No matter how you slice it, getting up-to-date information to several different fieldwork teams - spread across dozens of active sites in a portfolio of dozens or hundreds - is a big job. Then compiling the incoming data into a something readable and providing updates to a bunch of clients all wanting a different reporting format… it’s a huge undertaking. The whole process can be exhausting, not to mention a drain on resources. So why don't companies use software tools to speed up or even automate some of these processes?
Back in the 1970s when alternative power sources like solar energy and wind power were more expensive and environmental issues did not garner mainstream attention, the concept of sustainability was hardly given a second thought. However, with the appearance of climate issues in recent years and the push towards industries that positively contribute to environmental measures, sustainability in energy has become an industry onto itself that is set to dramatically change the landscape. While the aftereffects of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference remain to be seen, approximately 74% of those surveyed by Ethical Corporation believe that sustainable development goals can be achieved by 2030 in the extractive industry. As our expectations and growth models continue to adjust to the future world, here are some key ways that sustainability will be broached in the coming years.
Advanced Building Controls
It’s no surprise that technological advancement is sticking its neck out to improve the outlook for electricity use in the future and enable smarter building solutions. As it stands, buildings consume approximately 42% of the electricity in the world and produce up to 38% of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Fortunately, there are now smarter solutions for monitoring the systems of a building and its flow of energy, which can help to prevent outages and will also work to manage energy use. In the long term, these types of smart systems that are automated and self-monitoring will be able to identify issues before they become significant problems. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system has been around since the early 2000s, but in these times its ethos have really taken off, particularly at the University of Buffalo where more than 210 power meters have been installed that enable the university to better manage power consumption. The internet-based nature of this system enables many users to review the energy consumption data, so that all can be a part of conservation measures for long-term savings.
Emphasis on Alternative Energy
The push towards alternative energy sources that produce no carbon dioxide emissions has long been a matter of great consideration around the world, but with the fall of oil prices, the power of wind and solar energy are being unleashed as useful, sustainable resources that represent the future. Because government subsidies around the world have encouraged the creation of alternative energy, the cost of solar energy and the batteries used to store it has actually decreased in recent years, making it a much more solid investment than it was in the 1970s. While there is still much that is unknown and uncommon about the use of these alternative energy sources, the use of solar power has doubled seven times since the year 2000 and - in the same period - wind power has doubled four times, proving that forms like these will offer solid investment potential for those leaning away from traditional forms. As of 2013, more than 140 countries had a renewable energy target to reach with China making up 21% of the world’s renewable energy investment. Of course, Germany’s recent growth in this direction is even more admirable, with more than 80% of its generating capacity in the last decade coming from renewable sources.
Sustainable Urban Planning
The city is the centerpiece of modern life, and – as a result – its creation and infrastructure is responsible for the way we live our daily lives and the choices we make that will impact its sustainability over time. While urban planning was once focused more on accessibility and outward development, planning for neighborhoods that offer a multitude of transportation options and alternatives to vehicle ownership are key to a more environmentally friendly and functioning city. Beyond the creation and completion of progressive buildings that function in an optimized manner, areas like green spaces, urban landscapes, waterways and pedestrian-only streets serve a sense of overall community well-being and retain the ethos of a balanced, forward-thinking center. As many popular metropolitan centers are expecting significant growth in the coming years, urban planning that takes sustainability into consideration means that density and growth will be considered through the construction of multi-use housing and community-centric living spaces. While growth is necessary for any metropolitan center in the post-modern era, the urban planning mandates of today mean that it cannot eat away at the fabric of what creates a balanced community.
Integrated Energy Retrofits
As businesses look for ways to conserve energy in the short term in order to save money and be environmentally conscious in the long term, many organizations are looking at deep energy retrofits for their buildings to improve their efficiency. While conventional energy retrofits were quite common in the past, deep energy retrofits have become more popular with the rise of climate issues since they can reduce consumption by up to 30% and increase the value of a building in the long run. From the mechanical and ventilation systems to moisture management and solar energy, this kind of upgrade is comprehensive and takes in all the operating systems of a building. While this type of upgrade is better for the environment and overall energy use, it’s also been proven to reduce the number of sick days that employees take and can increase the overall happiness and productivity of an office. An example of how cost effective this can be is the Empire State Building in New York City, which underwent its very own deep energy retrofit in 2013. The projected energy reduction of the retrofit was 38% annually, which equates to about 4.4 million in savings each year.
There are many changes on the horizon that need to be made in order for our world to effectively combat environmental issues, but many of these changes that are set to reduce energy emissions and provide alternate sources of energy are beginning to see the light of day. From smart buildings with integrated technology to those that prioritize the power of sustainable urban planning, there are set to be many shifts towards a world that uses technology in a sustainable, progressive way.
For many of us, mapping is a simple, daily thing that makes it much easier for us to get from point A to point B in a cost-effective and timely manner. But, convenience aside, the common concept of a map is not something that really has the power to dramatically change or alter our daily lives. However, while mapping may seem like a pretty standard thing for many, the technology known as 3-D mapping is actually having a much more marked impact on the day to day. Given its ability to create three-dimensional views of objects and provide a very real-to-life view of a place and its geography, 3-D mapping is currently enabling us to broach many of the problems facing the world in a way that can go beyond the functionality of the typical, everyday map.
Providing Relief Access in a Crisis
From the danger of the hurricane season to the unparalleled destruction experienced in countries like Haiti and Nepal following earthquakes, one of the most important things after the occurrence of a natural disaster is the ability for the right people to access the right locations to help those who are most in need. Fortunately, the use of 3-D mapping has actually enabled relief workers to reach those requiring help in areas like Nepal, where a combination of satellite imagery and open source maps were used to determine what route volunteers should take in order to provide food and services. With this beneficial utilization of knowledge from a number of different sources, the information that can be collected on a 3-D map can mean more relief more quickly, saving lives, money and valuable time.
Protecting Vulnerable Eco-Systems
Nowadays, with environmental issues more abundant and the negative impact of climate change on our ecosystems, it’s becoming more important than ever to ensure that we are doing our best to conserve vulnerable geographical areas and species. Fortunately, the digital mapping organization SkyTruth, based in West Virginia, has teamed up with Google and the conservation non-profit Oceana to tackle these very issues. Utilizing the Automatic Identification systems (AIS) that sends out signals to satellites in order to determine the location of a fishing vessel, SkyTruth is mapping these areas to determine if the boundaries of protected areas are being illegally permeated. While this data does not have the ability to protect the seas on its own, this gives conservation organizations like Oceana a sense of which areas are being commonly trespassed so that the appropriate parties can be sent out to enforce these hard-to-identify boundaries.
Maintaining Satisfactory Food Supply
There are many places in the world where food deserts cause problems for local populations, and 3-D mapping has been effectively utilized in these situations. A few years ago, the USDA’s Food Access Research Atlas was released, a staggering mapped portrait of what the local food supply looks like in areas all over the United States. By determining the places where fresh fruit markets and grocery stores exist, and adding in data that determines low-income areas or those with limited transportation options, a map like this can easily determine where there is a greater need for food and what areas, in particular, are struggling with limited access. While this has been proven to be beneficial in the United States, this type of 3-D mapping can be utilized anywhere to determine issues that are faced by local citizens in regards to proximity to and ability to access a reliable food supply.
Capturing The Damage to Coral Reefs
Coral reefs like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef may be very small in comparison to the vastness of the ocean, but they support approximately 25% of the diverse species that inhabit it. As a result, the coral reefs are very important for sustaining life on earth, and now there are much more viable means of studying their decline so that necessary changes can be effected. While there was a time when divers had to manually measure a reef to get data on how issues like coral bleaching were affecting plant and animal life, 3-D mapping has enabled marine scientists to determine more precisely how reefs are changing over time so they can be aware of the urgency required to tackle these issues. With the data to back it up, policies can then be put into place that can make a difference for the future of the reefs and their marine life.
Vaccinating Dangerous Diseases
When it comes to combating contagious diseases around the world, it may seem like something as far afield as mapping technology offers no solutions, but it is actually extremely adept when it comes to knocking out dangerous disease and can be a literal lifesaver in effectively managing these situations. For example, when vaccinations are required to control disease in certain areas, 3-D mapping enables doctors and any involved parties to determine exactly where the impacted areas are, and how much is left to be done in order to completely vaccinate a population. With the contagiousness of many viruses, this is paramount in controlling the disease so that its spread can be mitigated and it can eventually be wiped out entirely. With technology like GPS trackers, this type of mapping has the ability to clearly identify what areas have been covered off and what still needs to be done so no one is left out or left behind.
For many of us, mapping is something we do to get from our home to a new restaurant in a different neighborhood, but the flexibility and capacity of 3-D mapping can actually improve the lives of many in ways that are hard to believe. Given the ability of this type of mapping to connect with the knowledge we have, it has easily enhanced the conservation efforts of non-profits and organizations that provide disaster relief all over the world. With the ease of this type of mapping and the necessity for dealing with important issues all over the world, 3-D mapping will likely be a boon for many to determine how problematic situations can be improved with greater knowledge.
For many years, it’s been a popular trend to think of more environmentally friendly methods for day-to-day life from taking the bus to work to the ethos of reduce-reuse-recycle. While there are little differences we’re all capable of making in our life, this same innovative spirit of sustainability has become an important force in the fields of civil engineering and construction, where a friendlier footprint is a matter of prime importance. Few things can have a more marked influence on our environmental impact as the cities we live in and the way we build them, and these industries are prepping for a more sustainable future. Whether it involves the use of environmentally friendly and sustainable materials or the creation of homes that exist entirely off the grid, here are some means by which the world is set to become a little greener in the years to come.
Energy Use Of Net Zero?
The perfect solution for eliminating greenhouse gases all together may not be known yet, but the venture-backed startup Acre has created a zero-energy building that approaches architecture and construction from an entirely different perspective, with innovation and the planet in mind. The goal for each Acre home is that the amount of energy used by the building annually is equivalent to the amount of energy the home is creating each year. Though these buildings cannot always rely on solar energy, they do consume approximately 90% less energy and 70% less water than the traditional home. While the use of sustainable materials means that these homes are currently priced between 400 and 500 thousand, there are future plans to put a more affordable home on the market so that sustainability, in the form of this structure, can reach the masses.
Concrete That Won’t Crack
The stats say that cement is responsible for approximately 7 percent of annual global emissions, but with this popular material being used in so many construction projects, it can be problematic to re-consider its use entirely. Fortunately, researchers at Bath University in the United Kingdom are working on a solution to the problem of cement crack-ups. Since cracking is a serious construction problem and requires maintenance that leads to the release of even more damaging emissions, these researchers are trying to concoct a material using bacteria that will instantly react by producing limestone when water appears, so cracks cannot permeate to the core of a structure. While this invention is still in the development stages, this concept could mean a marked improvement for global emissions annually.
Paving The Way To Electrical Energy
It might seem like the road beneath your vehicle is something that can be easily bypassed, but the Italian company Underground Power has discovered a way to utilize the kinetic energy that is instantly created by driving. Known as the “speed absorber”, Underground Power has come up with a technology called LYBRA which is installed flush with the pavement in areas where vehicles are required to slow down. As the car breaks, the kinetic energy that is lost during deceleration is collected and converted into electrical energy. The statistics determined by UP show that in a roundabout that is used by approximately 10,000 vehicles per day, this product produces 100,000 kWh per year, equal to the energy used by about 40,000 families. Since LYBRA can be customized for different roadways, it has the ability to be used in a variety of different circumstances to harness energy that would otherwise go to waste.
Buy A Small, Solar Jagpod
The price of real estate is quickly becoming unattainable for millennials and the middle-aged alike, but Jaguar Containers, which was started by William Coit, has come up with the concept of a small-sized home with an environmentally friendly outlook. Utilizing the unique concept of a shipping container as humble abode, these home units known as Jagpods are approximately 144-300 square feet and start at a price of $30,000. Each space is equipped with 2-4 solar panels that are 235 Watts, and have the ability to store energy so that no other energy source is required and owners can live off the grid. While the hope of the founder is that Jagpod can offer a quick solution for shelter in the event of natural disasters or other calamities, this environmentally friendly concept may have great future prospects given its progressive spirit.
Making It Modular
At some point in our youth, most of us played with Lego and put together a room or building only to add it onto some other, larger piece, but the increasingly popular use of modular construction actually takes a page from this very book. Traditionally, buildings were all built on site from top to bottom, but the utilization of modular techniques means that certain components of a larger structure are actually built off site - using the same materials and methods - and then transferred to the structure following completion. While this may seem like a much fussier method of construction, it’s actually a more sustainable process that can easily streamline construction. Due to the need to move parts after completion and the determination of logistics beforehand, there are fewer vehicle movements, which leads to less overall waste per project.
A Hobbit House In Real Life
The concept of the Hobbit house rose to prominence with the movie trilogy “The Lord of the Rings”, but DIY home designer Kristie Wolfe has taken it into her own hands to bring these houses into real life in the area of Chelan, Washington. Wolfe’s first Hobbit home is 288 square feet and built into the mountainside, with its internal size and style designed to be consistent with the concept of the Hobbit house. However, from the solar panels that make this home completely off the grid to the water from a nearby tower that feeds into the home, this undersized space is also entirely progressive and takes its environmental footprint into consideration. While the first home has now been completed and is ready to be rented through Airbnb, there are two more currently being built with a projected completion date of Summer 2016.
Mapping The Assets
There can be a number of environmental downfalls when it comes to equipment that is not properly maintained, but asset mapping is a means of ensuring that when certain equipment is on its last leg, it will be detected before it finally goes. Utilizing the information provided by serial numbers and firmware, asset mapping gathers the date from multiple devices and systems into one single map that can be monitored with ease. This means that anyone has the ability to see the location and condition of their equipment and systems instantly, with a smart phone or device. Instead of having to worry about where and when things will go, asset mapping will send out an alert so that the appropriate parties can be proactive and address the issues before they become problematic. As a result, this functionality means that energy costs and the carbon footprint will be considerably reduced.
The Advent Of LEED Buildings
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system has been around since 2002, but this environmentally responsible initiative for buildings is recognized in 150 countries and remains a progressive concept today. Since most structures actually generate up to 35 percent of all greenhouse gases and approximately 70 percent of the local water supply is consumed in and around buildings, LEED is something that will come to have a significant impact on the world of construction as sustainable methods become more popular. There are now more than 1800 LEED buildings in the world that function to make for a greener, healthier work environment that features improved air ventilation, natural light, and reduced waste and water consumption. With plant roofs and siding that absorbs moisture and light, the initiatives of this program make a marked difference for what the future of construction can hold.
As the world changes around us and the environment demands more sustainable solutions to serve our lifestyle, there is a lot of innovation driving future success in the fields of civil engineering and construction. Whether it happens to be the sustainable initiative of a LEED certified building or the possibility that exists on the horizon for concrete that can resist cracking, there are plenty of solutions that are set to change the way we live. When it comes to being sustainable and environmentally friendly, these sectors should see many effective, exciting shifts in the years to come.