There have been warning signs in the construction sector for years. The industry creates high levels of physical and digital waste, with 10-15% of materials wasted on every build.
Construction and the built environment account for nearly 38% of all energy-related carbon emissions around the world. And what’s more, we’re battling low productivity and a growing skills shortage. From an environmental, social and economic perspective, it’s simply not sustainable.
But crucially, there’s greater appetite for change in construction than ever before. At two events, London Build and the Festival of Digital Construction, panellists came together to discuss the opportunities for change in the industry.
7 key takeaways on the future of sustainability in construction
1. Incremental change won’t cut it: we need a paradigm shift
The construction industry has been doing the same things for a long time. According to Dale Sinclair, Director of Innovation, EMEA at AECOM, you have to look to the beginning of the twentieth century for the last major innovations like steel and drywall. “If you think about the Empire State Building and the speed it was constructed, that would still be impressive today,” he noted.
Many of the recent improvements in the industry have focused on optimising traditional approaches – but with pressures like the climate crisis and population growth, we need more radical change. As Jaimie Johnson, Head of Global Systems at Bryden Wood put it, “We can’t use traditional techniques to meet population growth. We’ll kill the planet before we house the planet.”
The construction industry will have a huge impact on the future of the build environment, affecting the lives of people hundreds of years from now – as Emilia Hagberg, Senior Sustainability Manager at Skanska, explained. Whatever lens you use, it’s time for construction to do something fundamentally different.
2. There’s a carrot, as well as a stick, for improving sustainability
Companies are facing very real commercial pressures to become more sustainable. Investors want to know that companies are dealing with the risk of climate change, by adapting their business models. There’s greater public and government pressure, which may result in binding regulations.
And critically, owners are beginning to demand greater sustainability, from construction through to operations. Tom Blankendaal, Project Manager, Circular Economy at BAM, shared a story of working with a Dutch bank to create a more sustainable design. “We eventually redesigned the whole project with a trade-off matrix on different sustainability factors, such as energy usage, circularity and total cost of ownership. In the end, we made some very radical design decisions.”
There are also commercial benefits. As Dr Bonahis Oko, Sustainability, Carbon and Environmental Lead at Bouyges Energy Services explained, companies should recognise this “carrot” as well as the “stick.” “Sustainability measures often drive greater efficiency on projects: for example, reducing mistakes also reduces waste. It’s important to look ahead too. Think of sustainability as a factor in the future of the business: an R&D investment rather than just an obligation to fulfil.”
3. True sustainability accounts for the whole life of an asset, so adaptability matters
For a meaningful view of an asset’s sustainability, owners have to consider its whole life emissions – which can open up new ways of thinking. As Dale at AECOM explained, “The construction of a building only accounts for 20% of its whole life costs. If you make it 20% more operationally efficient over its lifetime, you effectively get the building for free.”
Adaptability is essential for maximising a building’s usefulness, prompting a move to long life, loose fit assets. “The most sustainable building is the one that already exists,” explained Az Jasat, Senior Industry Manager, Industrialised Construction, Autodesk.
Jaimie at Bryden Wood recommended we take inspiration from the Victorians, who built incredible overengineered brick buildings which have been converted to many uses over the years, from water stations to climbing walls to offices to flats. “Let’s be the modern Victorians and create the kind of infrastructure that’s superbly well-built for a 150-year lifecycle,” he said.
4. Industrialised construction and design for manufacture and assembly (DFMA) will be critical
By applying manufacturing techniques to the built environment, industrialised construction and DFMA can increase the efficiency and reduce the emissions of projects. According to Az at Autodesk, “these two movements are our best chance of turning this ship around.”
Going one step further, some organisations are exploring the potential of platforms in construction: using consistent components and processes to construct a wide range of buildings, in a similar approach to furniture designs at IKEA.
Jaimie at Bryden Wood explained how the Construction Innovation Hub examined the UK’s public sector construction pipeline across every department. The project found that 70% of the total pipeline could be constructed with the same structural kit of parts, the equivalent of £35bn of assets.
“More than half of the space in schools, hospitals and prisons isn’t sector specific; it might be hallways, toilets, storage or bedrooms,” he said. “If you use the same products and processes across these platforms, there’s much more scope to optimise the components to make them as sustainable as possible.” By using common components on a project called The Forge in London, Bryden Wood saved 20% of the embodied carbon on the build.
5. Both old and new materials have huge potential
Re-evaluating which materials are used in construction – and how – will be critical. As Frank Blande, Senior Sustainability Manager at Multiplex, highlighted, concrete and steel are the two biggest emitters in construction’s carbon footprint.
Innovations in materials science could help to solve this issue, as could the renaissance of older building options. Tom at BAM advocated the potential of engineered wood, as a means of not only reducing carbon emissions but capturing them. The largest timber tower in the world was recently completed in Norway, reaching 18 storeys.
There are many elements that impact the sustainability of materials, so better data will also help teams to make more informed decisions about pay offs. Tools like the Embodied Carbon Calculator are already supporting client dialogues. Tony Saracino, Senior Sustainability Success Manager at Autodesk, advocated harmonised ISO standards for material profiles, to take the industry away from rule of thumb estimations.
Better data also creates the opportunity for materials passports, so that components can be re-used; given that currently 54% of demolition materials go into landfill, this could have a substantial impact.
6. Data will be the force behind all of these changes
Creating a more sustainable industry must start with data. As Frank at Multiplex explained, “Clear and accurate data helps us to better understand where we actually are – our sustainability baseline. It’s then possible to put data-driven strategies in place. As a sustainability team, we’re working with other disciplines across the business to get accurate data in place and set minimum data requirements that cover the business, supply chain and collaborators.”
Making this information available to project decision makers will help to improve design management, planning and quality. Data can also support closer collaboration with clients. AECOM is currently working with Autodesk on a viewer that simplifies information into a really intuitive interface: allowing everyone to get to grips with the data and understand the implications of the design.
However, organisations can encounter challenges with data management: currently lots of sustainability managers’ time may be spent collating siloed information manually, so automating data capture and analysis will be hugely valuable. Going forward, creating feedback loops about the real-world operations of buildings – through tools like digital twins – will also be key.
7. All the stars are aligned: now it’s up to the industry
Sustainability presents significant opportunities for construction, but there are widespread cultural barriers to overcome. Construction is an incredibly risk-based industry, with many companies trying to protect thin profit margins. According to Frank at Multiplex, that can make innovation and new approaches unattractive – as organisations often can’t look to people that have tried it before.
But as Rachael Atkinson, Construction Solutions Executive at Autodesk, highlighted, “Children have been brought up to understand the importance of the environment. Future generations will enter the industry with this whole new mindset – so maybe it’s us that need to change.” This is a collective effort, and transparency – and learning from one another – will be critical. As Tom at BAM explained, “Rather than copyright, we see it as the right to copy.”
All of our panellists are clear on the need to change, right now. As Dale at AECOM said, “We’re dealing with a significant time gap. In five years’ time, the aspirations from owners and occupiers will be completely different. Owner need to shift their thinking into the future today.”
Jaimie at Bryden Wood concluded, “All of the stars are aligned: the climate crisis, the business imperative and government policy. Plus the financials: if you make a building that’s 20% more sustainable, the construction is essentially free. What else are you waiting for? Now is the time for every business to engage and accelerate the move to sustainability.”
Check out our recent report on the path to sustainability for construction business leaders.
You can view the panel discussions in full here:
- London Build: Industry Sustainability and Productivity – Unlock the Benefits and Impact of Industrialized Construction
- The Festival of Digital Construction: The importance of data and how it is impacting the construction industry
The post 7 Things to Know About the Sustainable Future of Construction appeared first on Digital Builder.
Fact: technology and app usage is growing in the construction industry. According to the 2020 JBKnowledge ConTech Report, 22% of respondents indicated using six or more construction apps, up from 20.1% in 2019.
While the abundance of apps in construction is certainly a sign of progress (particularly with some reports that the industry is lagging in digital transformation), having lots of tools can be both a blessing and a curse.
Having too many choices when it comes to what tech to use can get overwhelming. It’s not easy to figure out which solutions to adopt, especially amidst growing teams and increasingly complex workflows.
Then there’s the challenge of ensuring that your technology decisions align with your high level business strategy and goals.
Finding and implementing the best construction tech is a tall order, but it’s something that you can accomplish if you take the time to build your construction technology stack — which is exactly what we’ll tackle in this post. The paragraphs below will shed light on actionable and expert-backed insights that can help you come up with the perfect tech stack for your company.
What is a Tech Stack?
A tech stack is a collection of apps and digital tools that are all used to serve a particular business function.
For example, sales teams or organizations can have a tech stack to facilitate the sales process. Teams could have an app for prospecting, another app for setting appointments, and a tool for tracking deals in the pipeline.
The same thing applies to construction professionals. There are apps that aid multiple components of a project, whether it’s design, estimating, building, or closing.
In some cases, the different tools in a tech stack can work together automatically (i.e. they’re integrated with each other or they’re all part of the same platform). Other times, apps are used in isolation and function as point solutions that simply address a specific area or need.
In today’s landscape, the former is infinitely better than the latter. Apps that are tightly integrated make data exchange between solutions much more seamless, allowing them to be interoperable.
This brings us to our next point…
What is Interoperability and Why Does It Matter?
Interoperability is the ability of computer programs to exchange information with each other. Interoperability is essential to a successful construction technology stack, because it makes it easier for you to access data and insights — so you can then put them to good use.
When you’re using a variety of construction applications, getting them to seamlessly integrate and share information will help you gain a better understanding of your projects, which leads to well-informed decisions.
Interoperability within construction apps also helps teams be more efficient. Nathan Wood, Chief Enabling Officer at SpectrumAEC, said it best:
“Interoperability means the ability for different project delivery stakeholders to effectively communicate and streamline information flow between one another, which is essential in the digital age of construction. Data insights will be hard to come by if you don’t first solve the interoperability dilemma. It’s about bearing down and investing the time necessary to build common language and optimize workflow, allowing teams to break down data silos and build them back better with the appropriate integrations and security protocols.”
How to Build Your Construction Tech Stack
Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of technology stacks and why interoperability is important, let’s look at the steps you should take to successfully build a construction tech stack that works for you.
Create Your Strategy
The most important business decisions start at the top. Implementing technology throughout a company will be an uphill battle without 100% buy-in from the firm’s leaders.
As such, the company’s leadership team must be aligned behind a common goal and everyone should understand how technology can help the firm execute on its objectives.
What’s the role of tech in the overall business strategy? How much should be spent on the business’ tech stack and what’s the expected ROI? When those at the top have clear answers to these questions, it’s much easier to communicate and empower the rest of the organization to find and implement solutions.
Have the Right Team and Processes in Place
The term “people, process, and technology” is popular in the business world for a good reason: these three components must be closely linked to successfully execute in today’s modern environment.
Even the most powerful technology solutions will fall short without the right teams and processes.
So, consider having a dedicated team to oversee your technology strategy.
The construction firm Kraus-Anderson, for instance, set up the Business Technology Investment Committee (BTIC), a group that includes the company’s President, Head of IT, Head of Finance, EVP of Operations, General Council and President of Realty.
According to Tony Peleska, Kraus-Anderson’s VP and Head of Information Technology and Digital Transformation, the BTIC created a process “to review and monitor decision points for success.”
This process, says Tony, includes steps like conducting technology requests and self-assessments, developing a business case for the technology, and creating a comprehensive IT project plan.
This process allows the teams at Kraus-Anderson to not only evaluate and implement technology in the company, it also helps them track the technology’s performance and measure ROI.
See if you could adopt similar practices in your organization by assigning a team to oversee your tech stack and developing processes for technology requests and implementation.
Build the Right Foundation
The best way to achieve interoperability within your tech stack is to have various tools integrated with a connected construction platform.
Think of a connected construction platform as the foundation on which your tools, teams, and workflows can function. It connects all these components together and provides a common data environment, so information flows smoothly across the entire project lifecycle.
With a connected construction platform, people, processes, and technologies can stay aligned at all times, paving the way for higher levels of efficiency, smarter decisions, and ultimately better project results.
Identify Gaps and Needed Workflows
When deciding on what to include in your tech stack, it helps to identify gaps and redundancies that you can address with technology.
Start by listing out all the tools and processes that you’re using. From there, you’ll be able to surface gaps by finding the parts of your processes where tools don’t connect. For example, if there’s a step where you need to manually enter data from one app to the next, then you know that there’s an integration gap between the two solutions.
You may also find redundancies — instances where two apps are essentially accomplishing the same thing or are requiring you to complete unnecessary actions or tasks. For example, you could be sharing and storing duplicate documents in several places without a clear connection, when it’s more efficient to just have a single source of truth.
Look for Open APIs and Fine-Tune Integrations
At this stage, you may already have a platform in place. Pieces of your tech stack have started to come together, but you likely still rely on other niche applications to fill in the gaps.
When looking for components to add to your technology stack, set your sights on applications with open APIs or existing integrations with your current solutions. This will make it easier to connect the various software that you’re using, so you can get the most out of them.
As mentioned earlier, software integrations pave the way for data to automatically flow across your entire tech stack. This eliminates the need for manual entry, which reduces errors and data loss.
Bringing It All Together
As the construction industry continues to evolve and transform, having a solid tech stack will help you keep up and remain competitive.
To accomplish this, you need to start with a compelling high-level strategy and get buy-in from your organization’s leaders. It’s also helpful to have dedicated teams and processes around technology implementation.
Finally, it’s important to choose solutions that can function in a common data environment, so that your data, workflows, and teams can stay connected.
By taking these steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating a technology stack that serves your organization for years to come.
The post How to Build Your Construction Tech Stack appeared first on Digital Builder.
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A Simple Explanation
Construction is a broad term meaning both the science and art of constructing objects, structures, or systems and derives from Latin adhaerens reae, literally, “to build up.” To build is the subject word: the object of construction is the verb: to be created, and the subject is art: the mode of creating. Both verbs are used to mean work (as in the dictionary definition), but only one sense of each word refers specifically to the activity of constructing. In constructing an object, building refers to a specific process, a definite process, while building up is broader and refers loosely to any activity that produces objects.
Construction is not limited to building things (houses, monuments, etc. ) but extends to their support. Natural structures, such as those found in nature at the earth’s surface, are considered construction sites; artificial constructions, such as buildings, are not.
A number of the building blocks of the modern industry have been derived from the activities of construction. The most obvious among these is the wheel, which was invented partly due to the wheel being used as a carriage in the early Renaissance. Machinery is partially constructed, through what is called mechanical invention, by the actions of human workers engaged in work (labor). Machines themselves are constructed, through what is called mechanical invention, by machines that are driven by human beings operating them. The processes involved in construction explain many of the activities of modern industry.
Many of today’s questions regarding what is construction? Can be answered by looking at the various activities that human beings engage in every day. People build houses, structures, automobiles, ships, tunnels, bridges, towers, parks, museums, and even political buildings.
Many of these activities are performed by people who are not necessarily trained professionals but just ordinary people. What is the construction? It is a question that arises all the time when one sees an automobile or a building being constructed. Construction is not just about making things; it is about the discipline of putting things together so that they work. And this goes far beyond the realm of art, engineering, architecture, surveying, etc., because it is a process that takes time, money, effort, materials, workforce, and skill.
In what is construction? one must think of the various ways in which men and women construct the things they use every day. One major way is through simple hand labor, such as building something from scratch by oneself. Another way is to use machines designed to do much of what hand labor does, but of course, much faster and more efficient than any person could do it.
The third way in which we can understand what construction is! It is by way of the wide range of products that have been built by people all over the world. We know that the entire world now knows how to construct buildings and vehicles, but very few of us know how to build our homes. Indeed, many of the most beautiful homes that have ever been built were in the style of someone who was not trained in the construction trade but just took advantage of some basic plans and tools available to them.
What is the construction? It is a question that is probably occupying the minds of even the greatest minds of our time, yet there is still a great deal that remains unknown about the process. We do know that nearly every building in the world today is being constructed by some machine or process, but very few people really understand the construction process as a whole! We know that construction businesses are the fastest-growing sector of our economy, yet very few people understand the basics of how a construction business works! In a world where knowledge is almost as valuable as cash, anyone interested in starting a career in the construction field must take the time to gain as much knowledge as possible!