With more than a third of EU-wide greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the construction industry, the responsibility is particularly great. Today, new buildings are subject to strict guidelines that follow sustainability principles. But the greater leverage lies in existing buildings. In order to preserve cultural identity and curb the consumption of further emissions, smart concepts must be implemented for the existing building stock and for flexible conversion and reuse by all those involved in construction.
The digitization of the construction industry is multi-faceted: It involves digital tools, process automation and digital project communication. Thanks to the wave of digitization, the volumes of data from construction processes are now also being efficiently organized and structured via cloud computing. Keywords for practical innovations in this regard include:
Global climate change has become increasingly noticeable in recent years with heat waves, forest fires, flooding, heavy rain and severe weather. This is having a massive impact, including on the construction industry. New solutions are needed to make buildings and entire cities more resilient and to drive the energy transition. It is therefore particularly important for all experts in the planning and construction industry to monitor the factors leading to climate change and to identify the challenges at an early stage.
Flexible, sustainable, inexpensive, fast: Modular, serial construction using industrial prefabrication is seen in the industry as a promising all-purpose weapon against a lack of living space, lengthy planning and construction processes, and shortages of materials and skilled workers. Digital data is used to create standardized, freely combinable building kits on the computer, which are assembled fully automatically in the factory. The advantages of this type of construction are manifold: more planning reliability, shorter construction time, less dependence on weather conditions, cost savings, less debris on the construction site, less noise on site and fewer construction defects due to better quality assurance.
The construction industry has an opportunity to help mitigate climate change through sustainable design and construction. The three pillars of sustainability include
To counteract the shortage of raw materials and building materials, new regulations are already on the way. According to the European Construction Products Regulation, recyclable and recycled materials should be used more frequently than conventional building materials. Although the potential for recyclates is recognized, recycling of building materials is still used too rarely. In addition to single-variety product development and planning, value chains need to be rethought in order to be transformed as economically and ecologically sustainable and efficient as possible.
The future of construction cannot be implemented without innovations and new business models by courageous entrepeneurs. This includes the presentation of young companies with their solutions and products for the construction of tomorrow, as well as a Start-up Innovation Challenge. The Innovation Hub also provides an outlook on the construction industry of tomorrow. In addition to impulses for forward-looking innovations, the presentation of current research projects from universities and colleges in the range from sustainable materials to robot-assisted deconstruction is an important contribution for the future.
The construction industry consumes more resources and produces more waste than any other industrial sector. Climate change, material shortages and resource scarcity are adding to the pressure to initiate a paradigm shift: away from the linear economy and toward the circular economy. This is because the circular economy aims to plan and build in such a way that as little waste as possible is produced and materials are not simply disposed of but reused. This is based on the cradle-to-cradle principle borrowed from nature, according to which products and raw materials circulate in theoretically infinite cycles and do not form waste products in the process.
Raw materials wrested from nature are used to create new buildings, which are then torn down and disposed of after they have been used: The construction industry can no longer afford this practice, which has been common for centuries. This challenge is giving rise to new solutions for the future of construction. Starting with the handling of existing buildings, the concept of circular construction, which propagates the multiple use and recycling of building components and materials in as closed a cycle as possible, to the development of new building materials and the rediscovery of renewable raw materials as a resource for the future of construction.
Rents are rising, building land is becoming increasingly scarce and social developments are calling for new housing concepts. According to a study by the UN, global society in general is growing at a somewhat slower pace, but will reach 9.7 billion people by 2050. Accordingly, it will become increasingly important to use existing properties differently or rather to continue to use or upgrade them. In addition, resource-saving, sustainable housing concepts and strategies for redensifying unused space are more in demand than ever.
In order for buildings to provide protection from extreme weather conditions, they must be stable and solidly built. Robust construction is the keyword. Concepts that can cope with heavy rainfall in cities with sealed surfaces are in demand. This is because infiltration-capable traffic areas, urban green spaces or green roofs can store rainwater for a short time or allow it to infiltrate in a targeted manner to relieve the burden on the sewer system. So-called "sponge cities" are forward-looking.
As in any industry, the promotion and training of junior staff plays an important role, as they represent the future generation of skilled workers and managers. How can the construction industry and its job profiles remain attractive via training methods and technologies, fair pay and good working conditions? What paths are young architectural firms taking to develop innovative concepts and solutions that point in a sustainable, innovative and future-oriented direction away from the established paths?