Green transformation as an opportunity for innovation in construction

By Espen Schulze, Group Vice President Research at Cobuilder

The construction industry is undergoing a green transformation, driven by new regulatory frameworks, international standards, and technological advancements.

The urgency of addressing environmental challenges has become increasingly apparent, with the European Commission highlighting climate change and sustainability as a paramount concern in today’s global landscape. In this article, I will discuss why the shift towards sustainability in construction opens doors for innovation and highlights the crucial roles of digitalization and standardization in driving this transformation.

Espen Schulze, Group Vice President Research at Cobuilder

A paradigm shift from risk to opportunity

The European Union’s Industrial Strategy reframes the need for green transformation not as a risk, but as an unparalleled opportunity for innovation and economic growth. Referencing the Transition Pathway for Construction, a foundational document within this strategy, it becomes evident that embracing a green transformation requires the adoption of digitalization as a catalyst for success.

Specifically, the strategy highlights the pivotal role of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and standards like EN ISO 22057, EN ISO 23386 and EN ISO 23387 in driving this transformative agenda forward.

Rather than viewing impending regulations as burdensome constraints, industry stakeholders are encouraged to recognize them as catalysts for innovation and competitive advantage.

As the construction sector prepares to navigate the complexities of regulatory reform, embracing digital processes and standardized data formats will not only ensure compliance but also unlock new opportunities for sustainable growth and market leadership.

EN ISO 22057 and green transformation

The standard EN ISO 22057 facilitates the integration of environmental data sourced from Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) into BIM, thereby empowering stakeholders to make informed decisions regarding material selection, procurement, and project planning.

By providing a standardized framework for the representation and exchange of environmental information, EN ISO 22057 enhances transparency, fosters collaboration, and promotes the adoption of sustainable building practices.

The standard EN ISO 22057 enables industry actors to streamline information requirements, data collection and validation. If we, as an industry, want to improve our productivity growth, we need to break down the information silos that are all too common in the construction sector today.

In addition, the standard EN ISO 22057 is an important step towards improving the quality and accuracy of life cycle assessment studies performed in projects. The way we monitor the environmental impact of built assets does not need to be based on assumptions and generic data any longer. With the EN ISO 22057 framework we will be able to collect reliable and up-to-date data about each specific material or construction element directly from the supply chain.

Benefits for sustainable decision-makers

The adoption of EN ISO 22057 has profound implications for sustainable decision-making throughout the construction lifecycle. By incorporating standardized environmental data into BIM workflows, project teams can assess the environmental performance of building materials, identify opportunities for optimization, and mitigate potential environmental impacts.

For example, by leveraging EPD data, architects and engineers can select materials with lower embodied carbon footprints, leading to reduced emissions and enhanced sustainability outcomes. Similarly, contractors and developers can use environmental data to evaluate the lifecycle impacts of construction projects, informing design choices and procurement decisions.

Digital Product Passports: Pioneering green transformation in construction

In the imminent landscape of regulatory reform within the construction industry, the forthcoming requirement for Digital Product Passports (DPP) stands as a cornerstone of the green transformation.

This shift, propelled by frameworks like the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) and the revised Construction Products Regulation (CPR), underscores the critical role of DPP as a key tool for advancing sustainability goals.

With Digital Product Passports seamlessly linking Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) to digitalized product data, stakeholders can access comprehensive environmental information crucial for informed decision-making.

As emphasized in the European Union’s Industrial Strategy, this integration of DPP within the construction ecosystem signifies a paradigm shift from viewing environmental regulations as burdensome to recognizing them as opportunities for innovation and market leadership.

Common data models for sustainable construction

According to the standard EN ISO 22057, environmental data from EPDs can be incorporated in a common data model, called data template.

The data templates describe any construction product in a way that can be traced to a credible source. Examples of such are the product standards that determine how product performance should be declared and the methods it is tested against. This data model provides all actors with a common technical language that enables them to capture and share accurate and reliable information, which now also includes environmental data currently available in the standardized EPD format.

The way we manage data is essential for achieving our sustainability goals. To be able to do the green transition, the construction industry needs common, trusted data structures. We must ensure that the information we digitize today can be used and shared freely in the years to come. Recycling and reuse of materials and construction elements is only possible if we have all the necessary information in a format that is compatible also with future technologies. This can be achieved through data standardization.

In closing, by embracing digital processes and standardized data formats, the industry not only ensures regulatory compliance but also unlocks new ways for sustainable growth, green transformation, and competitive advantage in the global market.