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
Developing Capacities Of UNESCO Designations For Sustainable Development

Developing Capacities Of UNESCO Designations For Sustainable Development

India Education Diary Bureau Admin in Developing Capacities of UNESCO Designations For Sustainable Development informs that there could be no future without focusing on the nexus between heritage and the creative economy. In a move to help in that direction, UNESCO designated sites to the proclamation of 2021 as the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.

Developing Capacities Of UNESCO Designations For Sustainable Development

The Fondazione Santagata for the Economics of Culture has just released the report of a survey conducted with the support of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, in order to assess the impact of the first 5 workshops conducted under the initiative “International Academy on UNESCO Designations and Sustainable Development” (2015-2019). During this fruitful experience, the Academy convened approximately 130 professionals working for UNESCO designated sites from about 50 countries across the world and generated evident positive impact on capacities to contribute to local sustainable development, both directly and indirectly.

The International Academy on UNESCO Designations and Sustainable Development is a capacity-building programme conceived and launched in 2015 by the Santagata Foundation for the Economics of Culture and UNESCO through its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, as part of the interdisciplinary and intersectoral programme of the latter.

The International Academy aims to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda through strengthening the capacities of managing authorities and other local practitioners working with UNESCO designations, with special focus on World Heritage properties, Biosphere Reserves, Global Geoparks, elements inscribed in the Lists for Intangible Cultural Heritage, and Creative Cities. The project was made possible thanks to the annual contribution of Italy to the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe.

So far, 5 yearly international workshops have been organised since 2015, with the exception of 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Held primarily in Turin and the Piedmont region, with an interactive programme combining lectures, group works and meetings with stakeholders in local real-case scenarios, these workshops saw the attendance of a diverse group of participants from the European region and beyond, creating a community of professionals and incrementing their skills and understanding on how to foster sustainable development in UNESCO designated sites through the integrated management of cultural and natural resources.©Fondazione Santagata. Mont-Viso Transboundary Biosphere Reserve

In response to the disruption of the Academy’s regular activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and the Santagata Foundation launched an in-depth survey to evaluate the impact of the workshops held in previous years, aimed at participants and local partners involved. The outcomes of the survey were analysed and presented in a technical report, which offers evidence of the positive impact of the Academy especially in terms of knowledge advancement, networking and regional cooperation.© UNESCO

The Academy experience helped participants to envisage and pursue new partnership opportunities in their respective local contexts at different levels: within the governance framework of single designated sites; across different policy sectors (e.g. culture, environment, tourism, agriculture, creative economy); between different designations in multi-designated areas or in close territorial proximity; as well as between different designated sites in different countries or territorial contexts.

The responses of participants also attest to the importance of the Academy in improving advancing participants’ knowledge on UNESCO designations and related processes; enhancing their professional capacities; sharing good practices; supporting peer learning, and eventually promoting the introduction of new operational measures or policies in the concerned designated sites.©Fondazione Santagata. Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, Pollenzo – UNESCO World Heritage

One of the key findings of the survey is that none of the selected UNESCO designated areas were immune to the heavy socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the necessity to develop appropriate responses to the crisis in the sense of sustainably leveraging cultural and natural assets for recovery. This was reflected in the capacity-building priorities that the respondents indicated for future workshops of the Academy, focusing especially on: i) how to effectively sustain economic growth while ensuring social and environmental sustainability; ii) increasing the preparedness, resilience, and recovery of the sites in face of emergencies; iii) supporting the construction of a strategic, integrated, and participatory management framework with a view to achieving middle and long-term objectives.

On this basis, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, together with Fondazione Santagata are working to prepare the 6th workshop of the Academy, which is tentatively scheduled in October 2021 and will focus on the nexus between heritage and the creative economy in UNESCO designated sites, in the wake of the proclamation of 2021 as International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.

A summary of the survey report is available here: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000376137

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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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What does it take to be smart?

What does it take to be smart?

James Rowntree, vice president at Jacobs, asked this question in Infrastructure Intelligence blog: What does it take to be smart? It is in everybody’s mind these days.

12 March 2021

What does it take to be smart? | Infrastructure Intelligence

Collaboration between city leaders, asset owners, investors and the tech sector is crucial in realising the benefits of smart cities says James Rowntree of Jacobs.

The term ‘smart’ has been used for some time now to broadly describe the adoption of technology by a city or infrastructure owner. The expression has begun suffering from overuse, particularly where the public experience of the result has been anything but smart, in the literal sense. 

Many cities and infrastructure owners have made technology investments over the years to automatically monitor or control things such as streetlights, water levels, utility distribution and traffic flow. However, these are relatively modest interventions when put in the context of ‘Industry 4.0’, the much-heralded fourth industrial revolution and the impact that real-time data and advanced analytics could have on how our cities and infrastructure assets operate in the future. If the hype is to be believed – and there’s good reason for it to be – then the future of smart is potentially transformational. The big challenge though is how to get there – and who pays? 

The use cases for smart cities are multiple, varied and growing, as anyone who has visited any of the international smart city exhibitions will be able to testify. It’s clear that relatively benign sensors that periodically transmit data today will be replaced tomorrow by real-time interactions which will allow for advanced applications, such as connected and remote healthcare, and connected ecosystems for things like autonomous vehicles.  

Whilst many of today’s use-cases will operate on current networks such as LoRaWaN and 4G, 5G is widely seen as the tipping point technology that will enable a lot of the next generation, disruptive use-cases to be realised. However, a challenge for cities and infrastructure owners is that predicting these use-cases is a little like trying to predict in the early 2000s the vast array of applications we now use on our smart phones. Creating a business case for a ‘smart’ entity is therefore not easy.

Connecting people and place

For anything to be smart it needs to be digitally connected and whilst satellite technology is developing, this invariably means hardwiring everything back to fibre. This then introduces the value of connecting people as well as things. Both local and central governments are actively encouraging reliable fibre-to-the-home connectivity for all citizens, recognising the value of closing the digital divide and giving people better access to 21st century jobs, opportunities and services. 

There is now a very good body of evidence that points to the positive social and economic benefits of fast and reliable digital connectivity. Cities in particular have an opportunity to promote digital connectivity as a platform for creativity and innovation that in turn is attractive to inward investment and growth. 

Unlocking the value of infrastructure

Similarly, owners of linear infrastructure assets see the opportunity to use their networks to promote the laying of fibre, unlocking not only operational use-cases and additional revenue streams for themselves but also providing a social value benefit through connecting people in harder to reach areas.    

The starting point is therefore to be clear on the outcomes to be achieved. The challenge for any city or infrastructure owner is to get digital connectivity where they need it and to build use-cases around the technology they intend to adopt.

Both urban and rural communities are generally reliant on the established telecom network providers expanding their fibre and mobile networks, although the timing and geographic reach of these plans is principally driven by their own commercial considerations rather than the specific priorities of a city or infrastructure owner. 

More recently, given it can be highly revenue generative, there are increasing numbers of private investors seeking to realise value from fibre ownership and governments are actively encouraging this in certain jurisdictions. The good news is that there’s a lot of cash available for investment in digital connectivity if only the right business cases can be established. 

What does it take to be smart? | Infrastructure Intelligence
Infrastructure Intelligence

Putting forward the case for change

To be both smart and to realise the benefits of connected citizens, public authorities are highly reliant on this private investment from either established or new telecom network providers. In turn, that private investment depends upon being able to secure anchor revenues to justify an investment case. 

For public authorities who can navigate state aid and public procurement regulations, they can attract this investment by either providing a future anchor tenancy commitment or encouraging others to do so. This all comes down to being able to develop their own credible business cases that clearly capture future connectivity benefits.

Defining and banking these future benefits is therefore key to being able to attract investment.  Whilst technology companies are spending billions on research and development and there’s a highly impressive array of technologies on the market, cities and infrastructure owners need to understand those that will truly add value. Technology remains nothing more than an interesting idea until such a time that it becomes accessible and deployable in a way that creates tangible value for the end user. 

For a city or infrastructure owner, it’s the consequences of this technology on business processes, people and training that needs to be clearly understood as part of the overall business case. These important points are often lost in the excitement of the technology but matter hugely to the ultimate buyer.

To realise the benefits of becoming truly smart – where city and infrastructure operations are a fusion of the physical and cyber worlds – is highly complex and requires the alignment of interests across the technology, telecommunications and investment sectors in collaboration with the city leadership and asset owners.  

James Rowntree is vice president – telecoms and digital infrastructure – at Jacobs.

Circular Economy by Designing Green Data Centers

Circular Economy by Designing Green Data Centers

T_HQ DATA CENTERSarticle on Looking to a circular economy by designing green data centers by Joe Devanesan explaining how to meet the rising data demands of AI & IOT applications whilst helping us discover how an interconnected data centre ecosystem can reduce costs and mitigate risk. 

19 February 2021

Can more sustainable data centers be designed that employ green energy and circular technology strategies?

Solving the massive energy consumption dilemma by data centers has been an ongoing challenge for the data industry. Data centers are being constructed and pressed into service at a rapid clip worldwide, but the significant carbon imprint of these projects are causing design teams to study how to minimize the environmental impact of the construction process and enable more green, yet still cost-efficient data center designs.

The astronomical levels of energy output required by data centers is raising concerns among green energy advocates, government administrators, and the data center industry itself. Notable service providers including technology giants with their own centers have started working with companies like CarbonCure, which makes a low-carbon “green” concrete material for the tile-up walls that frame data centers.

Cultivating a circular economy

Concrete’s durability and strength are ideal for industrial construction, but the production of cement requires the use of massive kilns, which require large amounts of energy, and the actual chemical process emits staggeringly high levels of carbon dioxide. CarbonCure’s method repurposes the CO2 emitted by large refineries and chemically mineralizes it during the concrete manufacturing process to make greener and stronger concrete.

CarbonCure’s method is a step towards cultivating a circular economy, where materials are part of an inverted logistics chain, tracking the source and the waste produced, and repurposing them so that they contribute back towards the sustainability of the project, while cutting down on the environmental footprint.

As solutions like CarbonCure’s prove their feasibility as well as the potential to optimize costs, data center customers, especially the bigger corporations that consume more energy, will begin feeling the pressures to adopt environmental practices and corporate social responsibility policies that are in-line with sustainability best practices available in their region.

Adapting green energy workloads for data centers

Google not too long ago announced that it will power all of its operations with entirely carbon-free energy by 2030, matching every hour of energy spent at its data centers to carbon-free energy sources. The Alphabet company does this by harnessing artificial intelligence and sophisticated energy provisioning to match its operations’ workloads with carbon-free energy sources.

To overcome the time-sensitive pitfalls that green energy solutions like solar and wind power encounter presently, Google created a “carbon-intelligent computing platform” that optimizes for green energy at its data centers by rescheduling workloads that are not time-sensitive, such as matching workloads to solar power during the day, and to wind energy in the evening when it is airier, for example.

But the intermittent use of renewable energy to overcome the significant carbon footprint associated with electricity, can be sidestepped altogether if more efficient energy storage means could be set up to generate and store power from green sources at data centers.

A new project in the US will showcase a potential solution from Tesla, the electric car company led by tech visionary Elon Musk. Data center technology company Switch will use new large-scale energy storage technology from Tesla to boost its use of solar energy for its mammoth data center campuses in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. It is a promising project in pioneering a holistic integration of renewable power, green energy storage and Internet-scale data centers.

Circular Economy by Designing Green Data Centers
Joe Devanesan

 joe.devanesan@hybrid.coAll stories

 @thecrystalcrown

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