Technology Simplifies Sustainable Construction

by Melanie Baravik
April 26, 2018

Going green is no longer a fad — sustainable practices are here to stay. And in construction, technology is contributing to green building in a big way, with new, better methods of construction that encourage innovation and create eco-friendly structures.

We’ve talked about what sustainability means and some ways to incorporate eco-friendly practices into day-to-day operations. Now let’s take a look at some of the technology making sustainable construction a reality.

BIM

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is, at a basic level, software that lets contractors and architects virtually “build” a project to completion. But the exact definition of BIM can vary between software companies, with some limiting the definition to the software itself and some referring to BIM as more of a comprehensive building process.

Regardless, using BIM means more accurate calculations can be made about the project’s timeline, its cost and the amount of materials that will be needed. Changes can be made to the computer model to see how the project will be affected before wasting resources or manpower. What’s more, BIM can be used to measure the building’s environmental impact and find ways to lessen that impact and build sustainably.

Several studies have shown that using BIM from the beginning of a construction project can make sustainability a much more easily attained goal. Utilizing the software creates structures that are not just built in an environmentally friendly way, but that are easy on the Earth in the long-term, encompassing the term sustainable.

Telematics

Telematics can help you better utilize equipment so you waste less fuel and put less wear on your machines. A solution like ES Track can tell you how long a machine sits idle and running, burning fuel without any productivity. You’ll also be able to see who’s operating the vehicle or machine; whether it’s one driver’s bad habit or everyone’s, you can decide whether to host a training session or a one-on-one with the chronic idler. When you can pinpoint where waste originates, it’s much easier to fix the problem.

Keeping up with equipment maintenance used to be a hassle, but telematics has changed that. Using predictive maintenance rather than reactive or solely preventative maintenance means taking care of equipment before problems begin. Telematics monitor the engine and collect data about its status and condition, and then make predictions about the machine for you. ES Track alerts you when it’s time for a regular oil change and when it identifies a more serious problem so you aren’t behind on routine maintenance or blindsided by a breakdown. Compared to reactive and even preventative maintenance, predictive maintenance leads to the longest life for your machines. Getting more use out of your machines and wasting less fuel is good for the environment and for your bottom line.

Sustainable materials

While BIM and telematics make the building process more sustainable, technological advancements are also creating sustainable building materials. Researchers have developed “green” concrete that’s stronger, longer-lasting and takes fewer materials (producing far less carbon emissions) to make than traditional concrete. The project’s lead researcher says the concrete is “ground-breaking” because it can be used on a larger scale in the construction industry.

More efficient insulation is key to reducing a building’s energy consumption; when temperatures indoors fluctuate less, heaters and air conditioners don’t have to work as hard. A 2015 study showed that incorporating phase-change materials into insulation — still a fairly new practice — reduced “peak-hour heat gain” anywhere from 21-37%. Phase-change materials release and absorb heat by essentially melting and freezing, while traditional insulation traps air in pockets to regulate temperatures.

There are plenty of choices when it comes to green construction materials already, from solar panel tiles to recycled metal to insulated brick, and innovation isn’t slowing down. With so many options, there’s no reason not to use sustainable materials in your construction projects.

What eco-friendly practices do you find most useful? If you haven’t yet used any, which sustainable practices or materials would you try?

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