How to Achieve Meaningful Profits and Sustainability Through Technology in Construction?

This article is part of a blog series on construction 4.0 embracing digitalization, urbanization of emerging economies, and the changes it implies for the construction industry._

2022 saw the global emissions of carbon dioxide related to energy production reaching a new record of more than 36.8 billion metric tons, according to a report by the International Energy Agency. Buildings represent 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions:

  • 28% from operational emissions, from the energy needed to heat, cool, and power them
  • 11% from materials and construction.

Global investment in clean energy will reach USD 1.7 trillion in 2023. At the COP26 summit in November 2021, attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1994, the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% to reach the ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

Construction companies have to change their mindset about sustainability if they want to:

  • reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption
  • generate profitable growth.

What could construction companies do to make a difference for our planet?

Using green building techniques like renewable energy and recycled materials can improve sustainability. For example, to reach net zero by 2050, the construction industry should push companies and governments to:

  • fit insulation and air sealing methods to reduce energy consumption
  • install solar panels and geothermal systems to diminish buildings’ carbon footprint
  • incorporate sustainable practices into every stage of the construction process
  • innovate in new products and services to invest in clean energy like decarbonization
  • offer incentives and impose penalties to motivate the sector to build and operate sustainable buildings.

Here are some initiatives governments have implemented to motivate companies in the industry to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Commission (EC)

The strategy is to double the annual energy renovation rates of European Union (EU) buildings in the next 10 years. To achieve their goals, they have:

  • budgeted hundreds of billions in subsidies over the next five years for climate-friendly construction and renovation
  • proposed European climate law to boost demand for optimizing and modernizing the construction and operation of buildings.

The United States of America

In the $2 trillion Build Back Better spending framework announced in 2021, $555 billion has been appropriated for clean energy investments. The framework to encourage companies and consumers to go green offers:

  • tax credits
  • rebates
  • other incentives.

Emission reductions initiatives

The whole construction value chain should consider where they can reduce CO2 emissions throughout the construction process and operations of the builds. Here are some ideas on how it could be done.

Product innovation

Finding new materials and products like wood composites, to improve or substitute for conventional materials and products such as steel and concrete. Wood composites:

  • have a higher load-carrying capacity than traditional materials
  • are less ponderous
  • are electrical and heat resistant.
  • offer higher insulation rating, making them more energy efficient.

Wood is sustainable as it can be regrown and reduces CO2 emissions by 15% to 30%.

Process efficiency

To decrease carbon emissions during the design and planning phase, architects and planners look for:

  • low energy operational consumption products
  • disassembly of a building
  • adaptability to new methodologies
  • flexibility of construction type
  • less CO2 intensive materials
  • sourcing standardized, local materials, with a long lifespan.

During the construction and in-use phases:

  • suppliers using new technologies will reduce fossil fuel consumption and, when possible, move to renewable energies
  • distributors will optimize transportation movements
  • building contractors will decrease fuel consumption by using new technologies and leveraging data management systems to streamline their operations.

Waste management

According to an EY analysis, 70% to 80% of unused construction materials are wasted. If contractors were reusing or recycling the waste, it would significantly reduce the amount ending in landfill.

For example, a lot of damaged timber could be reused for wood flooring material, substantially reducing CO2 through circular material models. A recycling center in Retznei, Austria processes 130,000 tons of construction and demolition waste materials annually, of which 70% are recycled or reused, while 30% are used as back-filling material for a quarry.

Platforms and ecosystems

Companies in the construction industry can form partnerships, legal or informal, allowing them to accelerate emission reductions, within the organization and across the ecosystem to:

  • access new technologies
  • share business models and talent
  • reduce investments.

These partnerships could create great opportunities for these companies to:

  • generate profitable growth
  • differentiate themselves in the market using decarbonization strategies.

Technology improves construction sustainability and profitability

Using technology helps construction companies to be more sustainable and profitable by making it easier to choose green materials and use less energy. Risk must be evaluated before implementing new technologies. Below are some examples:

BIM modeling Sichuan road and bridge

Sichuan Province, a southwestern Chinese province, wanted to develop the Chengdu-Yibin Expressway a smart construction initiative that aimed to be:

  • a modern road hub
  • ecological
  • accessible.

The brief to the Sichuan Road and Bridge (SRB) company that was awarded the engineering, procurement, and construction contract was as follows:

  • a budget of 24.6 billion yuan
  • create a smart highway integrating artificial intelligence and a cooperative system of vehicle infrastructure in the construction
  • complete the construction within three years
  • the highway will span over 155 kilometers
  • it will have 154 bridges that total 39.7 kilometers
  • it will include four tunnels that cover 7.3 kilometers
  • there will also be 17-grade interchanges and five service areas along the route.

The planning process was difficult due to:

  • lengthy and complex construction of the bridges
  • resource allocation issues
  • coordination problems amongst dozens of subcontractors, construction planning, and management.

Using BIM methodology and reality modeling, SRB were able to:

  • use 3D models for digital inspection and simulation which identified more than 103 potential design issues
  • save 4.5 million yuan in costs associated with construction site changes
  • solve more than 14 potential line-of-sight problems
  • save 7 million yuan in construction costs
  • reduce the entire construction period by 124 days, thus saving 6 million yuan in production costs
  • improve process efficiencies by more than 50%, production efficiency by more than 20%, and modeling efficiency by 15%.
  • reduce the land acquisition and the environmental impact of the project.

Offsite construction and 3D modeling

Offsite Construction and BIM has many benefits, including:

  • time and labor savings
  • improved predictability
  • high sustainability
  • enhanced safety and quality.

Nick Milestone, Operations Director at Sigmat claims they have embedded Sig-Dek, their own decking profile product, into the Tekla BIM library. He said:

Having access to this product further enhances levels of accuracy. Achieving this level of accuracy in virtual design and construction (VDC) processes, allows Sigmat to achieve zero waste with offsite construction. Additionally, the correct material quantities are always ordered thanks to automatic quantity take-offs, and no rework is required due to detailing or fabrication errors.


  • accurate BIM modeling
  • accurate construction installation
  • no rework is required
  • no waste is produced

Benefits of technology in construction sustainability

Combining automation and technologies like robotics, smart building materials, the Internet of Things (IoT) for data collection, and artificial intelligence for analysis, you can:

  • reduce waste
  • increase safety
  • improve efficiency
  • find new, and more efficient ways of constructing
  • get higher profitability
  • be more effective and environmentally friendly.

For instance, using predictive analytics tools you will be able to:

  • identify potential risks in a project
  • eliminate design errors
  • avoid costly reworks
  • reduce waste.

Challenges to implementing sustainable technologies in construction projects

Implementing sustainable technologies presents challenges:

  • high investment costs
  • new knowledge which requires hiring more people
  • regulatory obstacles.

How could you overcome these challenges?

Get a return on investment

The long-term savings will deliver a high return on investment by:

  • reducing energy bills
  • increasing durability
  • identifying potential subsidies from local or national governments.

Acquire the right knowledge

Automation and robotics require different skills that can be acquired by:

  • investing in staff training
  • hiring people experienced in green building techniques
  • incentivizing employees to get new skills using a reward system.

Regulatory issues

Artificial intelligence developments bring new technological solutions to the construction industry with the potential to improve worksite efficiency, data quality, and overall innovation that carries legal risks that must be investigated, evaluated, and addressed before implementing these solutions.

Is investing in sustainable technologies worth it?

Investing in sustainable technologies can result in long-term cost savings, such as improved insulation and windows, or using renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines to generate power. These can help businesses significantly reduce their energy bills and reliance on traditional utilities.

Innovation in products and services driving decarbonization

You can partner with universities to innovate in products and services to help your clients, building owners, and operators, to:

  • reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption to reach net zero carbon construction
  • implement decarbonization solutions generating profitable growth.

Innovations can involve energy-efficient systems like heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, plumbing, and building envelope (walls, windows, roofs, and insulation). For example offering products and services at each stage of the design, construction, operation, and demolition in various areas from insulation to entire building management systems.

Automation and system integration using cloud platforms and business model innovations combined with holistic services and solutions that will improve a building’s operational performance and enhance the comfort of the users.

A certification to prove, energy conservation awareness of the construction. For example, LEED certification is available for both new building construction as well as existing buildings and spaces.

Investing in efficient technology

Automated bulldozers and excavators or robotic arms for construction projects, can reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions, reducing carbon footprint over time.

Renewable energy sources like solar power for lighting and machinery can decrease reliance on fossil fuels.

These initiatives could help you to:

  • improve your company’s public perception by prioritizing environmental responsibility when purchasing, increasing loyalty to your brand and customer retention rates
  • enhance the sustainability and profitability of your builds by reducing waste and improving energy efficiency
  • streamline your processes, for example monitoring usage and tracking product lifecycles to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources, reducing emissions and environmental impacts.

In conclusion

Introducing automation and digitalization in your company can improve:

  • efficiency
  • accuracy
  • safety
  • profitability
  • sustainability

By using technologies such as:

  • BIM - would improve 3D visualization
  • robotics and wearables - would be able to be more precise and improve security through real-time data collection
  • drones - would provide an aerial view of the construction site for effective resource planning and surveying.

Technology in the construction industry helps to build a better tomorrow, strengthening efficiency and safety.

To speed up project completion and improve quality control measures you should be using:

  • internet platforms to streamline your project management
  • robotics and automated equipment to mitigate risks and improve accuracy
  • drones to provide detailed aerial surveys, to identify potential issues and improve your quality control measures.

Achieving net zero by 2050 will give you a significant competitive advantage. Do not wait to develop strategies and business models that will get your clients one step closer to achieving that ambitious goal.

All you have to do is to make the wise decision to invest in technology to:

  • improve sustainability and profitability
  • yield costs and environmental savings
  • increase efficiency while reducing your generated carbon footprint for years.

Driving Vision's technology appraisal looks at the best way to insert new technology in your workflows and how to move your organization to cloud computing so you can open up new possibilities for your daily planning tasks and make sure your data never leaves the optimally secured data center.

A Driving Vision expert will conduct the interviews online, issue a report and discuss our findings with you. Together we can decide the best way to implement the solutions at your pace and according to your budget.

Implementing BIM can be daunting, but Driving Vision is here to help you at the pace you are comfortable with. Get started by getting in touch now

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