In our latest podcast, Harry Atkinson, Dr Fakhar Khalid, and Adrian Short from Gebler Tooth discussed the future of sustainability, and how lockdown is impacting the construction industry. As advancements further in the world of construction, we’re seeing a shift in the adoption of technology - with more and more companies choosing to put innovation and sustainability at the core of their business.
Why is sustainability so important?
For the construction industry, sustainability is important. Many of the building resources previously considered renewable, such as forests and freshwater, have become finite. As resources become less available, businesses staying ahead of the curve are planning for increased costs of adapting to climate change and government policy that is becoming increasingly hostile towards excessive CO2 emissions.
In the UK, the construction industry is a major consumer of water resources. Water is used throughout the construction life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to the manufacturing phase, and during the construction phase. The world is looking for green systems and the efficient use of water is climbing up the sector’s agenda - many construction companies are implementing processes to use water more wisely as part of general efficiency gains such as cleaning-in-place solutions and domestic facilities like aerated taps, audits to identify leaks and poor practices, and using lower quality sources such as rainwater to reduce reliance on the mains.
“We should be partnering with nature, rather than working against it. A regenerative approach means you are a net contributor to the Earth’s resources. Whatever you create, you should be offsetting the negative impact on the environment with positive contributions”
Adrian Short, Gebler Tooth
The Omega Center for Sustainable Living in New York is a building that supplies the entirety of its own energy needs, and has an entirely neutral carbon footprint. The self-sustaining building is heated and cooled using geothermal systems, and utilises photovoltaic power. ‘The Eco Machine’ at the centre’s core, is a natural wastewater treatment system that cleans water by imitating the natural systems of the real world. Wastewater comes into the Eco Machine and is run through various treatment zones where all major forms of life are represented, including fungi, microscopic algae, bacteria, small insects and fishes.
Industry response to the pandemic
If the construction industry could optimise a culture of collaboration, innovation and sustainability, this pandemic would ultimately have been easier to manage. If remote teams had the best resources to work from the get-go on a virtual project roadmap, and if more innovative solutions to maintain the safety of site staff were adopted, we would probably have seen greater stability.
In these difficult times, however, the construction industry has been given a unique opportunity to begin to consider new ways of working.
With the help of new technologies and the development of construction management software, project managers can do their job with higher precision. BIM systems can integrate with construction management software, making it easier for construction managers to cost and time-estimate their jobs. Although on-site work has reduced severely - or stopped altogether - due to lockdown, some sectors in the AEC industry such as architecture, engineering and project management can still function. Firms are seeking new ways to help limit the impact on productivity caused by reduced functioning on-site.
The pandemic has thrust organisations across the industry into more innovative, and sustainable ways of working. While the trend for remote working has increased in recent years, it has mainly been concentrated in a small number of industries. An extended lockdown period, now affecting hundreds of millions of people globally, has unwittingly forced many enterprises to rethink the way they work - all while staying productive. For instance, designers and engineers are relying even more heavily on digital collaboration tools such as building-information modeling. Leading engineers and contractors are using 3D replicas to assure projects and optimise schedules during lockdown. Integrated digital twin solutions are being developed across sectors to be used end to end, from project concept to maintenance. And employers throughout the UK are turning to online apps for monitoring their employees’ well-being, ordering construction materials, tracking earthworks more accurately and efficiently, and managing cash-flow.
The pandemic could see developments for cutting-edge technology in the industry such as drone tech, communication tools, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), building information modelling (BIM) and much more. These technologies actively encourage health and safety in the industry whilst helping employees meet social distancing requirements and boosting productivity.