etc. (Won and Cheng 2017).

Among technology limitations, the lack of calculation of the precise amount of materials needed for an erection, outdated equipment, the spreading of materials around the territory, the inability to use equipment that is specifically set up for waste recycling, and workers’ inability to implement innovations negatively affect the management of C&D waste (Zhang et al. 2015). Policy-related limitations include the inability of engineers to consider the process of C&D management during the initial project stage, the unwillingness of workers to adhere to C&D waste management regulations, the inability to accomplish charging schemes, the lack of financial support for C&D management, employees’ unawareness of the C&D waste management and its significance, and the unawareness of how waste can affect the environment and adjacent territories (Won and Cheng 2017).

Although BIM was developed for project assessment mostly, it can be useful in evaluating and managing C&D waste because it can help predict waste generation, plan and prepare management strategies, identify constructability issues that can be addressed and if addressed correctly can lead to effective project management (Chou and Chen 2017). However, architects and engineers are not familiar with this method of using BMI as a tool for C&D waste management. Thus, although BIM can be used effectively to manage C&D waste, multiple barriers related to process, technology, and policies, as well as professionals’ unawareness of how this software can be used in waste management interfere with the implementation of the innovative strategy.

Reference List

Ahankoob, A., Khoshnava, S., Rostami, R. and Preece, C. (2012) ‘BIM perspectives on construction waste reduction’, In: Management in Construction Research Association (MiCRA) Postgraduate Conference, 1(1), pp. 195–199.

Akinade, O., Oyedele, L., Munir, K., Billal, M., Ajayi, S., Owolabi, H., Alaka, H. and Bello, S. (2015) ‘Evaluation criteria for construction waste management tools: towards a holistic BIM framework’, International Journal of Sustainable Building Technology and Urban Development, 7(1), pp. 3-21.

Arayici, Y., Fernando, T., Munoz, V. and Bassanino, M. (2018) ‘Interoperability specification development for integrated BIM use in performance based design’, Automation in Construction, 85(1), 167-181.

Cheng, J. and Ma, L. (2013) ‘A BIM-based system for demolition and renovation waste estimation and planning’, Waste Management, 33(1), 1539-1551.

Chou, H. and Chen, P. (2017) ‘Benefit evaluation of implementing BIM in construction projects’, IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, 245(1), 1-4.

Ding, Z., Zhu, M., Tam, V., Yi,G. and Tran, C. (2017) ‘A system dynamics-based environmental benefit assessment model of construction waste reduction management as the design and construction stages’, Journal of Cleaner Production, 176(1), pp. 676-692.

Hardin, B. and McCool, D. (2015) BIM construction management: proven tools, methods, and workflows, Indianapolis: John Wiley & Sons.

Liu, Z., Osmani, M., Demian, P. and Baldwin, A. (2015) ‘A BIM-aided construction waste minimization framework’, Automation in Construction, 59(1), 1-23.

Rajendran, P. and Gomez, C. (2012) ‘Implementing BIM for waste minimization in the construction industry: a literature review’, In: 2nd International Conference on Management, 1(1), pp. 557–570.

Won, J. and Cheng, J. (2017) ‘Identifying potential opportunities of building information modelling for construction and demolition waste management and minimization’, Automation in Construction, 79(1), 3–18.

Wu, Z., Yu, A., Shen, L. and Liu, G. (2014) ‘Quantifying construction and demolition waste: an analytical review’, Waste Management, 34(9), 1683-1692.

Zhang, S., Sulankivi, K., Kiviniemi, M., Romo, I., Eastman, C. and Teizer, J. (2015) ‘BIM-based fall hazard identification and prevention in construction safety planning’, Safety Science, 72(1), pp. 31-45.

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