Digitalisation is a fundamental tool for anyone trying to reduce carbon on a project. Digital processes enable us to mitigate risk, save time, reduce errors, and overall cost – all of which impact the involved carbon. It will take a holistic approach to project delivery, involving clients and digital transformation, to achieve decarbonisation across the design and operation.
Putting data at the centre of construction
I joined WSP as Technical Director in 2021. My primary role is to service digital information management and emerging technology within the built environment.
Every person on my team focuses on improving the delivery of construction projects by putting data at the centre. When a client comes to us with a problem, we create a bespoke digital plan to streamline systems, help inform decision-making and deliver better results.
Digital visualisation to reduce carbon
One of the ways we use technology to reduce carbon is through digital visualisation. Rather than populating an excel spreadsheet, we build our proposals in a 3D model of the city so clients can visualise the site in operation.
Many projects in busy cities like London have complex constraints – deliveries of materials need to be well thought out and planned to avoid risks and delays. By visualising the sequence site, clients can see where the truck will arrive and what the hazards are so it can offload its materials safely and efficiently.
We can also use visualisation to address a wide range of issues such as how staff travel to the site. Are they using public transport or driving a diesel van? Visualisation can help clients consider the project as a whole and understand the impact of decisions across the lifecycle of a project.
Putting the digital tools into practice
We are seeing an increased request from clients to explore how digital services can support carbon reduction, one service we are seeing a significant increase in use cases is 4D or digital rehearsal. A method which focuses on the optimisation of a project programme to reduce waste and errors on site. Avoiding errors on site is an easy fix and improves carbon reduction.
We will start to use digital rehearsal to help the design team visualise the embodied carbon in the construction process; what the materials are, where they came from, and the labour required to produce them. We will also implement digital rehearsal, a site logistics simulation to reduce errors.
Having this digital data enables the design team to make changes to the plan according to the levels of carbon each process will produce. The levels of embodied carbon increase or decrease depending on which levers they pull, giving them early insight into the impact of their decisions.
Reducing carbon on a global scale
To share these digital solutions to complex problems, I co-founded Zero Construct, a platform for professionals to share ideas and implement change. Together, we created an end-to-end six-stage zero playbook including political and policy drivers. The ZERO playbook will include chapters that look at; Leadership, design, measurement, people, construction and innovation. I am leading the innovation chapter. Our goal is to run workshops in countries worldwide – in America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the Middle East to bring our thinking together.
To achieve net zero in the construction industry, we need to make our thinking available for everyone so we can share best practices across the UK and worldwide. I believe that implementation of digital technology is one of the best places to start.