Photo by C Dustin on Unsplash

The economic crisis in 2008 had a big impact on the construction sector. Although it has tried to recover, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit again severely the European industry. Resiliency has proven fundamental, but more than ever investments in digitalisation are fundamental for a sector that generates more than 18 million jobs in Europe.  

Nature and construction 

It is truly fascinating to watch Neri Oxman work at the MIT Media lab where she leads the Mediated Matter research group: her goal as a multi-disciplinary designer in the field of Material Ecology is to “augment the relationship between built, natural, and biological environments by employing design principles inspired and engineered by Nature and implementing them in the invention of novel design technologies”i1.  

The possibilities when dominating the matters could be infinite for architecture to create energy-efficient buildings. The future of construction may lay on organic/living material to ensure following the European objective of sustainability.  

While it may still take a while for the world to take a systematic approach to construction that leaves no footprints on Earth, the quest to construct buildings that better meet the future challenges is underway. In these sense, Circular economy is a necessary model to follow in a society that needs to prioritize its environment before it’s too late: Let’s do more with less.   

Challenges faced by the construction industry 

The 2008 world economic crisis and the pandemic have hit severely the construction sector. The European Commission has responded over the years with different strategies which place technology and ecology at the heart of the construction sector: “The goal of the European Commission is to help the sector become more competitive, resource efficient and sustainable”2 .  

There are a number of necessary actions to increase the life quality of already existing buildings by working on improvements and renovations. In addition, to stimulate the demand, the use of innovative technologies to lose less energy and to create or preserve better energy generated by the habitants must be prioritised: “Building’s account for the largest share of total EU final energy consumption (40%) and produce about 35% of all greenhouse emissions”.  

However, since the sector is composed of 95% of micro-enterprises, or small and medium-sized enterprise (SMES), it is vital to train the employees of the construction, architecture, and civil engineering firms in sustainability and make it more attractive for investors.  

Digitalization and robotization 

Robotics and digitalisation are also starting to take a big part in the construction industry, which the European Union is aware of: “Besides the potential of technological advancement in different phases of the building’s life cycle, digitalisation can have a considerable impact in the overall buildings’ decarbonisation.  

Digitalisation – as a societal trend – can have a measurable impact on energy efficiency in buildings”3. According to the European Commision report: Supporting digitalisation of the construction sector and SMEs there are seven technologies used in the construction sector:  

  1. Building Information Modelling or Building information Management 
  1. Additive Manufacturing 
  1. Robotisation 
  1. Drones 
  1. 3D Scanning 
  1. Sensors 
  1. IoT 

The listing of technologies allowed the sector to identify the existing gaps that must be tackled. Related to the lack of limited obligatory digitalisation targets, the lack of investment in digitalisation technologies, the lack of trained employees, and the lack of investment in research and development. The EC is already working on some actions involving key stakeholders such as Digital Innovation Hubs, trainers, policy makers, software developers, cybersecurity experts, etc. 

While the new construction landscape will be built using the latest technologies, it is important not to forget to continue ensuring the well-being of already erected buildings. Another subject on the table which could be formulated by a question: Do we still need to build our cities as if we were blind to environmental changes?   

Marjorie Grassler, Communication Executive at Mobile World Capital Barcelona.

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