How will the technology revolution of Construction 4.0 impact people?

How will the technology revolution of Construction 4.0 impact people?

A New Civil Engineer‘s article by Fred SHERRATT tries to answer How will the technology revolution of Construction 4.0 impact people?’ Preceding these excerpts and highlights through our bolds with all due respect for all involved are our thoughts.

The debate about the digital transformation of the construction industry in its different markets across, for instance, the MENA region, has been well surveyed on projects through the role of technology in shaping the next phase of development.

The impact of digitalisation in the region’s construction will encompass a radical change in all sectors. Such sectors as electricity and transport, particularly road construction, are naturally, as it were, prone to be digitally handled through automation with a certain ease. According to many observers, the building industry though being, as it were, more vernacular in its diversity and composition, would require still lots of digital innovation and eventually be a crucial driver of future growth in the construction industry. Collected data on what digitisation means for the construction industry to be spent on in the MENA region illustrates well over the recent past. Most concerns are for those countries of the Gulf whether the future’s Construction sites will be people-free’ for obvious reasons and the opposite for the rest of the MENA region.

The picture above is for illustration and is of The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Ahmad Sufian Bayram.


How will the technology revolution of Construction 4.0 impact people?
Fred Sherratt is the interim deputy dean for research and innovation in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Anglia Ruskin University

How will the technology revolution of Construction 4.0 impact people?

Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution! Under Construction 4.0 robots lay bricks and drones carry out surveys. Improved connectivity and data management means AI and machine learning can plan projects better than humans ever could. Building information modelling (BIM) has blossomed, projects completed in the virtual world before ground is even broken. Computer controlled craftsmanship optimises design, whilst the Internet of Things enables the use of real-time data processing and digital twins to optimise delivery on site.

Fred Sherratt is the interim deputy dean for research and innovation in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Anglia Ruskin University

And for an industry told to Modernise or Die this could not have come at a better time.

Construction 4.0 promises increased efficiencies, enhanced and optimised productivity. Not to mention savings of time and money through reductions of labour, material and processing costs. This is trumpeted across the industry through voices heavy with technological optimism, industrial progress, all the benefits and rewards this revolution will bring, as well as scare stories for those not getting on board now – you’ll be left behind if you miss the boat!

But maybe we should think a little more critically about this. Because we have been here before. Three times to be precise.

And, it hasn’t always gone well. Not least because technology is not neutral, as Jacque Ellul argued in 1954. The underlying rational and objective methods that drive its implementation also instil within it an autonomy and amorality that is potentially dangerous. People and industries are compelled to adapt to technological change – as who but a Luddite would challenge all the promises it brings? – but such change is not always positive. History shows that technology can fundamentally disrupt the ways industries are structured and operate: workers are not just replaced by robots, things change so much neither robots or people are needed at all. So just because we can, doesn’t mean we should, and certainly not without careful deliberation.

Our industry contributes significantly to UK employment, including many site workers who’ve struggled with formal education whilst their myriad practical skills have long been devalued. For them, Construction 4.0 presents a positive narrative of “reskilling” or “multi-skilled” workers, but history suggests a downgrading of both job roles and earning potential is actually much more likely. Technological advancements tend to reduce labour requirements overall and also split skilled roles into two: new tasks only requiring one degree-qualified manager and some unskilled labour, with reduced quality of work and thus less remuneration. Estimates suggest 50% of traditional construction work could be automated over the next 20 years, making this a significant concern. But Construction 4.0 doesn’t care, the amorality technology brings to progress creates a convenient myopia for social consequences such as this. Any reduction in the numbers of people employed or their potential earnings is beneficial – a reduction in wage costs, hurrah! It’s just a shame about the jobs, and the satisfaction people used to be able to realise from skilled manual work.

And it is not just site workers who are vulnerable to such “progress”. Engineers have already seen their work shift into the virtual, where they now sit in front of screens to design and provide information to control and guide subcontractors. Their work is now shaped and structured by new technologies which require specialist skills for operation, and which also created new roles that potentially undermine professional autonomy. Whilst professionals were upskilling themselves, “BIM managers” took charge of the design process as a whole, because they were best able to navigate and negotiate the software, not because they were best skilled to lead design development or coordination. Although things have rebalanced as training caught up, professionals across our industry are now forced into ways of working as the technology dictates, choice is no longer an option.

Indeed, the “technology owner” may even become the dominant industry professional in the future, through the autonomy unquestionably conferred on them. Indeed, Cui bono [who will benefit] is never a bad question to ask, particularly in a US$10bn global construction software marketplace. Software vendors promise solutions to all manner of construction process inefficiencies, but in doing so they are also redesigning industry structures to fit their technologies. But the confidence (arrogance), that technology developers can capture (and inevitably improve) what we do is never challenged: they are now gurus to the industry, with little sense of history, craft or profession. The consequences of this dominance could be considerable: a built environment constructed to meet the dictates of technology, rather than the manifestation of the imagination, fun, creativity and humanity of a real person. Are we happy about that?

We should therefore consider carefully whose agendas Construction 4.0 is serving. Our industry does more than simply create our built environment, it also employs vast numbers of people who gain both income and self-validation from this process. Construction 4.0 is challenging how we do things, disrupting us, bringing progress at last to our dinosaur of an industry. But who is challenging Construction 4.0? Luckily it’s all still relatively piecemeal, smoke and mirrors are plentiful, and we are not (yet) at the point of no return. But it’s up to professionals to point out that Construction 4.0 has the potential to do harm as well as good. We should all think a little more critically before we add our voices to the current tsunami of technological optimism. It’s a common trope of our industry that people are our biggest asset. Why don’t we try to keep it that way?

  • Fred Sherratt is the interim deputy dean for research and innovation in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Anglia Ruskin University
Professor: ‘certification’ mania hobbles Middle East development

Professor: ‘certification’ mania hobbles Middle East development

Leading scholar says region must place more importance on liberal arts, not just science and engineering, to build better societies by Anna McKie could be an unprecedented way of covering the recurring issue of underdevelopment not through traditional knowledge but by using the art and humanities knowledge. Let us see what is proposed as per the very words of a Professor: ‘certification’ mania hobbles Middle East development.

The picture above is for illustration and is of another article on how a MENA summit weighs liberal arts’ role in post-Covid recovery by the Times Higher Education.

Professor: ‘certification’ mania hobbles Middle East development

April 8, 2021

Students in the Middle East and North Africa are too often more interested in “acquiring” a degree than developing the understanding that should come with it, a leading scholar has warned.

Safwan Masri, Columbia University’s executive vice-president for global centres and global development, said too many young people were steered into courses focused on science and engineering when critical thinking and intercultural understanding were desperately needed across the region.

Professor: ‘certification’ mania hobbles Middle East development

Degree Certificates
Source: iStock

Speaking at Times Higher Education’s MENA Universities Summit, Professor Masri said future leaders being trained in institutions across the region were “not fully prepared to lead”, the product of “technocratic societies led by a global technocratic class”.

“Students – and the parents who bankroll them – are often more interested in acquiring professional certification than truly understanding the world and the role of an educated citizen within it,” said Professor Masri.

“Here in MENA, young people fortunate enough to attend university are almost unilaterally steered into STEM training.

“But STEM competency is only half of the equation. We need people who also know how to organise societies, articulate and secure alignment on political ideals, and build robust civil societies that expand rights and freedoms to historically marginalised groups.”

Professor Masri, an expert on the contemporary Arab world and the head of Columbia’s study centre in Amman, Jordan, said the solution had to be a greater embrace of liberal arts education across the region.

He acknowledged that this “won’t be easy” because generations of Arabs “have been indoctrinated with hyper-nationalist propaganda, exclusionary rhetoric and dogmatic religious discourse at the expense of critical thinking and questioning skills”.

“Progress cannot be achieved without deprogramming and reprogramming this mindset, to learn to coexist with different points of view and ways of life,” Professor Masri said.

“Unless liberal arts training is more highly valued in this region, the region’s ambitions will be thwarted. We must achieve balance. We must help students – and the parents who fund many of them – understand the crucial interplay between content [of academic training] and context [understanding of society].”

At the summit, held online in partnership with NYU Abu Dhabi, Professor Masri also argued that at a time of geopolitical turmoil and “historic levels of misunderstanding” between countries and the people within them, knowledge diplomacy led by universities “may be our last and best tool if we are to rebuild a broken world”. He highlighted Columbia’s decision to maintain its global centre in Istanbul even in the face of increasing persecution of academics.

“The solution wasn’t to give in, we contended, but to dig in – to support academics and students, to continue to share knowledge,” Professor Masri said.

But Professor Masri expressed concern about the “weaponisation” of knowledge, highlighting that while Gulf states’ attempts to exercise soft power by funding Middle East studies centres in Western universities ostensibly had “no strings attached”, there were “uncomfortable stories” of researchers at these centres coming under pressure after writing about issues such as human rights and democracy.

A better model of knowledge diplomacy, he argued, was that of the Covid vaccines, which were the result of thousands of researchers crossing the globe over decades, generating the knowledge that informed the vaccines’ designs.

“The Covid vaccine represents decades’ worth, perhaps even centuries’ worth, of university-generated knowledge – distilled down to little more than an ounce of liquid, all concentrated in a single shot,” Professor Masri said.

“This medical and scientific breakthrough will reconnect the people of the world.”

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

Twitter: @annamckie

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These 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future

These 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM (WEF)’s Charlotte Edmond, Senior Writer, Formative Content, wondering whether these 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future, came up with this snapshot picture of today’s urban context in which much of human life takes place.

The Image above of Keit Trysh is for illustration and is of Dubai.

These 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future

Cityscape of Seoul, South Korea.
Among the steps being taken to achieve a renewable future are energy-efficient buildings and cycling/walking schemes.Image: Unsplash/Sava Bobov
  • A billion people live in a city with renewable energy targets or policies.
  • Cities contribute three-quarters of CO2 emissions from final energy use.
  • New report highlights some ways cities around the world are getting greener.

A billion people lived in a city with a renewable energy target or policy in 2020.

Around the world, national and local governments are waking up to the potential of renewables as a way to create clean, liveable cities. More than half of the world’s population lives in a city, and cities contribute around three-quarters of the carbon dioxide emissions from global final energy use.

As urbanization continues apace, cities have an important role to play in helping curb greenhouse gas emissions and achieve Paris climate agreement objectives to limit global warming.

In a new report, REN21, a global body of scientists, governments, NGOs and industry, has highlighted some of the cities leading the way. Here are five of the most effective and innovative projects from around the world.

What is the World Economic Forum doing to ensure smart cities?

Cities represent humanity’s greatest achievements – and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of humanity is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.

The World Economic Forum supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner, greener and more inclusive.

The World Economic Forum announced on June 28, 2019 that it was been selected to act as the secretariat for the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance.

Led by the World Economic Forum, the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance is the largest global initiative of its kind, with its 16 founding partners representing more than 200,000 cities and local governments, companies, start-ups, research institutions and non-profit organizations.

Together, the Alliance is testing and implementing global norms and policy standards to help ensure that data collected in public places is used safely and ethically.

Read more about our impact on smart cities.

One billion people live in a city with a renewable energy target and/ or policy.
Renewable city targets.Image: Renewables in Cities 2021 Global Status Report, REN21

Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide’s municipal operations have been powered entirely by renewable energy since July 2020. The city gets energy from wind and solar farms as part of a long-term commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2025.

Among the steps being taken to achieve this are energy-efficient buildings, initiatives to promote cycling and walking, and schemes to support the uptake of hybrid and electric vehicles.

The city has also invested in energy storage technologies, including the Hornsdale Power Reserve. It is one of the world’s largest lithium-ion batteries, and allows for greater use of a variety of renewable energy sources.

Adelaide is also investigating the opportunity to harness biogas from wastewater treatment plants as an additional energy source.

834 cities worldwide have renewable energy targets.
Cities around the world have set renewable targets.Image: Renewables in Cities 2021 Global Status Report, REN21

Seoul, Republic of Korea

Seoul has a strategy to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 built around five key areas – buildings, mobility, forestry, clean energy, and waste management. On the path to 2050 it has two interim goals – achieving 40% emission reduction by 2030 and 70% reduction by 2040 (compared with 2005 levels).

The city also has measures in place to cut back its reliance on nuclear energy by adding solar capacity. One of the key challenges is finding sufficient space to install photovoltaic (PV) panels. To tackle this, it is identifying new installation sites on urban infrastructure, and providing subsidies for PV panels integrated into buildings.

Cocody, Ivory Coast

In 2017, Cocody released a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030. The city faces a particular struggle to achieve this because of rising energy demand driven by rapid urban development and economic growth.

The city has put in place a reforestation and carbon sequestration programme, under which more green spaces will be created and 2 million mangrove trees will be planted or restored.

Other initiatives include using solar energy to power large public buildings, installing solar lamp posts and traffic lights, and supplying households with PV power kits.

Older cars are gradually being removed from the roads and others are being fitted with catalytic exhaust systems to reduce pollution.

Number of renewable energy targets by target year.
The plan moving forward.Image: Renewables in Cities 2021 Global Status Report, REN21

Malmö, Sweden

Malmö has made a name for itself as a sustainable city. The Western Harbour District has operated on 100% renewable energy since 2012, while the industrial area of Augustenborg has solar thermal panels connected to a central heating system.

The city plans to run entirely on renewables by 2030, up from around 43% in 2020.

Construction is under way on a geothermal deep-heat plant, which is expected to be operational in 2022. By 2028 it is hoping to have five of these geothermal plants.

Cape Town, South Africa

Coal is the dominant energy source in South Africa by some margin. The government wants to increase the share of renewable energy from around 8% in 2016 to 40% by 2030.

Emissions from transport are also a major problem for the city. It is exploring the use of biofuels in transport, and has run a pilot programme with locally made electric buses.

A surge of PV panel installations in the past decade means Cape Town had the highest concentration of registered rooftop solar PV systems nationwide in 2019. The city is also targeting greater use of solar-powered water heating systems in low-income areas.

Renewable energy provision at scale is also an option being seriously considered.

Ensuring a Stronger and Fairer Global Recovery

Ensuring a Stronger and Fairer Global Recovery

Mohamed A. El-Erian writes that ensuring a Stronger and Fairer Global Recovery is required for a better and more satisfactory tomorrow. The two ginormous economies of the World would lead it that way. Here is what he says about that.

Ensuring a Stronger and Fairer Global Recovery

2 April 2021

Although tough trade-offs are sometimes unavoidable, there is a way for policymakers to maintain a robust global economic recovery in 2021 and beyond while simultaneously pulling up disadvantaged countries, groups, and regions. But it will require both national and international policy adaptations.

CAMBRIDGE – An old joke about tricky trade-offs asks you to imagine your worst enemy driving over a cliff in your brand-new car. Would you be happy about the demise of your enemy or sad about the destruction of your car?

For many, the shape of this year’s hoped-for and much-needed global economic recovery poses a similar dilemma. Absent a revamp of both national policies and international coordination, the significant pickup in growth expected in 2021 will be very uneven, both across and within countries. With that comes a host of risks that could make growth in subsequent years less robust than it can and should be.

Based on current information, I expect rapid growth in China and the United States to drive a global expansion of 6% or more this year, compared to a 3.5% contraction in 2020. But while Europe should exit its double-dip recession, the recovery there will likely be more subdued. Parts of the emerging world are in an even tougher position.

Much of this divergence, both actual and anticipated, stems from variations in one or more of five factors. Controlling COVID-19 infections, including the spread of new coronavirus variants, is clearly crucial. So is distributing and administering vaccines (which includes securing supplies, overcoming institutional obstacles, and ensuring public uptake). A third factor is financial resilience, which in some developing countries involves preemptively managing difficulties from the recent debt surge. Then come the quality and flexibility of policymaking, and finally whatever is left in the reservoirs of social capital and human resilience.

The bigger the differences between and within countries, the greater the challenges to the sustainability of this year’s recovery. This reflects a broad range of health, economic, financial, and socio-political factors.

In a recent commentary, I explained why more uniform global progress on COVID-19 vaccination is important even for countries whose national immunization programs are far ahead of the pack. Without universal progress, leading vaccinators face a difficult choice between risking the importation of new variants from abroad and running a fortress economy with governments, households, and firms adopting a bunker-like mindset.

Uneven economic recoveries deprive individual countries of the tailwind of synchronized expansion, in which simultaneous output and income growth fuels a virtuous cycle of generalized economic well-being. They also increase the risks of trade and investment protectionism, as well as disruptions to supply chains.

Then there is the financial angle. Buoyant US growth, together with higher inflation expectations, has pushed market interest rates higher, with spillovers for the rest of the world. And there is more to come.

European Central Bank officials have already complained about “undue tightening” of financial conditions in the eurozone. Rising interest rates could also undermine the dominant paradigm in financial markets – namely, investors’ high confidence in ample, predictable, and effective liquidity injections by systemically important central banks, which has encouraged many to venture well beyond their natural habitat, taking considerable if not excessive and irresponsible risks. In the short term, high liquidity has pushed cheap funding to many countries and companies. But sudden reversals in fund flows, as well as the growing risk of cumulative market accidents and policy mistakes, could cause severe disruptions.

Finally, uneven economic recovery risks aggravating the income, wealth, and opportunity gaps that the COVID-19 crisis has already widened enormously. The greater the inequality, particularly with respect to opportunity, the sharper the sense of alienation and marginalization, and the more likely political polarization will impede good and timely policymaking.

But, whereas the old joke hinges on the unavoidability of tough trade-offs, there is a middle way for the global economy in 2021 and beyond – one that maintains a robust recovery and simultaneously lifts disadvantaged countries, groups, and regions. This requires both national and international policy adaptations.

National policies need to accelerate reforms that combine economic relief with measures to foster much more inclusive growth. This is not just about improving human productivity (through labor reskilling, education reforms, and better childcare) and the productivity of capital and technology (through major upgrades to infrastructure and coverage). To build back better and fairer, policymakers must now also consider climate resilience as a critical input for more comprehensive decision-making.Sign up for our weekly newsletter, PS on Sunday

Global policy alignment also is vital. The world is fortunate to have benefited initially from correlated (as opposed to coordinated) national policies in response to the COVID-19 crisis, with the vast majority of countries opting upfront for an all-in, whatever-it-takes, whole-of-government approach. But without coordination, policy stances will increasingly diverge, as less robust economies confront additional external headwinds at a time of declining aid flows, incomplete debt relief, and hesitant foreign direct investment.

With the US and China leading a significant pickup in growth, the global economy has an opportunity to spring out of a pandemic shock that has harmed many people and, in some cases, erased a decade of progress on poverty reduction and other important socio-economic objectives. But without policy adaptations at home and internationally, this rebound could be so uneven that it prematurely exhausts the prolonged period of faster and much more inclusive and sustainable growth that the global economy so desperately needs.

MOHAMED A. EL-ERIAN, President of Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, is a former chairman of US President Barack Obama’s Global Development Council. He was named one of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers four years running. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, including most recently The Only Game in Town: Central Banks, Instability, and Avoiding the Next Collapse.

Building an eco-friendly environment for the MENA region’s mobility sector

Building an eco-friendly environment for the MENA region’s mobility sector

Crewless vehicles are becoming key to future intelligent city logistics, says middle east logistics arguing that building an eco-friendly environment for the MENA region’s mobility sector is reasonable to fit in with all those intelligent urban developments. So here we are.

Building an eco-friendly environment for the MENA region’s mobility sector

Unmanned vehicles are becoming key to future smart city logistics

Bell has developed new technology such as the Autonomous Pod Transport (APT). The APT is an autonomous UAV designed to perform multiple missions, including package delivery, critical medical transport and disaster relief.

As society becomes more conscious of the effects of climate change, cities worldwide are looking at alternative methods to power their urban areas. Population growth, coupled with the demand for resources, forces authorities to look into smarter, greener and more sustainable alternatives for their communities.

The influx of new technology has helped facilitate this, increasing the conversations around methods to save time, reduce costs and maximise energy to power the cities of the future. Prompted by the Internet of Things (IoT), the potential to create intelligent, eco-friendly cities remains hugely untapped.

Countries in the Middle East and Africa are realising smart cities’ potential and their overall benefit to their societies. From investments in alternative forms of mobility to discussions on renewable energy, countries have started putting together strategies to envision an eco-friendly world. For instance, in 2018, South Africa raised over $53 billion to invest in renewable energy, while other countries in the continent increased their investments to $7.4 billion.

The Middle East has seen a similar approach. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia launched Vision 2021 and Vision 2030 National Agendas to explore methods that move away from fossil fuels and diversify their energy mix while also developing projects like NEOM, a sustainable ecosystem for living and working.

With the groundwork already being laid for these environments across the globe, one key element in developing these green cities is mobility and, in particular, the movement of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in urban areas. While still in its infancy, UAVs can provide solutions to numerous industries that face challenges with pollution, congestion and traffic safety. These electrically powered aerial vehicles offer an opportunity to utilise more renewable energy sources such as wind, solar or hydro-power to help fuel air travel of the future.

Present-day unmanned vehicles have a longer operational duration and require less maintenance than earlier models. These aircraft can be deployed in various terrains thanks to improved technology and used in multiple ways.

Advances in propulsion and guidance technologies are also helping make UAVs a reality. Already, in some parts of Africa, UAVs are being used to deliver blood, vaccines and other medical supplies to rural areas for people who require immediate medical attention.

In the UAE, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has issued a framework of rules to govern urban air mobility (UAM) to create conditions for safe, secure, and efficient flights close to populated urban areas. With these regulations, the country is set to become the first in the world to monitor the entire UAV ecosystem from take-off to landing.

With this in mind, the Bell team has been developing technology that offers convenient, safe and environmentally beneficial ways to move people, goods and information. Building on its 85 years of innovation in the aerospace sector, Bell has developed new technology such as the Autonomous Pod Transport (APT). The APT is an autonomous UAV designed to perform multiple missions, including package delivery, critical medical transport and disaster relief.

APT provides the logistics industry with a low-emission option for last-mile and hard-to-reach deliveries, helping decarbonise the supply chain. APT offers a solution for third-party logistics companies who emitted 13.8 million metric tons of CO2 in (year) while delivering 5.1 billion packages by ground or air, according to a 2019 report.

Furthermore, APT offers a solution to conserve energy through its unique tailsitter design and can carry heavier payloads up to 110 Ibs (50 kgs), speeds up to 90 kts (167 km/h) and a range of up to 35 miles (56 km). This means the APT offers a whole new level of mission capability for the entire supply chain.

In its continuing determination to improve conventional rotorcraft flight, Bell is exploring electrically powered technologies that promise to reduce fuel consumption and noise pollution. Electrically Distributed Anti-Torque (EDAT), a bold new initiative led by Light Commercial Aircraft Program Manager Eric Sinusas, comprises four small fans within a tail rotor shroud in an offset two-by-two pattern.

Each of the rotors contains four blades, powered by four separate motors, with the electrical energy provided through generators driven by the turbine engines. Replacing the traditional tail rotor, EDAT provides stabilising and steering functions in a more environmentally friendly manner, benefiting pilots and passengers and those on the ground.

Through its technological innovation, Bell is helping pave the way to an eco-friendlier environment. And the possibilities of using such technologies will contribute to and support green initiatives across the world.

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