Cementing the Future of

Green Construction

Sandra Cohen
 
SOSA's Corporate Innovation Team
Photo by Nancy Min

With Q2 of 2021 starting on a more optimistic note, there is still one looming threat ever-present on our doorstep: the climate crisis. Highlighted by the effects of the pandemic, a stark rise in conscious consumption, and hard to ignore environmental disasters - combating climate change has cemented its global precedence.

Perhaps striking to many, the construction and engineering industry (E&C) is responsible for a significant part of the global climate crisis. Cement production alone accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions, showcasing just a subsection of the construction industry’s dismal role in emitting more than 30% of the world’s total greenhouse gasses.  If cement were a country - it would be the third largest emitter in the world. 

Cement production alone accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions, showcasing just a subsection of the construction industry’s dismal role in emitting more than 30% of the world’s total greenhouse gasses.

So what do we do when the construction of the literal foundations of our daily lives have detrimental effects on the environment? Refusing plastic straws suddenly seems trivial. 

It’s not all doom and gloom though. When it comes to the construction industry, the innovations and tech being developed have the potential to create true scalable impact, offering both environmental and financial benefits. Reducing carbon footprint in construction has the potential not only to positively affect the environment and workers, but be cost-effective too.

The trend towards sustainable construction is a natural extension of the movement towards a sustainable way of life. Perpetuated by growing public and governmental pressure and regulations such as the American LEED, green buildings and sustainable building have now become a hot commodity. 

Photo by Oleksii Drozdov

So how does one get their green or sustainable project from fantasy to reality?  

In the past few years, we’ve seen the emergence of new construction methodologies, particularly the shift towards a product-based approach, et al. industrializing the construction process in an off-site facility. Doing so ushers in a reduction in material waste and on-site carbon emissions, while also increasing productivity.  Kattera, for instance, is a technology-driven off-site construction company that strategically manufactures building components on off-site facilities and performs the assembly on-site. The controlled, factory environment that an off-site construction offers has shown to enable resource efficiency; particularly with the use of automated manufacturing equipment, inventory control indoors, and conscious processes that set out to reduce waste and carbon emissions.

Industrializing the construction industry is surely a daunting endeavor for most traditional construction companies. The readily available tech solutions, however, suggest that the steps towards transforming into a green construction company is an attainable reality.


PLANNING FOR A GREENER BUILDING
While there are a score of approaches to sustainable planning, the leading global standard is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) - a rating system that determines how efficient a building is based on its design and environmental impact. LEED’s main metric is the reduction of construction costs; and as for sustainability, it analyzes the building’s life cycle cost. Tech tools such as building information modeling software (BIM) like Revit and ArchiCAD are at the planning forefront of constructing LEED-friendly sustainable buildings.

MAKING CONSTRUCTION SITES MORE SUSTAINABLE

Making construction sites sustainable consists of three major processes:

Energy Management & Efficiency - smart monitoring and storage are regarded as two key areas in which energy management and efficiency in construction can be optimized. With smart monitoring solutions, it is possible to continuously monitor electrical consumption, digitally. For example, Invisible Systems reduces carbon emissions from construction sites by up to 80% through regulating energy demand in real-time. On the renewable energy front, storage solutions mandate the use of renewables on-site, instead of pollutive generators. BayWa r.e, for instance, deploys solar panel farms, with energy storage in “green” containers that can supply the energy for all of a construction site’s needs. 

Invisible Systems reduces carbon emissions from construction sites by up to 80% through regulating energy demand in real-time.
Photo by Saad Salim

Waste Management - Today, inefficiently disposing large amounts of industrial waste is harmful not only to the environment, but also construction site workers. Numerous startups offer innovative alternatives to traditional disposal, and several even create new building materials using construction waste from the sites. Kenoteq, for instance, has created the “K-Briq” which behaves like a clay brick, but has added insulation properties, is made of 90% recycled waste from construction, generating less than 10%  the carbon emissions of traditional bricks during its manufacturing process. AMP Robotics is a system of AI-based robotics and image processors that precisely identify and categorize different waste materials from construction sites to optimize their recycling. Watch it in action here.

Renewable Materials - Biodegradable materials and materials from renewable sources are some of the most cutting edge innovations in construction today. These include the alteration of traditional materials by adding new, environmentally friendly qualities to certain materials. For example, Carbon Cure is a concrete producer that injects CO2 into fresh concrete during mixing, enabling a green concrete that reduces the amount of cement while still maintaining its binding strength.

Photo by Jacek Dylag
Making construction sites on the ground more sustainable is a critical step towards achieving impactful sustainability across the entire value chain.

Making construction sites on the ground more sustainable is a critical step towards achieving impactful sustainability across the entire value chain. As more innovations are being created, and more construction companies are implementing them, the future is looking greener. Stay tuned.

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