How Construction Technology Could Solve The Climate Emergency | The B1M


For thousands of years, our planet has enabled
and nurtured our growing civilisations. Throughout the ages, our settlements have existed in balance with the natural world that surrounds us, protecting us from the elements, while enabling
our societies to thrive. But now, in the space of just one human lifetime, all that has changed.
The extent of our urban development has reached The extent of our urban development has reached extreme levels and our buildings now contribute more than 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Our actions are causing dramatic
and irreversible changes to the planet we call home. The critical links between ecosystems
are being broken. But we have the power to turn this tide. We have the ability to limit
the impact of the structures we build and to help them support rather than destroy our planet. The construction industry can make the difference. And with the help of new cutting-edge
technology placed into the hands of billions, we can save our planet for future generations. Urban development is one of the main ways
that human beings impact the earth. From the structures that we call home, to our schools,
hospitals, workplaces and the infrastructure that we travel on; our built world now accounts
for a significant portion of all greenhouse gas emissions produced worldwide. From initiatives
to make entire cities carbon-neutral to innovations in concrete manufacture and even smog-eating
buildings; the construction industry is beginning to recognise its role and respond, but much
more needs to be done and at a faster rate. To make a real difference we must reach beyond
the construction sector and enable each and every one of us to better understand how our
buildings are impacting the planet. Technology can play a key role here, particularly
in the form of the digital twin systems that have supported other sectors for many years.
Creating a digital replica of a physical building that actually behaves like the real structure
and provides crucial information on real life performance can enable us to better understand
how our buildings are performing and simulate how they may perform in the future under a
range of scenarios. Leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning these so-called
digital twins can improve energy resilience, reduce operating costs, increase resource
efficiency, and help to decarbonise our buildings. When applied across a group of structures
or even an entire community, we could start to analyse and improve our energy use at a
societal level, reducing our impact on the planet. Digital twin technology for buildings is available
and in use on real projects right now. Systems like the Intelligent Communities Lifecycle,
or ICL Environmental Digital Twin, developed by IES, combine building simulation and machine
learning to provide insights on energy usage, waste heat, renewables, occupant comfort
and even transport connectivity. The ICL can replicate reality by simulating the physics
of energy and heat flow throughout a building or a collection of buildings. Any gaps in
real world data can be filled with projections developed by the intelligent digital twin
itself. Such systems allow energy and resource use in buildings to be clearly visualised,
reaching beyond the barriers of complex engineering and engaging everyday people, from children
to those who previously had little awareness of how our buildings can impact the planet
and their lives. The main reason to do this is because, of
course, we want to improve buildings. Lord Kelvin used to say, ‘you cannot improve it,
if you cannot measure it’. So, that’s what the visual build, the digital twin, allows
you to do. It gives you a prototype, a visual prototype of the building that first of all
allows you to measure it, but also allows you to test, to experiment on it, without
having to experiment on a real building. It’s all about the data, so the digital twin in
the end is a collection of data, for different use cases. It can look very realistic, like
maybe the Trent Basin that we’re looking at now, behind my back, but also it can be just
about data, about performance. So, because the data is available it means that we can
use that data to share. And when we share, we make this information public so we educate
the public. Where you get the public, we hopefully create more engagement. That’s what we need
to do to solve climate change and improve the climate. With ambitions to become the greenest campus
in the world by 2020, Nanyang Technological University have deployed IES’ ICL technology
across their 250-hectare flagship eco-campus in Singapore. Initially, IES created a master
planning model of the entire campus site, accurate to 91% for total energy consumption.
That model was then used as a baseline for high-level analysis on a number of energy
reduction technology trials. They had this vision, they wanted to improve
the performance of their campus. They said, ‘let’s first create a very high-level master
planning view on our campus and just tackle the low-hanging fruits’. So, are we using
a set point, maybe it’s too low. So, are we keeping the rooms at 17 degrees rather than
a more manageable, 23, 24 degrees? Fairly simple intervention that already managed after
one year of, let’s say, resetting all the parameters, they managed to save around
10%, 15% of the energy. This allowed them to analyse it, to test, to experiment the
impact of changes – something that cannot really be easily replicated on site without using
the digital twin. In total, the use of ICL technology revealed
a potential reduction in energy consumption of 30%, equating to potential savings of over
4.75 million Singapore dollars. IES’ digital twin technology is currently in use on residential schemes as well. Trent Basin is a model low-energy community in Nottingham in the UK. Here, IES worked with experts at the University of Nottingham to create an interactive platform that allows the community to visualise its energy data in real time. Trent Basin is an area of the city of Nottingham
on the banks of the River Trent, and it used to be an industrial area of the city and is
now being redeveloped for low-energy housing, as near zero-carbon as they could achieve.
So, there’s lots of energy efficiency technologies and design elements that have gone into the housing. Residents can interact with the platform online or at a large touch screen in their community hub, moving around the virtual sites, seeing the amount of energy being generated and their energy use. What the architect was interested about was
to create engagement with people that live in the community. So, they know they’ve designed
‘sustainable buildings’, so they wanted to allow them to see it, and almost to interact
with the digital building. The main thing was to visualise the data and
to make the data more accessible and presented it in a friendly way to inform and engage
the residents about their energy use, and what has been produced and what has been consumed
and what has been in storage in the development. The platform means that residents can interact
with and comprehend their energy use like never before, driving behavioural change. You can really interact with a 3D model. You
know, sometimes for people who are not from an architectural background it is difficult
to visualise 2D sketches or 2D drawings and the 3D interactive platform actually helps
a lot. When you live somewhere where you’re generating
your own electricity, where you’re living in a well-insulated home with lots of energy
efficiency features, it starts to make you think more about your own living and your
own environment. It’s also highly engaging for children, immersing
them in the concepts of responsible energy management from a young age. The platform was created to be inclusive and
self-explanatory, so it’s allowing children and people with reduced mobility to use the
platform and to interact with energy in a way that they have never interacted before. Residents can go and touch the various buildings
and see not only what the building looks like, what are the main properties of the specific
apartment or the specific house. They can also go there and see what the current energy
consumption is or what the temperature is. We generate our energy locally using photovoltaic
technology, solar panels, that electricity is generated locally and then it’s stored
locally in a large battery. At the time it was installed, it was Europe’s largest community
energy battery. Over the past year, since this has been running, we’ve reduced an awful
lot of carbon dioxide emissions associated with conventional generation. The potential impact of this technology on
a planet facing such an urgent climate emergency is considerable. Systems like the ICL can
help us to better understand how our built world is performing and provide insight on
how to improve it. It’s not just about having the technology
running in the background it’s actually taking the residents on the journey as well. If we could integrate this technology into
all the buildings within a community and then replicate that across multiple communities
around the world, we could make a significant reduction in carbon outputs at a global level.
The widespread adoption of such technology would also drive behavioural change, not just
among the current population, but with future generations, enabling them to care for our
planet long into the future. Our biggest challenge as a country is how
we decarbonise heat, how we get gas out of buildings and how we generate heat for a built environment,
and one of the things that we’re looking at here in the Trent Basin is how we can get
maximum value out of onsite renewable energy generation, so electrical generation, how
we store that locally and how we can interact and trade between the heat that we can generate
and the electricity that we’re generating here to optimise an entire system, to optimise
the use of renewable energy for provision of both heat and power. While the climate emergency currently facing
our world is extreme, it is the construction sector that can make a key difference in turning
the tide. With technology as our key ally in this fight we can develop a more sustainable built environment, helping our planet to recover and thrive. If you enjoyed this video and would like to
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Danny Hutson

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