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Australia, Features, Opinion, Research & Analysis

With sky-high infrastructure spend, construction is the key to powering Australia’s climate fight

Business leaders are being encouraged to apply for a chance to shape communities around Melbourne through the Victorian Government’s Metropolitan Partnership program.

There is a significant opportunity right now for the construction industry to supercharge Australia’s climate fight. With infrastructure budgets soaring and construction spend a major priority, the industry must take decisive action to achieve sustainability goals.

Across Australia, 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with infrastructure projects. We are the world’s twentieth largest consumer of energy, and fifteenth in terms of per capita energy use. The construction industry is a big contributor to the environment, and innovation will be key to moving forward and achieving the country’s sustainability targets.

There is an exponential increase in construction spend and it is a priority for Australia. The 2021-22 Budgets delivered by Australia’s federal, state and territory governments have set a high watermark for infrastructure spending nationally and in many jurisdictions individually, with a total $248 billion allocated over the four years to FY2024-25. This is $22.6 billion – or 10% – higher than in the previous year’s Budgets.

Yet the construction industry also has a significant and lasting influence on greenhouse gas emissions and is applying unprecedented pressures on our natural resources. This connection to emissions is understandable, given the resources, materials and productivity required for construction and infrastructure.

The good news is sustainability isn’t a zero-sum game. It is possible to achieve economic and business growth without exhausting natural resources and laying waste to the environment. Innovation through technology can help the industry thrive while reducing environmental impact and helping the country reach its net zero goal by 2050, as well as net zero for buildings by 2030.

How technology creates a bridge towards sustainability

Technology can support the improvement of energy and material productivity across infrastructure and construction, and this opportunity is only accelerating. The best cloud solutions connect workflows, teams and data on one unified platform, and provide the tools needed to unlock insights, make better decisions, and achieve superior outcomes. Here are some key examples.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics is the ability to use current and historical data to forecast future outcomes. Predictive analytics can save time, increase operational efficiencies and improve service capabilities. This can have a massive positive impact for the industry, maximising construction and infrastructure project results while reducing resources needed to deliver them. These efficiencies create more sustainable projects and outcomes.

Connected data
Connected data is more important than ever – disconnected data creates confusion and inefficiencies. For data to be valuable, it must be accessible from a central location, updated in real time, and connected across projects, teams and organisations. By connecting data in a private, secure location, companies can gain insights and create superior solutions for their customers, as well as greater operational efficiencies.

Internet of Things (IoT)
The use of Internet of Things-enabled (IoT) management systems can automate tracking of material deliveries to building sites, streamlining the entire project and ensuring it remains on schedule. This is especially critical as estimates show that globally, more than 30% of ‘mega projects’ experience cost overruns, and three-quarters of them are at least 40% late. Furthermore, after the project has been completed, IoT sensors can be installed at strategic locations for energy management purposes. IoT is providing an opportunity to deliver efficiencies, while simultaneously managing sustainable practices.

Other digital solutions
Other digital solutions are also providing a bridge to approach sustainability challenges in a new way. Advanced technologies such as building information modelling (BIM), generative design, and digital twin can boost predictive capabilities, optimise resources, save costs, improve building efficiency and spur innovation. Such solutions can also help ensure sustainability standards and optimisations are met, such as those outlined in Australia’s NABERS Energy ratings for offices.

A collaborative approach to sustainability is needed

To achieve Australia’s climate goals and accelerate the journey to net zero, a whole-of-business, systems-based approach across asset lifecycles is required across the industry. This includes pulling key levers such as procurement, materials, methodologies, technology and people capability.

We need to break out of the status quo and make a change to how the industry approaches sustainability – and construction is no exception, given the opportunity it holds to drive change.

As more nations across the world declare their carbon-neutral goals and drive green initiatives, action must now be taken to embrace digitalisation as an enabling pillar of sustainability. Organisations in the construction sector must realise that what’s good for the environment can also be good for business, and therefore, remaining in the status quo is simply not an excuse.

Cloud solutions and connected data environments fuel innovation—across technology, processes, supply chains, and industries – supporting the creation of more sustainable building and construction projects.

By Andy Cunningham, Regional Director, Australia & New Zealand at Autodesk.

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