Construction, Sustainability and Connected Data
September 23, 2021
Sustainability can be defined as the ability to ensure that resources are being consumed at a rate so as not to deplete their supply for use in the future. The connection between the construction industry and sustainability may not be obvious, but the two are probably more intertwined than you may immediately recognize.
Construction projects, within any sector of the industry, leave a large footprint on the land they occupy, and impact natural resources directly and indirectly. Understanding that natural resources are necessary to construction projects, whether it be the land the project is being built on or the materials used, it is imperative to having a sustainability, conservationist mindset when designing and building a project.
However, planning and building projects in a sustainable way may not always be in alignment with planning and building in the most timely and cost-effective way. Though not currently an automatic thought when it comes to sustainability, technology is set to play a huge role in moving projects forward to embrace true sustainability.
Yet in an industry where projects typically run behind schedule and over-budget, owners and contractors alike are faced with the profound challenge of trying to operate within the parameters of their schedules and budgets while also being good stewards of the environment and resources being consumed. This intersection is where the benefits of connected data can be fully realized. Here’s how.
Finding the Right Platform
Adopting platforms that make connected data available allows contractors and owners the peace of mind that the work is being performed efficiently and that it conserves resources for many projects in the future. Connected data enables the data to flow from its point of entry to all the personnel that will utilize it, and it can be operationalized in the timeframe necessary.
Think about procurement and materials management with the enablement of access to your estimated quantities as well as construction takeoff quantities. Your procurement specialists can ensure that the correct amount of material is purchased to complete the work at hand. This data will then get passed to superintendents so they can plan work accurately knowing the exact amounts of quantities needed onsite. Here’s something else to consider.
Often times, extra materials are simply thrown away. This creates non-recyclable waste in many cases, and the company absorbs the cost of that material as well as the cost of acquiring more in the future. If you find yourself ending up with extra materials, a system to store and catalog these resources for potential future use will dramatically reduce the chance that those materials will be wasted.
Unexpected Benefits of Sustainable Construction
Connecting data also promotes sustainability beyond daily planning and procurement operations on construction projects. In preparing for an environmental inspection or evaluation, such as a LEED certification, for instance, or if the project is in an area with stringent environmental protections. In this case, tools used to carry out and track inspection criteria can also be used to capture areas of concern and then easily pass that data to the appropriate individuals on the project team to address prior to inspection.
Or, for preservation and maintenance purposes, utilizing checklist tools that capture data, and again, funnel it to the appropriate resources, can assist in maintaining construction equipment to ensure that they are running optimally which can reduce emissions. This utility can also be used to maintain the structure long after the construction phase. By keeping current with care and maintenance of the building, you can ensure that it continues to sustainably use energy and minimizes its’ impact on the environment.
Leveraging Data for the Future
Connected data can also be leveraged for future project planning and procurement. Such collaborative systems allow companies to have a better grasp of what they currently have available for use and if it lines up with what they actually need. Similarly, eliminating rework can save on material cost, time and waste. How do you eliminate rework? By having your work planned out meticulously from the start and being able to easily view the information – what was planned, how long it is scheduled to take, and if you have the proper materials on site – all in a single source of project truth and all at your fingertips.
Often, we plan things assuming that the plans and designs will not change. But as anyone who has served in the industry will tell you, this is not a reality. Change is a constant. Given that, data integration across systems to inform project and office personnel becomes much more crucial to your project’s success because you can’t change what you can’t see.
For example, the sooner the procurement team is aware of changes, the sooner they can ensure the right materials are being ordered. Following from that, the sooner the field becomes aware of these changes, the less likely rework becomes. If your team has access to data sooner, they can course-correct sooner and eliminate re-work which can impact the environment through machinery emissions and the waste that can be generated if any components of the project need to be rebuilt.
There are many different software companies that can help you track data. But, if you want to take it a step further, you need to ask one vital question; does that system connect information together to ensure that you are seeing the full picture and can mitigate the risk of creating waste or losing time or money on your job? If the answer is “yes,” you will be that much closer to connecting data with true project and resource sustainability.