The newly formed government in Ireland – a coalition of Fine Gael, Fiánna Fail and the Green Party – may not seem on the face of it to be the change that voters in some quarters were looking for, in an election that has long since faded from memory. But as legendry Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw once put it, ‘the most important aspect of change is that it starts from within.’ And the triumvirates recently published 5-year plan certainly shows a different more progressive kind of thinking from the Irish Parliament – the Dail’s – new leadership.
What’s in the document?
The 50000-word document entitled ‘Our Shared Future’ shows some progressive thinking and has a list of deliverables that must be viewed from within the construction industry with great optimism. Some of the key points under the ‘new green deal’ and ‘housing for all’ sections of the plan are as follows:
- 50,000 new social homes by 2025
- Investment in road infrastructure
- Major investment in Metrolink, Luas and other light-rail projects
- Raising the spending cap on social housing developments
- Massively Increasing cycling infrastructure
- Retrofitting of 500,000 homes
What are the challenges?
Alongside the list of ‘building and creating’ deliverables, there’s an equally ambitious environmental plan, the plan demands a
- 7pc average annual cut in carbon emissions
- new Climate Action Bill
- ban on single-use plastics
These two seemingly diametrically opposing lists beg the question – how does the construction industry deliver massive infrastructure projects, increase housebuilding and retrofitting homes in a world focused on sustainability and reducing emissions? All in a post-COVID-19 world that has already demanded changes to our site practices, working arrangements and environments.
These issues are not unique to Ireland of course. The same challenges face infrastructure and housing sectors the world over. A recent report in North America identified that “The global decarbonisation agenda has already posed a series of pertinent challenges for key infrastructure sub-sectors. It seems inconceivable that any government intervention over the course of the next 12 months would not be mapped out relative to the goals of the Paris Accord.”
The Irish government’s plan puts the onus on the construction community to think greener and smarter. But where do they start?
Below we look at how Construction Management Software can offer a change for the good in terms of more sustainable and environmentally friendly building.
Working smarter – using technology for more sustainable construction?
1) Mobile software helps teams to build right first time
Mistakes can significantly worsen the sustainability of a build. Rework isn’t only costly, but can be environmentally damaging, as it involves wasting extra energy and resources. But equally, errors when installing environmentally friendly features, for example, can mean that they don’t work properly and the effort to become more sustainable is actually counterproductive.
Using software like PlanGrid ensures that the whole team can access the most up to date versions of plans in real-time from the site, on their tablets and mobiles. This helps to minimise mistakes and create high quality sustainable homes the first time.
2) Better communication for better teamwork
Installing innovative resource-saving features may require close collaboration with a number of specialist subcontractors. Digital platforms like PlanGrid and BIM 360 ensure that everyone can access the information they need, when they need it. The PlanGrid issues management system makes it easier to highlight and assign fixes by marking them up directly on drawings, supporting close-out even on large builds. While BIM 360 allows field teams to connect with the office to enable instant collaboration and document sharing.
Digital drawings also support new building methods, such as off-site manufacturing or prefabrication – which are more environmentally-friendly but require major collaboration across multiple locations.
3) Tracking materials and reducing waste
In the EU, the construction industry accounts for a staggering 40% of final energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions. Clearly this is anything but sustainable.
Using biodegradable and sustainably sourced materials immediately improves the profile of a build. Employing PlanGrid can help firms to track the sustainability of the components used and even generate reports at the end of a build, which can be shared with clients. Using Assemble allows seamless extraction of data on components and raw materials contained in BIM models, so it’s possible to visualise materials on the site.
At the same time, having an accurate, as-built digital record will support the long-term functionality and sustainability of a building, by enabling refurbishments many years in the future if needed.
4) Reduce paper, Co2
Removing paper-based processes in construction has two immediate effects – reducing the time taken by project teams to locate the most up to date plans, identify and resolve issues. And eradicating the need for the raw material, paper, meaning every project is instantly more environmentally sustainable, saving huge amounts of Co2 and tonnes of paper.
5) Construction Technologists
The final point is not directly related to technology, but more the people. The demands of building in a more sustainable way will not disappear, if anything regulation and legislation will be made tighter to further tackle the emissions, energy and waste. Construction Software solutions can help, but they rely on having the right people involved. That’s potentially where the role of Construction Technologist could come into play. This role has emerged in the last couple of years as a conduit between the field team and the IT department, for those firms looking to get the most from their technological investments.
It’s no secret that sustainable practices are critically important to the future of our environment. The pressure is now truly on the sector to innovate. Embracing digital ways of working will bring instant gains in terms of lowering time, cost, energy, waste expended in construction. Firms that quickly make changes will be in prime position to win more contracts and help to make Ireland’s shared plan become a shared reality.