Placing climate issues and environmental challenges at the heart of economic development have led almost all industry verticals to adopt sustainable practices. The construction industry is a major source of pollution (accounting for 36% of worldwide energy usage, and 40% of CO2 emissions), and is also working in this direction by adopting a dynamic strategy for a more sustainable built environment. Digital twin-based and Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled technologies are facilitating this strategy. Currently, these technologies are being used by the industry to develop, create, build, and monitor construction facilities, as well as to improve decisions, increase productivity, promote site safety, and lower the involved risks.
Emerging Technology As Enablers of Sustainable Construction
New-age technologies like AI, BIM, and Digital Twin help in the real-time evaluation of all the construction phases which in turn can leverage and integrate sustainability criteria in the built environments. These technologies have the potential to promote industry innovations, make built environments more efficient, and decarbonize the construction sector. The following points suggest how leveraging technology makes construction sustainable;
Operational efficiency: Both BIM processes and digital twin technologies help in achieving operational efficiency. The relatively nascent technology, the digital twin, is considered to be a major facilitator of industry 4.0. Digital twin technology visualizes the data collected by BIM, and together they centralize and consolidate the areas of concern and help to achieve construction and operational efficiency. Visualization of assets, processes, and resources through digital twins aids their easy optimization. This further helps to improve the complete lifecycle of the built environment, its equipment, and the systems installed in it. Artificial intelligence, along with these technologies also assists in predictive maintenance.
Collaborative workflow, time, and cost savings: Technologies centralize the platform for all stakeholders, enabling them to work together and make improvements in the same design, which saves cost and time. All the updates are made on one single platform, which contains all information about each stage of the construction process. Thus, rework and errors are avoided.
The tech-enabled platform includes interactions between the components of the built environment and data incorporated from every stage of the construction process. This promotes effective discussion among stakeholders, which consequently helps in reducing project costs, construction time, etc.
Forecast of the resource requirements: The 3D model forecasts the energy requirements, assesses seasonal impacts, and simulates real-time dynamics like intricate on-site jobs, human safety, etc. AI can track, forecast, and optimize the on-site consumption of materials. Plus, knowing the current material availability and their prices is critical to the responsible utilization of resources. Material costs for upcoming projects can also be estimated using these technologies.
Resource optimization: By timely acknowledging the planning, cost, and environmental trade-offs, technology supports optimally efficient designs of various systems like HVAC systems in a built environment. The forecasting helps to install viable alternatives, improve the performance of existing equipment and ultimately build environmentally resilient buildings. AI assists in condition assessment throughout the project's design phase to optimize final energy savings. Also, the timely validation and improvements allow for less resource wastage, an increase in productivity, and on-time completion of the construction process.
Innovation in material and energy use: AI-induced 3D printing is an innovation that has the potential to replace concrete and steel in the near future. Such innovations can limit the use of materials whose production is harmful to the environment. AI can also help to build and control renewable energy sources, improve their performance and optimize their energy levels.
Recycling: AI can speed up the process of separating recyclables from hazardous building trash by automating it. Additionally, it can monitor the generated waste and detect particular waste.
The quest for creating a sustainable world does not stop at just green construction, it tickles down to an intelligent and sustainable built world. There needs to be a conscious integration between the pre-construction and post-construction phases to ensure the focus on ESG is not lost in between. Technologies like IoT and digital twins are becoming the drivers of environmental and energy conservation by using the building as a platform for creating an efficient and environmentally conscious building ecosystem.
Smart lighting and environment control systems, for example, are being used for optimizing energy usage and creating a building environment that is energy-efficient and keeps the occupant's health first. Smart space management also holds the key to turning buildings into efficient, productive, and safe powerhouses. Built by joining up a system that allows monitoring and automating key processes, including thermostats, HVAC, electrical, lighting, shading, and security systems, it keeps energy conservation and environmental conditions in check.
The construction industry is one of the main cornerstones of any country's economic development. Changes to the sector are a must to build a more sustainable future, and nothing better than technology can leverage these changes by enabling more carefully considered design, planning, construction, and maintenance for improved safety and sustainability outcomes.