Earth day has been activating an environmental movement worldwide since 1970, mobilising 1 billion individuals and 75k + partners to drive positive action for the future of the planet.
It’s an opportunity for us all to consider our role in the deterioration of the environment, while also calling for bold, creative, and innovative solutions.
We’ll be exploring how construction can take action this Earth Day and beyond, the state of the industry now, what it could look like tomorrow, and tools the construction industry can leverage in order to adopt more sustainable practices.
Where we are today
As an industry, construction is one of the largest consumers of natural resources in the UK and produces more waste than any other sector. With this in mind, it’s clear there is a pressing need for improvement in the way we build, and with a growing population and the increasing need for new infrastructure, the industry needs to find more sustainable, innovative methods of construction.
However, we are taking steps in the right direction. With targets such as those laid out by the UK Government to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, we are all focused more on reducing our environmental impact, and building towards a circular economy to minimise wasted materials, especially those that are not sustainable (e.g. plastic), while also minimising the destruction of biodiversity and environmental accidents (e.g. destruction of trees by accident.).
Looking at tomorrow
It will be crucial to keep sustainability top of mind as we consider what the future will look like for construction in the coming months and years. The adoption of sustainable technologies will not only be the difference between propelling business forward or falling behind, but also determining how sustainably we grow as a planet. By embracing sustainable solutions, the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry has the opportunity to harness innovations and make smarter, more sustainable decisions.
Companies are already starting to think about ways in which construction can be greener. Here are three areas we expect to make a big impact in the coming years as we strive towards our sustainability goals.
1. Harnessing the power of data
We believe that one route towards a sustainable future is harnessing the power of data. Not only can it save on costs, but also help teams make more informed and better decisions to build improved infrastructure at all stages of the asset lifecycle.
Sensat’s recent poll questioned civil infrastructure industry professionals. Of those respondents questioned, 71 per cent of poll respondents said they were harnessing the power of data to make sustainable decisions. However, contrastingly when asked about the specifics of their company’s sustainability targets, 50 per cent stated they did not know how they are being met.
Although the poll results are indicative of big steps towards data-driven sustainable futures, it also highlights the disjointed nature between targets and actions from the industry. For construction to work more effectively towards a sustainable, net-zero future, as an industry we must strive towards supporting our targets with actions.
By using technologies, such as drone data capture and having one platform to visualise and interact with that data, projects have the opportunity to reduce wasted materials by making smarter, data-driven decisions from next to real-time site data.
2. Reducing travel
When discussing carbon footprint reduction in construction, reducing travel comes up time and time again. Currently, transportation accounts for around 20% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions. To tackle this, construction firms have been actively seeking local subcontractors and suppliers, switching to more efficient vehicles, condensing deliveries, or opting for building large prefabricated components offsite. One thing remains clear, collaboration across the supply chain is key.
By having the right end-to-end solution that can translate the real world into a digital format, you can immediately use your data more effectively, understand your data remotely, and therefore, remove the need to go onsite. The benefits are manifold, allowing teams to collaboratively share reliable and up-to-date asset information to take remote measurements, make right-first-time detailed desk-top decisions, reduce risk from hazards that are implicit in traditional on-site surveying, as well as reducing emissions.
A recent project where we helped Connect Plus and partners in the creation of an accurate digital 3D representation of the M25 resulted in fewer vehicles on the ground moving between traditional survey points and, consequently, reduced carbon emissions by 95% compared to traditional survey methods.
3. Cut down on waste
The process of construction produces vast amounts of waste. However, by planning ahead, project managers on construction sites can waste less. By accurately measuring quantities, you are in a better position to have the right amount of each material.
When taking measurements, if they are off even by what seems like a small amount, it can be costly so it’s important to have the right tools for the job. Our belief is that visual representation and communication of data is an incredibly important aspect of our work and one that is at the heart of our data visualisation platform. As the old adage goes ‘a picture paints a thousand words’—well a digital environment powered by engineering-grade data has the power to unlock tremendous project efficiency and sustainability when applied at scale, at every stage of the asset lifecycle.
For example, our cut and fill tool allows you to take a volumetric measurement (showing both the cut volume and the fill volume) for a selected zone within your project. This is great for measuring stockpiles as part of earthworks management so you can get things right, first time.
When materials are leftover, waste should be recycled if possible. At present, many of the materials going into landfills can be recycled. Concrete and rubble can be recycled into aggregate and concrete products, wood can be recycled into engineered wood products like furniture, and metals are also valuable resources to recycle.
To learn how you can make your construction project more sustainable get in touch with our team here. Check out our Data-driven sustainable futures webinar where we deep dive into how data can determine sustainability while reducing emissions.