IoT for Sustainability in Construction
Industries around the world are becoming increasingly more “alive” and alert thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). In simple terms, IoT encompasses all devices, sensors, and objects that are connected and can communicate. This can be everything from smartphones, wearables, and laptops, to air quality sensors, vehicles, or toasters. In recent years IoT devices have found their place in many different industries due to their high connectivity and data sharing capabilities. Connected devices can communicate across a wide range of private networks as well as on open networks.
With the climate crisis increasing in severity it’s becoming more and more important for industries to take responsibility for their environmental impact and make proactive changes to ensure that today’s work will have a positive impact on future generations. Construction is one of the highest carbon-emitting industries worldwide and as such, needs to take immediate action to bring down emissions. This is an area where IoT technologies can make a tremendous difference.
In the past, the conversation around sustainability has often been blocked by the need to make a healthy profit. In some instances, these two topics have been viewed as mutually exclusive. Not only does this perspective limit our view of what’s possible, but it is also factually incorrect. Sustainability does not necessarily come at the cost of profits. In many cases, it is vital to increase and sustain profits over time.
Innovators in the sustainability space now have an ample opportunity to use IoT devices to bring harmony to sustainability and profits within the construction industry. The responsibility lies in the hands of innovators to showcase and communicate how profits will be positively impacted by placing a higher focus on sustainability.
The Way Forward
As digital technology has made its way into the construction industry, so has the use of IoT devices. This brings a whole wave of new capabilities to construction sites, with the potential to connect virtually any part of a construction site to the internet. They can help us save tremendous amounts of time in collecting data and ensure that critical information is relayed instantaneously. This gives us the power to change our impact with immediate effect. Furthermore, by ensuring that a steady flow of data is being captured and stored, we have the opportunity to review historical data, identify trends and patterns, and use this to make future business decisions.
There is a big opportunity for IoT technologies to enable sustainable construction in modular construction. More and more contractors are relying on prefabricated building materials assembled off-site that are transferred to site when the building is ready. By integrating IoT devices in the manufacturing process of these building materials, modular construction companies can monitor the building process, and optimise the supply chain accordingly, to ensure that the right materials are delivered only when needed. This results in a significant reduction of mistakes made which, in turn, minimises waste production on site.
Another big use of IoT technologies is to track the flow of materials and waste on-site. This enables teams to maintain a clear picture of their site at all times, reducing the risk of non-compliant materials going into the build unnoticed and minimising the risk of using non-compliant waste carriers to remove the waste. Many construction companies claim to have full control over this, however, without empirical evidence in the form of data, they will never know for sure how their performance adds up. Ultimately, this puts many companies at risk.
The big benefit of connecting IoT devices on your construction site is that data silos are effectively eliminated. In a data silo, data is close to useless. Standalone data does not provide any actionable insights or revelations. It’s just text and numbers. To extract anything relevant from it requires hours and hours of applying specialised manpower, something most construction sites don’t have lying around. However, when sensors and devices across a site are connected over a network, construction teams can learn things from these data streams instantly. The opportunity to reduce your construction company’s environmental impact is now greater than ever, while simultaneously reducing risk, reducing costs, and saving time. This creates true harmony between sustainability and profits, all thanks to the power of IoT technologies.
Mark Twain once said: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”.
Without having clear evidence of what is happening on a construction site, project teams will never know for sure where their inefficiencies lie, where rework could have been avoided, or how to manage their waste more efficiently. IoT is the solution to these problems and provides a transparent and innovative way forward.