Latest Trends in Sustainable Construction

October 26, 2023

Living sustainably not only enhances our quality of life but also ensures the protection of our ecosystem and the preservation of natural resources for future generations. Furthermore, the development of a comprehensive built environment heavily relies on the principle of sustainability. In today's growing global economies, construction plays a crucial role.

To ensure sustainable development, developers, contractors, governments, and other stakeholders must prioritize implementing eco-friendly solutions.

According to a report issued by the World Green Building Council (World GBC), the number of net-zero commercial buildings and net-zero homes worldwide is currently relatively low. Merely 500 net-zero commercial buildings and 2,000 net-zero homes exist, which represents less than 1% of all buildings across the globe.

The 2050 Net-Zero strategic initiative has been launched by the UAE, signifying a nationwide endeavor to attain Net Zero emissions by 2050. This groundbreaking initiative positions the country as the first in the region to embark on this commendable journey.

Although there is still a considerable distance to travel, the industry has the potential to make significant progress by working together towards our shared goal. Additionally, reports indicate that there is a global expenditure of over $10tn per year on activities related to construction. Furthermore, this expenditure is expected to consistently increase by 4.2% annually until the year 2023.

Some of the key emerging trends in sustainable architecture and construction for 2023 include the following:

3D Printing

The utilization of 3D printing in the construction industry offers various benefits such as minimizing material waste, expediting production processes, and improving design adaptability. This technology is being utilized by startups and scaleups to offer inventive solutions for green building practices.

Concrete printing and additive manufacturing are utilized to produce environmentally friendly construction materials. Furthermore, there has been significant progress made in the advancement of larger 3D printers that possess the capability to print complete building structures.

In addition, it allows for the printing of building components directly at the construction site, facilitating the production of intricate shapes and designs. In addition to their conventional uses, 3D printers have the remarkable ability to fabricate buildings using materials found in the immediate vicinity, like sand and clay. Moreover, certain printers employ self-healing materials that can mend any incurred damage.

Advanced Technology

Nowadays, technology has unquestionably become an integral part of numerous construction procedures. The industry can be propelled towards sustainable construction through the remarkable influence of advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, computer visioning, and modeling.

One way to illustrate this is through the use of IoT. By utilizing IoT, it becomes possible to gather precise details regarding materials, equipment, or specific parts of a building. This information can then be used to obtain real-time data connected to sustainability. With the integration of AI and Modelling, it is feasible to assess, visualize, compare, make informed decisions, and even predict various scenarios.

The incorporation of Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an ongoing trend in the sector, showcasing the continuous utilization of technology. By using BIM data and simulation tools throughout the entire project lifespan, construction can become more efficient, reducing waste and improving cost-effectiveness.

This approach also promotes sustainable operations, maintenance, and eventual decommissioning. Moreover, the concept of the Digital Twin is increasingly gaining prominence. In simple terms, data consolidation pertains to gathering information about a physical object, such as a construction site or a building.

This data could involve both ongoing construction projects and completed structures. By combining the virtual and physical realms, data analysis and monitoring systems gain the ability to anticipate and address problems proactively. This powerful synergy not only helps prevent downtime but also paves the way for exploring untapped prospects and strategizing for upcoming scenarios through simulations.

In addition to enhancing the productivity and efficiency of assets, Digital Twin technology is capable of improving the sustainability of buildings. This technology plays a significant role in ensuring that buildings meet sustainability, efficiency, and regulatory requirements.

Innovative Materials

Is it possible for construction materials to be more environmentally friendly? This inquiry might be addressed through the exploration of pioneering materials such as graphene. Graphene, despite not being extensively utilized in commercial construction, displays robust attributes that can bolster the development of eco-friendly building materials.

Technically speaking, this material can be described as a carbon layer that is only one atom thick. However, it possesses remarkable qualities that surpass steel in terms of strength by 200 times. Furthermore, it exhibits transparency, flexibility, and exceptional conductivity in both heat and electricity.

Although the material has found applications in sportswear and equipment, enhancing the lightness and durability of tennis rackets and footwear, its utilization in commercial construction remains limited. In 2020, news emerged that the UAE has been closely monitoring the advancements of graphene. Abu Dhabi's renewable conglomerate, Masdar, took a significant step by investing in an international innovation center solely focused on graphene.

Prefabricated and Modular Construction

The popularity of prefabricated and modular construction techniques is growing due to their ability to reduce waste and enhance the efficiency of the construction process. These methods entail the utilization of pre-made building elements, which are produced away from the construction site and later put together there, diminishing the requirement for on-site construction.

The use of prefabricated and modular construction has gained popularity in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. This method is favored for its cost reduction, shortened project timelines, enhanced quality control, and lowered environmental impact.

Utilizing prefabricated components, which are assembled away from the construction site, enables projects to be accomplished more quickly compared to conventional building techniques. Moreover, prefabricated and modular construction provides enhanced quality control due to its meticulously designed components that are tailored to meet precise specifications, resulting in more precise and consistent outcomes.

In addition, the utilization of prefabricated and modular construction further contributes to minimizing environmental harm since it requires fewer materials, thanks to the meticulous offsite assembly process. One way to complete projects more efficiently and with less resource consumption is through minimizing material waste.

Moreover, the fact that the majority of components are constructed in an indoor environment ensures that they are shielded from external factors such as the elements. Consequently, this protection greatly extends their longevity.

The AEC industry has been revolutionized by the increased utilization of prefabricated and modular construction methods. This has resulted in numerous benefits such as improved cost efficiency, shortened project timelines, enhanced quality control, and reduced environmental impact.

This contemporary technique of construction presents a myriad of advantages compared to conventional methods, rendering it a more appealing choice for numerous architects, engineers, and contractors.

Using BIM Management Tools for Efficiency

​​To guarantee the triumph of a sustainable construction revolution, the inclusion of Building Information Modeling (BIM) is essential as a fundamental component. Although BIM might not be explicitly promoted in this manner, it provides numerous efficiency enhancements that have the potential to significantly diminish the environmental consequences of nearly all construction ventures.

4D BIM is an advanced technology that enables contractors to promptly generate comprehensive, sequential project plans upon their recruitment. By integrating 4D BIM into 3D models, all design components are furnished with crucial information. This includes lead times, construction and installation periods, curing/drying allowances, sequencing, and more. As a result, comprehensive data on the entire development process is made available.

By employing this unparalleled scheduling sophistication, contractors can effectively economize on impromptu coordination and rework, leading to reduced wastage and expedited project timelines. In simple terms, when a construction crew works for a shorter duration at a site, it results in reduced emissions from heavy machinery and tools, along with decreased energy consumption for the project.

Conclusion

Professionals in architecture, engineering, and construction must endeavor to develop building projects that are both sustainable and resilient, providing benefits to both people and the environment. When it comes to sustainable building, the key aim is to maximize resource efficiency at every stage of the project, starting from design to construction and operation.

The aim is to minimize the environmental footprint while satisfying the requirements of the users of the constructed area. To maximize the effectiveness of sustainable building projects, professionals must thoroughly consider every aspect of development during the planning and design stages.

Some key areas to consider in terms of sustainable building practices are energy efficiency, utilizing renewable energy sources, implementing water conservation methods, establishing effective waste management and recycling systems, making thoughtful materials selections, ensuring indoor air quality, and carefully considering building site selection.

Moreover, it is crucial to consider utilizing intelligent technologies, like automated lighting and HVAC systems, which not only facilitate efficient operations but also enhance the overall experience for occupants. In today's world, where climate change and erratic weather patterns are becoming more prevalent, it is crucial to incorporate resilient building design into sustainable projects.

The use of flood-resistant materials, construction techniques to strengthen structural integrity, and the creation of green infrastructure are strategies that professionals should consider for mitigating risk. When pursuing the creation of sustainable and resilient future building projects, it is essential for architecture, engineering, and construction professionals to consistently prioritize achieving a harmonious equilibrium between economic progress and environmental stewardship.

Taking all factors into account, including design, implementation, and operation, experts can develop projects that have a positive impact on both individuals and the environment.

 

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