Among construction companies, greening of cities and supporting biodiversity are hot topics. The cities of the future should have more green roofs and walls, green courtyards, green neighbourhoods that improve people’s well-being and there should be less polluting transport.
Denmark and the Netherlands, for example, have been active in launching experiments in regenerative construction. In regenerative construction, the building is not only constructed sustainably, but it also produces and distributes valuable natural resources. Such thinking is not yet widespread in Finland.
“We have a wide range of design and consultancy expertise and know-how in the construction business. I expect that in Finland we will see the emergence of networks that will begin to promote these innovative perspectives,” says Sami Lankiniemi, Innovation Director at Sitowise. According to Lankiniemi, now is the time for a debate across the value network on how the current system has led to damaging impacts on nature and what lessons have been learned.
Biodiversity map points the way for the sector
In autumn, the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT (CFCI) published a biodiversity roadmap to highlight the problems and obstacles facing the Finnish construction sector. The roadmap also suggests ways in which the sector can contribute to halting biodiversity loss. Director Juha Laurila considers the debate in the sector to be very important:
“We want to be the actors that help nature to recover. The construction industry has a big impact if we change the way we do things, and we really have an opportunity now to do big things and make a positive impact”.
Feedback from construction companies on the biodiversity map has been mostly positive:
“Companies are ready to answer the call and develop their practices, as long as we get the whole chain right, from planning to implementation. This means that at the initial planning stage, the client must be able to demand sustainable solutions,” says Laurila. Laurila would particularly like to see more expertise in public procurement, as large projects set the direction for the whole sector.
New business opportunities
It will take more than a roadmap and good will to support biodiversity and halt its loss. It requires investment and a change in the operational chain.
“The cold fact is: We need to change the whole chain of the built environment and, for example, enable circular economy solutions. This will also create new business and potential,” Juha Laurila points out.
Sami Lankiniemi also notes that there is a need for innovation and new business models. For example, there is a demand for sustainable building materials, new construction methods, the development of automation and robotics to optimise the use of natural resources on construction sites, and various data-driven innovations.
“I would like to see more investment in the circular economy, and measures have already been taken in Finland. I would also like to highlight urban mining, i.e. using the huge stock of materials in existing buildings in cities, thus reducing the need for new raw materials in construction, ” Lankiniemi reflects. Urban mining means, for example, the recovery and reuse of concrete, bricks, roofing materials and steel.
In terms of geospatial technologies, drones and satellite imagery can help provide a new perspective on the urban landscape. Lankiniemi says that in the Netherlands, for example, drones have been used to take an inventory of building materials in different areas of a city. Traditionally, such work has been approached through city registers and administrative systems.
The cold fact is: We need to change the whole chain of the built environment and, for example, enable circular economy solutions.Juha Laurila, Director, The Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT (CFCI)
Data processing skills need to be improved
According to Juha Laurila, the industry urgently needs solutions to the problems caused by a lack of data. Solutions are also needed to improve the interoperability and usability of data.
“The construction industry should have a better understanding of nature-related data and habitats before starting the work. This would allow them to leave certain areas untouched and make more sustainable choices,” Laurila says.
The member companies of the CFCI are producers of valuable data. For example, they produce a wide range of data for nature mapping, which could be used in a more diverse way.
“We don’t have a mechanism to aggregate these diverse data sources and integrate them into the nationally produced data,” Laurila points out.
The sector also does not systematically collect data on how much different materials are used in construction and how materials flow in and out of processes. There is also a lack of data on what natural resources are used in construction or how much is wasted. It is difficult to assess the impact on biodiversity if the data does not exist or is in a form that cannot be used.
It is clear that we need to jump to the next level of digitalisation to improve our data processing capabilities.Sami Lankiniemi, Innovation Director at Sitowise
“Construction waste is also a mystery. We should be able to monitor its cycle much better. The usability of the data has not been properly thought through from the point of view of the actors involved, and it is frustrating not to be able to use the data,” says Laurila.
According to Sami Lankiniemi, collaboration could be one way to solve the problems of data processing:
“There must be cooperation between research institutes, universities and industry. This will help to identify the real opportunities for the construction sector to make a difference and to better assess the impact of biodiversity loss. Overall, it is clear that we need to jump to the next level of digitalisation to improve our data processing capabilities.”
The courage to connect is the key to success
There is a real need in Europe for scalable solutions for the built environment that improve human and environmental well-being. The industry is looking for solutions to improve the planning, monitoring and resource management of work in the built environment sector.
Sami Lankiniemi encourages small businesses and those designing business solutions to be bold networkers:
“It is certainly wise to protect your own solution and not to reveal everything in joint discussions, but above all I encourage you to make contact with larger companies and look for partners. It is worth networking and getting involved in projects, even with a small contribution”.
Sitowise is one of the partners providing services via Location Innovation Hub. Sami Lankiniemi considers actors like LIH as important networks that can provide support for developing digitalisation and international business. Would you like to know more about the Location Innovation Hub’s services for organisations working in the built environment? Contact us.