According to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, which monitors and reports on weather, climate, and water resources, there is a 50% chance the average global temperature will reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial baseline temperatures in the next 5 years. That figure marks the difference between a livable planet and devastation. Whether or not you believe an increased global temperature is to blame for the recent rise in natural disasters, the loss of lives, and potentially harmful economic impacts, the changes cannot be denied. As a result, companies across all industries are working to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly. This goal is especially pressing in the construction industry, where we work every day to build for the future.
At a time when infrastructure projects look to rebuild economies, create jobs, and improve quality of life, how the construction industry builds is a crucial element of what we build. Preventing continuous increases in carbon emissions is a good practice that will require evolution from every industry at every stage of their asset lifecycles.
Traditionally, the construction industry has not been viewed as a pioneer of sustainability measures. In 2021, global management consulting firm McKinsey estimated that construction accounted for almost 40% of global emissions, 28% of which came from raw-material manufacturing. Left unchecked, carbon output from construction could grow over the next 30 years because of the demands made by an expanding population.
The good news? The industry is evolving. The European Union has pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, meaning organizations across the continent are setting their own targets to meet corporate, national, continental, and global goals. Committed to building more resilient infrastructure and durable, low-carbon assets, companies are working to minimize landfill waste, cut water and materials consumption, and build out their “green” transportation fleets.
To effectively drive green infrastructure construction, a whole-lifecycle framework will be required that may include new policies and regulations. On its Global Infrastructure Trends blog, professional services firm PwC says “multilateral development banks (MDBs) are prioritizing inclusive, resilient, and sustainable technology-driven infrastructure.”
TECH TO REDUCE CARBON
Predicting natural disasters or other effects climate change could have on assets is a difficult task and could pose a challenge for investors. However, smart construction platforms purpose-built for the industry can improve decisions, provide predictive insights through the use of AI, and help mitigate risks and assist in lowering carbon emissions. For example, digital documents, drawings, and 3D models help reduce paper. Even more helpful, though, smart construction platforms can also help reduce waste and costly rework by visualizing the end result before starting to build.
In the US, the number of LEED-certified projects surpassed 100,000 in 2019, up from just 296 certifications in 2006 to more than 67,000 certifications in 2018, according to the U .S. Green Building Council. Construction companies have constantly been looking for ways to get onboard with this shift toward sustainability in construction, and data analysis can be part of the solution. Data analytics can change how everything is constructed, from individual buildings to major public infrastructure projects and even entire cities. Data can help teams measure the sustainability of current construction methods and leverage those insights to show sustainability throughout the entire construction lifecycle’s plan, build, and operate phases. When employed correctly, data can help propel the built-asset industries toward long-term sustainable development methods.
Smart cities are a fantastic proof point for how data analytics can enable sustainable building practices. As the way cities are developed continues to evolve, construction will rely on data analysis to provide insights into efficiencies, emissions, and even how citizens are utilizing areas of the city. Those insights can then generate future best practices to make buildings and cities even more sustainable.
THE RIGHT TECH
One way the engineering and construction industry can continue to progress toward its global sustainability goals is to ensure the latest technology is in the hands of the individuals and companies that can best deploy them to help the planet.
For example, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB Genco), the largest electricity utility in Malaysia, provides clean, consistent, reliable power to more than nine million customers. In 2020, the company’s commitment to becoming a top power generation provider of clean energy ran headlong into the COVID-19 pandemic. In order for project management teams to continue to provide clean energy to its millions of customers on time and within budget, they found it imperative to automate operations to improve efficiency and replace manual, paper-based systems.
TNB Genco turned to construction technology solutions that streamlined project management planning and scheduling operations, as well as handled all collaboration between the company’s documents, supply chain work, and tracking of all the necessary documentation. As a result, they were able to cope with the post-pandemic challenges, addressing their digitalization needs and elevating their quality of service.
PLEDGES AND MANDATES
At the state level, the California Energy Commission has adopted a mandate that requires new residential homes to be built with solar panel technology. Since 2007, the state of Colorado has required third-party green building certification for state construction projects. The state of Virginia, meanwhile, has passed legislation that establishes environmental goals, including decreasing carbon emissions as well as constructing new renewable energy facilities.
Moving forward, it is certain that more global sustainability pledges and mandates will be implemented across the country and the world. These goals and mandates will continue to directly impact future building projects, such as what materials should be used for new buildings or what technologies should be incorporated.
As these mandates and pledges continue to be enacted, it is important for engineering and construction organizations to always look to the future to ensure their buildings and projects can help, not hurt, the global push to limit the impact of climate change.
About the Author:
Brian Wienke is a product marketing director with Oracle Construction and Engineering. For more, visit www.oracle.com/industries/construction-engineering.
Modern Contractor Solutions, April 2023
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