There’s no denying that global warming is one of the most pressing issues of our time and there is a booming consensus that decarbonization is the only logical way forward (after all, it was a key theme at this year’s World Economic Forum Meeting in Davos).
Historically, the construction industry has not been seen as a champion of sustainability initiatives. In 2019 the World Green Building Council estimated that buildings accounted for 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions, 28% of which stem from operational emissions (that is energy that is needed to heat, cool, and power buildings), whilst 11% comes from materials and construction. What’s more is that if we fail to address these issues, carbon emissions from construction may very well increase over the next 30 years due to population growth and the strain that comes with it.
However, this is not to say that the industry isn’t already undergoing a significant transformation. The European Union vowed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, meaning that companies across Europe and the wider world are already developing their own strategies which will allow them to meet, and in rare instances even surpass global, continental, national, and corporate sustainability objectives.
Furthermore, many multilateral development banks (MDBs), development partners, and financing institutions have begun to realize that they have a key role to play in the construction sector’s green transition. Not only are they able to provide technical support to upgrade the capacities of national institutions but they are also able to significantly advance the investment landscape, specifically that of developing economies.
In addition, proptech (the buzzword that is currently burgeoning in popularity), has emerged as a viable solution for reducing carbon emissions in real estate and creating a more sustainable future. Proptech, or property technology, utilizes various digital solutions (such as AI, machine learning, virtual reality, and the internet of things – IoT) to help reduce the environmental impact of the built environment. Moreover, the use of contech (the subsector of proptech focused on construction) also includes the use of innovative materials, energy-efficient solutions, and data analytics to improve the sustainability of construction projects.
The implementation of technology in the construction industry has already made great strides in reducing carbon emissions, particularly in the areas of energy usage, resource efficiency, and waste management. For example, contractors and developers can use energy monitoring systems to reduce their energy consumption, while the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power can help to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. However, there are a number of other ways in which proptech can be utilized to help the construction industry in its green transition.
Firstly, contech can help the construction industry reduce its carbon footprint by improving the efficiency of construction processes. For example, smart building materials can be used to reduce energy consumption, minimize waste, and reduce the need for manual labor. Smart construction solutions such as prefabrication, 3D printing, and robotic automation can also help reduce the environmental impact of construction.
Secondly, data analytics is also a key element that can help the construction industry transition toward sustainability. Data analytics can be used to monitor the energy usage of buildings, identify areas where energy can be saved, and track the progress of decarbonization targets. This data can then be used to inform decisions on materials and processes, helping to ensure that projects are as sustainable as possible.
Finally, contech can also be used to improve the safety of construction sites. Smart technologies can be used to monitor workers, the environment, and materials, helping to ensure that the construction process is as safe and efficient as possible. This can help reduce the risk of accidents and increase the efficiency of construction, leading to more sustainable projects in the long run.
As more global sustainability commitments and regulations are implemented across the globe (which they undoubtedly will be) they will continue to exert a direct influence on future construction projects and infrastructure trends, and proptech (and contech) will play a key role in this modernization process. Decarbonization and the green transition in the construction industry are therefore as unavoidable as it is logical and cost-effective. Thus, it is critical for engineering and construction sectors to always look to the future to guarantee that their structures and projects contribute to, rather than detract from, the global effort to minimize the impact of climate change.