How Autodesk is helping its customers in creating a sustainable future
Louay Dahmash, senior director at Autodesk, talks about the company’s vision to create real, meaningful impact with its technology and accelerate industry transformation
Tell us about the highlights of the Autodesk FY22 Impact report.
The Impact Report outlines our approach and performance within the business across important environmental, social and governance issues. Notably, we have neutralised greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across our operations and entire value chain for the second year in a row. We believe we have the power to create real, meaningful impact and accelerate industry transformation. In October 2021, we issued our first sustainability bond offering, totalling $1bn, to further align our financial and impact strategies. In this year alone, Autodesk has reduced 1.4 million+ metric tons CO2 of GHG through the Autodesk Foundation’s global portfolio and $18.5m was raised in philanthropic funding by Autodesk and the Autodesk Foundation. We’re proud of the progress that has been made, but much work remains to be done, and we have multiple levers in place to drive progress across the business and that of our clients and the wider industry.
Why should sustainability be considered by tech companies and how are you incorporating it within your ecosystem?
Each year, we see a rise in demand for more and cleaner resources as the global population and standards of living continue to increase. We envision a low-carbon future with minimal pollution and waste, where renewable energy powers our world and materials maintain value while cycling through a circular economy. We remain steadfast in our commitment to advance sustainable business practices toward net-zero carbon emissions, both here in the region in line with the UAE net-zero goals, as well as globally. Technology, deployed appropriately, has the power to solve the most challenging global issues, measure, manage, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve global health and resilience. Our technologies create a positive impact across industries, by empowering customers to harness data, automation, and insights to improve the impact of design and make decisions – enabling them to reduce costs and energy.
Is there specific legislation that compels companies to declare their carbon production to achieve sustainability goals?
Approximately 19 per cent of global GHG emissions are from the manufacturing industry. In addition to that, the buildings sector represents 38 per cent of energy and process-related GHG emissions globally. Legislations can therefore, provide a framework to regulate the path to sustainability. For example, in order to comply with materials regulations worldwide, such as the European Union’s legislation, and the UAE’s National Climate Change Plan of the UAE 2017–2050, which sets a clear path to reducing emissions, companies face increasing pressure to assess and document the materials used in their products, and in some cases to ensure materials’ traceability throughout the supply chain. We work with our customers to better manage and measure their impact through advanced data and analytics and enable them to reduce embodied carbon, decrease construction waste, and develop smart and sustainable cities.
What are the challenges that you have faced when making your business model more sustainable?
There are specific technology related challenges to achieving the above goals as firms worldwide grapple with digital transformation. Supporting our customers with critical technology is therefore an important opportunity area for us. In addition, the accelerated pace of change today demands that we work beyond industries to drive cross-sector collaboration and catalyse industry-wide innovation. It is also imperative to upskill our employees for the challenges of Industry 4.0 to ensure a resilient and prosperous future. We prioritise the health, wellbeing, and safety of our employees, who advance our efforts in this area. They create and deliver the practices and technologies that our customers and other innovators can use to design and make products and places that are safer, healthier, and more resilient. Finally, for business models to be truly sustainable, it is important for the entire value chain to be sustainable. The focus should be on creating a truly sustainable business with efficient operations committed to net-zero carbon and 100 per cent renewable energy commitments alongside a prosperous workforce to enable a sustainable future for all.
How are you helping customers drastically reduce their own environmental footprint?
Our customers represent our largest opportunity to create a positive impact at scale. Our software platform helps automate complex processes and transform data into actionable insights that empower innovators to improve the impact of everything they design, make, own and operate. Cloud solutions and connected data environments fuel innovation – across technology, processes, supply chain and industries. Through our technology, we are empowering them to create solutions, connect their data, and accelerate the outcomes that matter to them.
How does sustainability affect society and the future of work?
It is important to address workforce prosperity and the needs and desires of multiple stakeholders, from employees to customers to communities as well as investors. As more and more stakeholders become involved in business decision-making, it’s driving the movement toward more sustainable future operations. Governments can also support stakeholder capitalism with initiatives that protect consumer data and the environment and promote investment in employees. The UAE is an ideal platform to advance our future skilling initiatives as we align with the goals of the visionary leadership of instilling digital education and skills into the youth, and providing an array of opportunities for them to access lifelong learning which will empower them to become the change makers of tomorrow. The global economy is changing, and the workforce of tomorrow won’t look the same as today. While new technologies can enable great efficiency, we believe the future of work is still human.
In The art of designing energy efficiency by Julianne Tolentino, Dubai-based Nareg Oughourlian explains how he approaches design in the UAE. He argues that this requires ‘an exact drive for the future, challenged only by the limitations of sustainable development clean energy projects and sustainable cities’.
The above featured image is of the Sustainable City, Dubai.
Nareg Oughourlian talks about the clean energy projects and sustainable cities
Energy efficiency: Rome was not built in a day, or so the saying goes. In November 2021, the UAE pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and, in doing so, became the first Gulf state to commit to a timeline to decarbonise its economy and fully reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Not that this happened out of the blue; the UAE has been heavily financing clean energy projects such as Masdar, Sustainable City, and the Barakah nuclear plant for over 15 years, inexorably pushing the sustainability envelope in the region and worldwide.
The country has always been known for its sky-high ambitions and impressive success rate, of that there is little doubt. However, the net-zero target marks a real turning point in the way things are done in the UAE and, more importantly, sets up a challenging and exciting target. It requires an exact drive for the future, challenged only by the limitations of sustainable development.
The previously held reliance on oil is changing, and the region is shifting towards alternative options. Shifting towards an ecological mindset remains at the core of any decisions that need to be made moving forward. The UAE is proudly leading the way in the region alongside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Following the pledge to reduce emissions at the 2015 Paris agreement, many countries fell through on the promise to achieve short-term goals, but structurally altering the policies of a nation takes time, and changes are slowly and surely being made across the globe. In the UAE, winning the bid to host the COP28 global climate talks in 2023 further cements the seriousness and gravity of the 2050 target and, amongst other things, the future of green buildings and the built environment in the region.
Energy efficiencies and net-zero goals
Net-zero emissions are essentially focused on maintaining a balance between the greenhouse gases created and the amount that are taken out. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, there is also reliance on carbon offsetting or carbon removal.
Internationally recognised guidelines require most companies to decarbonise 90-95% of all CO2 emissions through internal abatement options to reach net-zero. For the remaining 5-10% of emissions, qualifying neutralisation activities can be used. Those neutralisation activities are not referred to as offsets, but instead include only activities that directly pull carbon out of the atmosphere, which can be done through Direct Air Capture, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, improved soil and forest management, and land restoration. This is a contrast to the term ‘zero carbon,’ which concentrates on reducing existing carbon emissions to zero.
It is a well-known fact that the construction industry is a leading cause of C02 emissions, with 39% of global CO2 emissions attributed to building and construction. This means that any small changes within the industry can enormously impact the environment and climate change.
Heating, ventilation, cooling, and lighting are elements we take for granted in residential and commercial buildings, but they contribute a staggering 28% of carbon emissions because of poor energy efficiency.
So, how can buildings reduce their impact on the environment? The immediate answer to these questions lies within the innovation of Low and net-zero Energy and Carbon Strategies. A net-zero building produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. This energy balance is propped up by maintaining energy efficiency by the effective design of building operations.
“Inertia” in the built environment sector, according to Yamina Saheb is yet another proof that Architecture is “lagging behind all other sectors” in the climate change fight. Here is the story as per DEZEEN.
Architecture “lagging behind all other sectors” in climate change fight says IPCC report author
“Architects and urban planners should really look at this report carefully and rethink the way they work.”
Up to 61 per cent of building emissions could be cut by 2050 using technologies available today, the Mitigation of Climate Change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found.
But progress has so far been held back by widespread “inertia,” as well as a lack of ambition and prioritising of short-term solutions and profits over long-term gains, Saheb said.
Architects are key to mitigating climate change
The report, which was written by Saheb alongside more than 270 scientists from 65 countries, is the final instalment in the IPCC’s three-part review of the current state of climate science.
Following on from two earlier reports covering its causes and effects, the report sets out a plan for how global warming could be mitigated.
The decarbonisation pledges made by international governments in a bid to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050 are simply not enough, the report found, falling short by as much as 23 billion tons of CO2e.
As a result, the world is on track to warm by more than double the 1.5-degree limit set out in the Paris Climate Agreement this century.
“Covering up for these shortfalls will require taking actions across all sectors that can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the report states.
The built environment is among the key sectors highlighted in the report that could help the world to cut emissions by 50 per cent this decade.
“Either get this right or it’s wrong forever”
Urgent action is needed from the sector before 2030, the report says, as the long lifespan of buildings and infrastructure locks in emissions and polluting behaviours for decades to come.
“Residential buildings undergo major renovation once every 25 years,” Saheb explained. “That means if you’re not renovating a building to zero-emissions standards this decade, it will not be renovated to this level by 2050 either.”
“For buildings, there is only one round left between now and 2050, so we either get this right or it’s wrong forever.”
This can be traced back to the construction industry’s lack of digitisation, Saheb argues, and the fact that homeowners have to organise every element of a retrofit, from the heat pump to the insulation, themselves.
“If you need to repair your car, you don’t have to think about each piece separately,” Saheb said. “You just take it to a garage, they fix it and you don’t care about the details.”
“But for a renovation, you as an individual are required to arrange all the details yourself, which is crazy and unrealistic,” she added. “We should have IKEA kits for renovating our buildings.”
“And in Europe, we need to make renovation mandatory to zero-carbon standards. If we don’t have this required by law, it will never happen.”
Sufficiency undervalued due to financial interests
Crucially, the report also highlights that architects and urban planners have so far neglected to focus on designing for “sufficiency”.
Unlike efficiency measures, which are marginal short-term technological improvements, this term is used to describe broader strategies such as passive cooling, bioclimatic design and prioritising the construction of denser multifamily homes.
These kinds of measures can drastically reduce a building’s demand for energy, materials, land and water over its lifecycle, without relying on added technology and materials that will need to be produced, powered and maintained.
“If you design a new development with lots of single-family homes, you will need more land and more construction materials, as well as more energy and water in use than if you go for multifamily buildings,” Saheb said.
“And then you lock the city where you’re building into emissions and car-dependent mobility for generations. This shows how urban and land-use policies will play a major role in the decarbonisation of buildings, which was not considered before.”
Part of the reason that this has so far been undervalued is the fact that architects and urban planners get paid based on the number of square miles they build, Saheb argues, so designing more compact structures runs against their financial interests.
“No one is questioning if the way they make money is aligned with their contribution to climate mitigation,” she said.
Efficiency is not enough
The industry’s failure to adapt sufficiency strategies so far has actually counteracted emissions reductions achieved by making buildings more energy efficient, the report found.
Adding insulation, switching to more modern appliances and other efficiency measures reduced building emissions by 49 per cent between 1990 and 2019. But the lack of sufficiency measures led to a simultaneous emissions increase of 52 per cent.
“The efficiency improvement was fully offset by the lack of sufficiency measures,” Saheb said.
“Previously, climate mitigation policies for buildings included only energy efficiency and the supply with renewables. And we know today that without sufficiency, this is not enough.”
Key considerations for project owners in the construction of design-led projects in Saudi Arabia
A number of iconic, large-scale construction projects are currently in development as part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 − an ambitious strategic blueprint for the creation of a more diverse and sustainable economy in the country. Amongst the most ambitious projects is a US$500 billion mega-city that is set to span approximately 27,000 km². Qiddiya Entertainment City is expected to be the world’s largest entertainment city, at almost 370 km², and the ultra-luxury Amaala project is planned to serve as a leading destination for wellness, arts and culture. A series of major projects have been announced at Al Ula – an ancient city of historical and archaeological significance. The scale, complexity and uniqueness of many of these projects give rise to important practical, legal and contractual considerations for project developers.
For many projects currently being planned or undertaken in Saudi Arabia, it is cutting-edge design and bold architectural vision that are of paramount importance. For example, for the hyper-connected city called “the Line”, the conceptual power of the project lies in the linear design of the city. At the Sharaan resort in Al Ula, designed by the renowned architect Jean Nouvel (designer of the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the National Museum of Qatar), the aesthetic profundity of ancient Nabatean culture is a crucial component of the project’s architectural concept, aimed at bringing to life a strong spatial, sensorial and emotional experience for those who visit. Similar considerations apply to a number of other developments that are currently planned or under development, such as at Diriyah, where the key design imperatives revolve around maintaining the Najdi heritage and architectural style.
The fundamental importance of design aesthetics for such projects may have a significant impact on the procurement strategies of project owners and the provisions they may seek to include in the construction contracts for these projects. For example, where design aesthetics are of paramount importance, project owners may look to exert more control and oversight over design elements than in the contracting arrangements for a typical EPC or turnkey project (in which functionality often takes precedence and aesthetic considerations do not usually feature as prominently).
From a procurement perspective, this may encourage project owners to move away from design and build contracting in favour of a traditional procurement strategy whereby the owner appoints specialist designers directly to develop and finalize the design of the project prior to embarking on the construction phase. Such an arrangement allows the project owner the right to tender for and appoint a designer of its choice on contractual terms that it dictates, and to enter into a direct contract with such designer, allowing the project owner direct contractual recourse to and oversight of the development of the design. This in turn ensures that the project owner has the opportunity to review, comment on and approve all designs for the project before construction commences. In such a scenario, the approved designs would typically be provided to one or many construction contractors, who would build the project in accordance with the design under a standalone construct-only contract (such as the FIDIC Red Book).
However, such a contracting arrangement is not without risk. As is well known, project owners and third party lenders often tend to favour a single contractor assuming “single point” responsibility for the design, procurement and construction of a project. The splitting of design and construction elements of the works across separate contract packages represents a move away from single point responsibility which may, for example, make it more difficult to resolve responsibility for defects in the works should they arise (as a contractor may seek to blame defects in the works on defective design and vice versa). In addition, where design and construction elements are split, the works will likely need to proceed sequentially, with construction only commencing following substantial completion of the design, giving rise to longer completion timelines for the project.
For these reasons, project owners may prefer to adopt a design and build contracting strategy. If this is the case, to ensure that the design and build contract allows the project owner appropriate control over the design of the project, the project owner may consider including certain provisions in the design and build contract, including: (i) detailed design review and approval rights for the project owner covering both the identity of the design sub-consultants for the project and the designs developed by such sub-consultants, (ii) allowing the project owner direct recourse against any design sub-consultants (for example, via inclusion of subcontractor collateral warranties or third party rights agreements) and/or (iii) the option for the project owner to appoint the design consultant (either directly, followed by a novation of such design consultancy agreements to the design and build contractor − similar to the strategy used for procurement of long-lead items (as discussed below), or as a nominated subcontractor) to allow the contractor to “wrap” the design risk.
While this approach may appear to combine many of the benefits of single-point responsibility and traditional procurement, it is likely to result in a higher overall CAPEX for the project (as a design and build contractor is likely to charge a premium for assuming design risk, particularly where the project owner is heavily involved in the design process and decision-making) and may be met by resistance from design and build contractors. Therefore, project owners will need to weigh up the relative merits of each approach and adopt the most advantageous approach on a case-by-case basis.
The design elements of a project often involve items or materials with long-lead times. For example, for new developments in the desert that require landscaping, plants and trees may need to mature for years before being planted at the site. So as to ensure timely installation of these components, a project owner may look to enter into contracts with suppliers for the supply of the long-lead items early on in the project lifecycle, and before the appointment of the main contractor. In order to ensure single point responsibility, the project owner may then consider novating the supply contracts to the main design and build contractor once the main contractor has been appointed, with the main contractor taking contractual responsibility for managing those supply contracts. Such an approach avoids the need for the project owner to wait until the appointment of the main contractor for progress to be made on the procurement of long-lead items. This is likely to save time and cost, and gives the project owner greater control over important components of the design.
Fossils, Antiquities and Artefacts
When, as is the case for projects in Al Ula, the development is on previously undeveloped sites of historical significance, careful consideration should be given to how the discovery of fossils, antiquities and artefacts will be dealt with. The typical contractual regime in respect of fossils, articles of antiquity and other items of geological or archaeological interest in standard form contracts such as FIDIC require the contractor to comply with all applicable laws and the directions of the project owner, and usually require that any such items found on the site should be placed under the care of the project owner. It is common to see the contractor placed under a contractual obligation to ensure that its personnel and subcontractors do not remove or damage any such findings. The contractor may be required, upon discovery of such items, to give prompt notice to the project owner (who will then issue instructions to the contractor for dealing with the items, and the contractor may be entitled to claim relief for complying with such instructions). In addition, fossils and artefacts discovered on site in Saudi Arabia may fall within the jurisdiction of the relevant government authority, such that the discovery of an artefact on site may require the contractor to notify government bodies in order to comply with applicable laws.
The projects referred to in this article are so large in scale that they will likely all involve a numerous contract packages, as well as various contractors and subcontractors (each potentially responsible for distinct but interconnected design components). The engagement of multiple contractors on numerous contract packages gives rise to a need for the proper anticipation of project interfaces and the correct sequencing of working methods. The careful consideration of how those interfaces are to be managed so to avoid clashes and delay during the construction phase of the works is therefore essential for the successful completion of these projects.
Contracting in the era of COVID-19
COVID-19 continues to impact construction projects in the region and around the world. There are a number of key considerations that project owners may wish to consider as part of their contracting strategy to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 claims. Project owners may, for example, wish to give careful consideration to the supply chain management of potential contractors at bid stage, to minimise the likelihood of disruption as a result of COVID-19, and to pre-agree a contractual regime and relief entitlement for COVID-19 related claims. Such considerations are discussed in more detail in the following article: COVID-19: Considerations for Future Construction Contracts.
Given the scale of the projects referred to above, the conceptual uniqueness of each project, and the unprecedented ambition of project owners, the specific contracting requirements differ across each design-led project, and are also likely to evolve over time. Careful consideration of these changing requirements, and the prompt implementation of contractual arrangements in response to them, will play an important role in ensuring the successful completion of projects that will push the boundaries of architectural design – both regionally and internationally..
What is Net-Zero Architecture? WonderedDima Stouhi before giving some of her thoughts on the Terms and Design Strategies.
As revolutionary as the construction sector may seem nowadays, it currently accounts for nearly 40% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, 11% of which are a result of manufacturing building materials such as steel, cement, and glass. Fast forward a couple of years later, after a life-changing global pandemic and indisputable evidences of climate change, CO2 emissions are still on a rise, reaching a historical maximum in 2020 according to the 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction. Although a lot of progress has been made through technological advancements, design strategies and concepts, and construction processes, there is still a long way to go to reduce carbon emissions to a minimum or almost zero in the development of built environments.
By definition, “net-zero”, also known as carbon neutrality, is the act of negating or canceling out the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity, by reducing existing emissions and implementing methods of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Although net-zero buildings represent a fragment of new construction projects, the technology, tools, and knowledge that architects have acquired over the past years have made designing a net-zero building the new norm. To design net-zero buildings, we listed 7 things to take into account to contribute to this global objective. The list includes making use of bioclimatic architecture and passive concepts, provide renewable energy on site whenever possible, using energy efficiency of appliances and lighting, and considering embedded carbon. Beyond architecture, urban planners have also been trying to find strategies to create environmentally friendly communities. In 2018, Architecture for Humans proposed the Zero Emission Neighborhood, an eco-village concept in the city of Pristina, Kosovo that ensures optimum sustainability for the entire community through “zero emission” buildings, passive design strategies, active solar systems, and energy efficient appliances.
Net-Zero Energy is when the building is able to offset, or counterbalance the amount of energy required to build and operate throughout its lifetime in all aspects of the site, source, cost, and emissions. In other words, the building is able to produce enough energy to cancel or “zero-out” the amount of energy it takes to operate daily. Net-zero energy buildings are often designed with these three criteria: “producing energy onsite via equipment like solar panels or wind turbines, accounting for its energy use through clean energy production offsite, and reducing the amount of energy required through design optimization”. Achieving it is not entirely dependent on the building being efficient, but on reducing the energy load, and then employing renewable energy to offset the remaining energy. An example of net-zero energy buildings is the Net Zero Energy House by Lifethings, where the client wanted a house based on common sense in its design, construction, and budget. The 230 sqm house includes photovoltaic panels, solar heat collection tubes, wood burning boiler, four kitchens and four bathrooms, all built with a modest budget.
Net-zero carbon is achieved through reducing construction techniques and building materials that result in high carbon emissions. Put simply, Net Zero Carbon = Total Carbon Emitted – Total Carbon Avoided. Reducing embodied carbon through a concise material selection and construction techniques often results in a decrease in harmful chemical off-gassing, which affects the occupants’ productivity and wellbeing. The Courtyard House by Manoj Patel Design Studio promotes carbon positive and net-zero operations through smart planning of space and material selection, all while ensuring the emotional and physical well-being of its occupants. Clay tiles on the facade are cut and interlocked in a way that explores wall hangings from the sky and compliments the white volume. The structure meets all climatic and aesthetic needs of the space, particularly through the square patterns which parallel the projections of the sun during the day and make room for cool air only to flow in through the pores.
Carbon Emissions & Fossil Fuels
Carbon emissions, or greenhouse gas emissions, are emissions emerging from the manufacturing of cement and burning of fossil fuels, and are considered the main reason behind climate change. Fossil fuel is another term used to describe non-renewable carbon-based energy sources such as coal, natural and derived gas, crude oil, and petroleum products. Although they originate from plants and animals, fossil fuels can be also made by industrial mixtures of other fossil fuels, such as the transformation of crude oil to motor gasoline. It is estimated that almost 80% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions originate from fossil fuels combustion, with the construction industry being one of its biggest contributors.
By definition, sustainability is when a subject can be sustained, meaning that it can be maintained at length without being interrupted, disintegrated, or weakened in the long run. In architecture, however, the term “sustainability” has been used in various contexts. Some of which is to indicate being eco-conscious, an environmentalist, or “meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” using natural, social, and economic resources. Looking at all the “sustainable” projects that have been developed and are being proposed, it aims to be a holistic approach that takes into account three pillars: the environment, society, and economy, all mediated together to ensure vitality and durability. Sustainability is not just implemented on an architectural level through recycled materials and construction techniques, but also on an urban scale. The European Commission, for instance, adopted several nationwide proposals that pushed the continent a step further towards implementing the European Green Deal, an action plan that transforms the EU into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy.
By definition, “passive solar energy is the collection and distribution of energy obtained by the sun using natural, non-mechanical means”, which in architecture, has provided buildings with heat, lighting, mechanical power, and electricity as naturally as possible. The configuration behind passive systems consists of three types: direct gain, indirect gain, and isolated gain, and takes into account design strategies such as: location with respect to the sun, the overall shape and orientation of a project, allocating interior rooms with respect to the sun and wind, window placement, sheltered entrance, choosing materials that absorb heat, glass facades / solar windows where necessary, implementing trombe walls, skylights, water features, and shading elements, to name a few.
Architects and urban designers have a responsibility of ensuring that the spaces people live in cater to them, the environment, the society as a whole, and maintain its cultural and historic value. However, recent years highlighted numerous socio-cultural predicaments related to the built environment such as housing crises, demolition of historic landmarks, lack of green areas, etc. One way of dealing with these crises was by reusing old structures and complimenting them with new elements or functions instead of opting for complete demolition and reconstruction, which would have inevitably generated a much bigger carbon footprint. Adaptive reuse can be executed in the form of reusing materials, interventions in pre-existing architectures, reclaiming abandoned architecture, or changing the original function of the space.
Randers Tegl aims to take responsibility and think sustainable as a part of reaching the goal of Net Zero. Both in terms of how building materials impact the climate and how the materials age, but also with a focus on architecture. That is why Randers Tegl created their sustainable series GREENER, which comes with full documentation in the form of EPD, so it is possible to use the product in technical calculation programs.
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