How can we use digitization as an enabler for a more sustainable and efficient construction sector?
40 percent. This is the construction sector’s share of the total energy consumption in Europe. It is also the construction sector’s share of the total emission of greenhouse gases worldwide. In addition, construction in Europe accounts for up to 30 percent of the total amount of waste.
The construction sector, therefore, holds a great potential for change, improvement and sustainable growth.
Keywords: Sustainable construction, digitalization, green buildings, efficiency.
Industry: Construction, buildings, architecture
Construction is characterised by a high degree of complexity and many different professions that must work together on a limited and temporary workspace, for a limited time and with short deadlines. Information and knowledge sharing about resources at the right time and with the right people is therefore crucial. The development, planning and preparation phase of the construction is vital and will throughout the buildings lifetime, influence its social, environmental and economic profile.
The construction sector is – compared to other sectors – still relatively low digitized, and the digital solutions that are developed are often limited to specific building projects or within certain companies.
There is a huge potential in optimising processes and resource consumption by means of knowledge from data and the development of the right digital tools.
A few frontrunners have proven that digital solutions can save time and money in the construction of buildings. For example, a newer Danish software company has developed an online project management and collaboration tool that, in real time, can give the user an overview of the project and ensure effective communication across professional domains.
The construction industry needs such innovative digital solutions that, with a wide range of applications across construction projects, can help create a more efficient, productive and environmental friendly construction sector.
The focus of this challenge is to utilize digital opportunities for a more sustainable and efficient construction sector. We therefore ask:
- How can digitization be utilized to ensure that materials and different tasks are handled in the most sustainable and efficient way?
- How can data be collected and used to support a development towards a more sustainable and resource effective construction as well as operation of buildings?
- How can digitization ensure a better operation and optimization of on-site management?
Develop a new solution or demonstrate how existing digital technologies can be utilised to optimise the construction process and resource consumption to create a more sustainable and efficient construction sector.
Only the imagination limits the areas that can be addressed to make construction more efficient, sustainable and innovative. Possible approaches could be:
A. Better use of resources
Buildings and building components are often designed and executed without the consideration for subsequent dismantling. There can be an unnecessary waste of resources when rebuilding and demolishing existing buildings. Greater knowledge of the individual products that are part of the construction, and the principles of circular economy, can potentially create more flexible buildings and ensure better utilization of resources at conversion and demolition.
At the same time, more detailed planning with a focus on material choices can help reduce material waste during the construction phase. The earlier detailed knowledge about the building materials can be included in the planning, the better.
Digital solutions can contribute to better planning of construction and optimal material selection. A detailed database of building materials, with knowledge of measurement, properties, and recyclability of a material, and its alternatives, which can be easily accessed and used
directly in a BIM model, could be a solution. The Association of Danish Construction Centers (Danske Byggecentre), for example, is in the process of developing the site BygDok, where you can search for information about products and download associated documentation, but so far only in pdf format.
B. Collection and systematization of data
Construction projects generate large amounts of data that are rarely used in addition to the specific project. It can e.g. be data on materials used, total economic calculations, life cycle calculations, challenges in the project and from the subsequent operation of the building. These data can potentially be used to develop new solutions and build the knowledge base in relation to e.g. optimization of environmental impact, better subsequently operation of buildings and recyclability of building materials.
Digital solutions can be used to collect, systematize and disseminate such data and provide the basis for more sustainable construction.
C. Optimization of the site
A construction site is a temporary workplace for a number of actors who rarely have worked together before, and each must contribute to the construction of a building in different ways, with different materials and often within a short time period of each other.
In order for all these actors to perform their work efficiently and to minimize resource consumption and waste, is it important that the workspace is accessible and the building materials are present and available at the right time and in the right condition. This requires good and coordinated planning and continuous overview.
In practice, poor planning and lack of overview can lead to building materials that:
- Cannot be found when they are needed, so time is wasted locating them or there is a need to ordered new
- Are delivered at an inappropriate time, which means that the storage space is not used optimally
- Are destroyed because it is stored incorrectly or too long on the construction site and is exposed to adverse weather conditions.
Digital solutions may be able to address some of these issues, e.g. using a chip in the building material, which makes it possible to locate it and can contain information on optimal storage, but other digital processes can also be envisaged to meet this challenge.
The Danish Transport, Construction and Housing Authority
The Danish Transport, Construction and Housing Agency is an agency under the Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing with responsibility and tasks across the modes of rail, road and aviation and ports, as well as regulation of the building and residential area.
This challenge is part of the Minister for Transport, Building and Housing’s strategy for digital construction from January 2019.
The Danish Transport, Construction and Housing Authority will invite several companies with an interest in the possible solutions to the challenge with a view to bring together the students and the companies.
Link / Access
Strategy for digital construction, from January 2019, was developed in collaboration with the construction sector and contains 18 initiatives that will help to promote development and increase digitalization in the construction sector. Link: trm.dk/da/publikationer/2019/strategi-for-digitalt-byggeri
The Danish Transport, Construction and Housing Authority website contains e.g. information on construction in Denmark. Link: tbst.dk
LCAbyg is a tool for calculating life cycle assessments for buildings. The tool contains a number of data on building materials. During a lifecycle assessment for a building, considerable amounts of data are generated, e.g. volumes, lifetimes and environmental impacts from multiple life cycle phases. Link: lcabyg.dk
LCCbyg is a tool for calculating the total economy for buildings and building parts. When calculating the total economy, data is generated on the expected operating costs of building and construction parts. Link: lccbyg.dk
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