ICT Role for Smart Sustainable Cities

A smart city is an innovative urban strategy, using high technologies to reduce the city environmental footprint and to improve the citizens’ quality of life. Smart cities use ICT to implement their smart strategies and to collect and deliver information at different users. For this reason, a smart city is somewhat joining different aspects of living in the urban area and link several concepts such as wired city, virtual city, intelligent city, information city, digital city, knowledge city, and so on. A smart sustainable city is an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) and other means to improve quality of life, the efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social and environmental aspects.

The role of ICT practices in smart sustainable cities
As aforementioned, the definition of ‘sustainable’ provides a  cognitive frame for the understanding of which smart solutions are relevant. If, on the one hand, a sustainable city is defined as an urban area in which the built environment is resource efficient, then ‘smart’ will comprise ICT solutions for automation. If, on the other hand, a sustainable city is defined as an urban area in which the footprint of consumption does not exceed a certain level, then ‘smart’ will imply ICT solutions addressing also consumption habits, by way of information, persuasion and gamification. The contemporary smart sustainable city discourse aspires to address both infrasystems and lifestyles but is strongly techno-biased. While there are well-elaborated proposals for technological solutions, and to some extent how these are intended to be used, the heterogeneity and complexity of everyday life is remarkably often neglected. Moreover, the solutions are typically aimed at an ideal type of human being, emerging from the male-biased technocratic dreaming of engineers and policy-makers. The idea of this individual and rational “resource man” [43] is however not unique for the smart sustainable city discourse but is a recurring character in many sustainable development agendas addressing consumption, behaviour or lifestyles [45, 46]. While “resource
man” might be an appealing understanding of how people function, this simplification is a problematic shortcut.
Numerous studies have shown that to understand patterns of consumption (and how to change them), it does not suffice to focus the logic of (bounded) economic rationality. Social, cultural and institutional dimensions also need to be taken into consideration. Additional criticism against contemporary smart city agendas is lifted by , who argues that the smart city agenda is underpinned with ideas of authoritarianism instead of harnessing the reality of urban life.

Smart Sustainable Cities
ICTs can play a significant role to improve the carbon footprint of cities by moving to more intelligent use of energy.

ICTs can enable better use of energy in buildings, transport, street lighting etc. It can also facilitate the integration of locally generated renewable energy into the electricity grid. The report “Impacts of Information and communication Technologies on Energy Efficiency” which was commissioned by the European Commission identifies areas in a city in which ICT can have a positive impact.

Because of the positive role ICTs can play in helping cities reduce their carbon emissions the European Commission co-finances initiatives and research in this area through the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.


ICT plays a critical role in supporting the green sector towards sustainable buildings

Greening ICT products, applications, services, and practices in buildings are both economic and environmental imperative, as well as our social responsibility. Therefore, a growing number of ICT vendors and users are moving towards green ICT and thereby assisting in building a green society and economy. With this in mind, consumers can achieve green savings on top of the efficiency gains resulting from automated systems.

Green ICT concept
Green ICT is drawing a lot of attention and it originates from its source “Green Computing”. However, “Green Computing” in the earlier stage was based on the idea that ICT is deeply related to high energy consumption as well as production of harmful materials and non-recyclable waste that do not decompose, and aimed at production of energy efficient, eco-friendly and recyclable ICT goods. Meanwhile, as environmental problems aggravate
recently, ICT is being expanded beyond the mere production of eco-friendly products, to becoming actively applied in dealing with environmental problems. Green ICT is also concerned now with developing and applying production processes or sharing in them with adequate attention being given to the environmental impacts.

Smart Buildings
‘Smart buildings’ is a term employed for a suite of technologies that use ICT applications to make the design, construction and, in particular, the use of buildings more efficient and convenient. Global emissions from buildings, including the energy used to run buildings, are estimated to be 11.7 GtCO2e by 2020 . It has also been estimated that ICT has the potential to reduce these emissions by 15%, i.e. by 1.68 GtCO2e.

Smart Grids
A ‘smart grid’ is a solution with both software and hardware tools that can route electricity more efficiently. The smart grid allows the electricity to go in a two-way direction, which allows real-time two-way information exchange with customers for real-time demand-side management. In contrast, the energy distribution networks of today are relatively inefficient. These networks only allow one-way communication of the energy distribution from the energy provider to the user of energy. Furthermore, they have over-capacity in order to cope with unexpected surges in energy use.

Integration Technologies

Integration Technologies are used to enable different actors to collaborate and share knowledge, to enable different systems and tools to communicate with each other and to make it easy for the user of the system to install new tools and systems. The main concepts of ‘Integration Technologies’ are:
• Process integration
• System integration
• Inter-operability and standards
• Knowledge sharing

Process Integration – Process Integration as discussed in this section means the business relations between different actors and how that process can be made more effective, with less resource and energy usage as a result. Through it,
residents and building owners collaborate and share information about the building and its operating conditions to achieve high energy efficiency. The actors use ICT tools for the support of group work to collaborate in an efficient way. Current technologies are based on the assumption that all collaborating parties use the same platform.

System Integration – System Integration is a way of describing the communication between hardware and software in different systems and how the different parts fit together and communicate. The vision is that each new component in a building should be recognised automatically, which means that each new component can be easily connected and unnecessary components removed from the network (plug-and-play). Another, similar concept for easy system integration is Service Orientated Architecture (SOA), which makes it easier to integrate or remove different services from time to time. A common platform for the ‘building operation system’ rather than separate hardware as a host for the different software systems is preferable. Open information platforms and gateways can be
used to support external value-added software services to run on the platform and use information from the different subsystems.
Interoperability & Standards – In the building and construction sector there are many actors involved, each with many different ICT tools and systems for a variety of applications that need to share information. There is still a mismatch between the users’ need for interoperability and the ICT providers’ incentives to support it. If all information that is managed during a building’s usage phase were to be supported by an open BIM (Building Information Model) standard, stored in a single place and always updated and accessible to all actors, it would be easier to get proper data and to identify where energy savings could be made.

Knowledge sharing – Knowledge about energy-efficient solutions and practices is important for lower energy usage in buildings. If knowledge could be shared between actors in an easy way, it might open the way for more energy savings.  Tools for access to knowledge such as e&m learning (electronically and mobile phone-supported learning and teaching), RSS feeds that push relevant information to users of buildings and community forums where sharing of experiences from different energy efficiency solutions and practices can become a breeding environment for new ideas. Other tools that are relevant in this field are knowledge management tools that are used to identify, collect, organise, share, adapt, use and create energy-efficient solutions and practices. Examples of such tools are: Model-based knowledge management, ambient access technologies, knowledge platforms and standards.


Get Ready for Artificial Intelligence in Construction with immense potential on the way.

The infrastructure and construction industry is undergoing a lot of seismic transformations that will change its essential character and redefine the industry – which has conventionally traversed at a snail’s pace in incorporating innovative technology – to maximize utility, boost productivity and streamline delivery. AI would assist the construction industry in combatting some of the biggest recurring challenges that it has to face, including project schedule delay, accuracy margin, and safety considerations.

The immense potential of AI in the construction industry

Opportunity areas to be seen
Identification of key opportunity areas within the construction industry where AI has the potential to be a decisive game-changer would be helpful in its evolution, as mass adoption of AI in construction becomes a reality.

Among other uses, project schedule optimizers can consider permutations and combinations of literally innumerable alternative ways for project delivery and concurrently enhancing project planning.

In the domain of site surveying, image recognition and classification can identify unsafe worker behavior pattern and collate this data for future reference.

Deployment of customized real-time solutions at a reduced cost and prioritization of preventative maintenance would also be a plus point.

Other AI-based applications can assist site managers in the inspection of remote sites by updating any changes they witness in real time.

In the future, there would be autonomous quality-control systems that would combine new technologies and artificial intelligence with other tools, including GPS and building-information modeling (BIM). Few construction start-ups have also developed products to assist with many other on-site activities, including supply-chain logistics.

An emerging AI technique called reinforcement learning permits algorithms to learn based on trial and error and would provide effective optimization as well as solve for objective functions (e.g. duration or cost of fuel).

Similar technologies would be directly applicable to project planning and scheduling, as it has the potential to assess endless combinations and alternatives based on similar projects, optimizing the best path and correcting them in due course of time, if and when needed.

leveraging Artificial Intelligence in construction

The adoption of technology in the construction jobsite it happening. Sure, its happening slowly. However the good news is that the adoption is catching on. Thanks to cloud-based applications and mobile devices, the amount of data that is captured (jobsite photos, materials used, labor hours, equipment utilization etc) on a jobsite has grown exponentially over the past 10 years. The value of this information is to do deeper analysis, trending, what-if scenarios to make projects and companies more profitable.

Artificial intelligence provides hidden insights into data that humans cannot process or will take too long. Activities that hamper construction can now use artificial intelligence to make improvements in productivity, safety, quality, and scheduling.

Emerging Trends of Artificial Intelligence in Construction
Safety sensors
The internet of things has automated our home to make our home more energy efficient. Similarly, the internet of things is automating our jobsites to make them safer. Wearable sensors such as Spot-r identify the location of your workers and provide any alerts if a worker slips or falls.

Deploying drones and drone mapping software such as DroneDeploy drastically cuts down the time to gather accurate surveys maps and aerial images of a jobsite. This can be used to track progress without having to be on the jobsite. Additionally the aerial images provide project managers with an additional perspective to identify issues and conflicts they may not view from the ground.

Autonomous vehicles
Major tech companies and car manufacturers are developing self-driving vehicles. While Uber and Google conduct pilot projects of self-driving cars, Caterpillar has released a line of autonomous mining equipment used for dozing, drilling and hauling.

Following autonomous vehicles, robots have started to infiltrate our home (hello Roomba) and the construction site. While robots have not quite made it on the jobsite, Fastbrick Robotics has developed Hadrian X, a bricklaying robot that can build a residential house in 2 days.

Artificial Intelligence in the Future of Construction
Artificial intelligence provides tremendous benefits to improving the productivity in construction. While the construction industry grapples with a labor shortage and declining productivity, artificial intelligence helps to fill in the gaps. However, artificial intelligence is not an exact science and model of natural human intelligence. So artificial intelligence serves to assist humans and not replace them especially in construction where every project is unique and subject to many external factors and moving parts (weather, other trades, etc).

An additional limiting factor to adoption of artificial intelligence will be the cost. Using autonomous vehicles and robotics may increase the output that individual workers can provide, but it will do so at a large cost. The capital investment of the equipment along with the additional expertise to manage the equipment will represent a large upfront investment on companies. Something that may not be viable for many companies in an industry that spends only 1% of revenue on technology.

Artificial intelligence in construction is on the rise. Similar to other technology advances, those that are ready to take the leap will have an edge over their competition.

Modular buildings; the future of construction

There is already a saying going around that your next real estate project won’t be built – it will be manufactured. Does it mean that the future of construction is going to be modular, Waste can be significantly reduced with an off-site process – as much as 50% of waste on traditional building sites could be prevented by a switch to off-site construction, with all the attendant financial and environmental benefits.

About modular construction

Modular construction is a form of off-site construction in which a building’s components, or modules, are constructed in a factory setting before being transported to site for assembly. People are most familiar with this type of construction in the use of bathroom pods, which is a common method of construction in many residential and hospitality projects.

In recent years, we have seen a rise in the use of volumetric construction, which involves the off-site construction of as much of a building as possible before being brought to site. Typically, a volumetric project would construct a complete room, with a bathroom inside that room, as well as part of the corridor and, perhaps, some external finishes.


What are the types of modular construction?

If you imagine a scale from traditional on-site construction to full-scale off-site construction, bathroom pod construction is much nearer the former, with most of the building still constructed on site in a traditional manner. Unitised façade systems and external envelopes are further towards the middle of the scale, and these have been produced partly off-site for decades. Further along are “flat-pack” solutions, involving the use of cross-laminated timber or concrete cross-wall construction. Typically, these structures would be constructed in panelised pieces off-site, then delivered flat on a vehicle to be assembled on site.

Finally, there is volumetric construction, where the majority of the building components are fabricated off-site in factory-controlled conditions before delivery to site. With volumetric, all the internal finishes arrive completed, which is very useful for developments in areas such as student housing or hospitality because there are no ‘wet trades’ coming onto site after delivery. This greatly reduces the number of people on site and the length of the programme, as well as providing programme certainty.

Benefits of off-site construction in general, and volumetric in particular

Off-site construction has a number of benefits in terms of programme, waste, cost and, of particular interest to us, quality. The building’s elements can be constructed a lot more quickly in controlled conditions – if necessary, the process can continue 24/7 and involve finished products continuously rolling off the factory floor. The process is not governed by some external factors present in traditional builds, such as adverse weather, challenging site logistics, the industry’s skills shortage, etc. The factory process will often involve people specialising in one specific area to a very high standard, leading to a better quality of product. The speed of the programme leads to earlier project completion.

Waste can be significantly reduced with an off-site process – as much as 50% of waste on traditional building sites could be prevented by a switch to off-site construction, with all the attendant financial and environmental benefits. Meanwhile, there are attractive economic advantages for the developer– in today’s market, it isn’t necessarily always cheaper to build off-site in the first instance, but the benefits to the client then accrue in a number of ways.