Technology Plays a Vital Role in Sustainable and Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Construction

Agencies can use advanced technology to build quality and ecofriendly infrastructure.
By George White
August 2, 2022

The push for resilient and sustainable infrastructure is becoming more and more prevalent with each passing year. However, only 35% of all global infrastructure projects are considered sustainable currently. In addition, infrastructure construction and operations, more specifically motor vehicles, account for approximately 70% of all global emissions.

Now, with the restoration of federal regulations that require intensive environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects, it’s essential that transportation agencies and construction firms track and manage their projects’ environmental impact and meet the reinstated regulations.

Technology can play a vital role in addressing these issues, helping streamline project operations from the design stages all the way to completion. Digital technology tools can also significantly transform how we use data to respond to natural disaster damage, improve the overall construction process, and ensure projects meet the required timelines and standards to build sustainable, quality and climate-resilient infrastructure.

Leverage data to build resilient infrastructure and limit material and resource waste

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is introducing $1.2 trillion to United States infrastructure, causing a substantial increase in the number of projects. As a result, agencies need a significant amount of resources and materials.

Currently, building materials represent a $1 trillion global industry and usually account for more than half of the total cost for projects. However, despite the growing demand, up to 30% of all building materials from construction sites end up as waste.

Now, it’s predicted the volume of construction waste generated worldwide will rise significantly by 2025, making it critical that material use on construction projects is managed efficiently.

Agencies can leverage technology to track and manage materials, ensure they meet industry codes and quality standards, and ultimately maximize material use and streamline projects. Real-time data can be directly collected from jobsites and accessible through cloud-based technology, allowing agencies to make more informed decisions about materials and budgets in a timely manner.

With real-time data, errors can be caught early, reducing the impact on budgets, limiting material waste and avoiding time-consuming setbacks. The data also provides insight into the needs on jobsites, the safety of employees and other logistics critical for the success of all infrastructure projects.

Additionally, 95% of data generated on construction sites goes unused, so finding new ways of leveraging information is incredibly important. With advanced digital technology, agencies can use the rich, real-time data from jobsites and the ongoing tracking of project progress to create transparency and accountability.

Agencies that have greater visibility across several projects at once can more easily get a topline understanding of their sustainability metrics. This enables them to flag areas of efficiency and inefficiency, giving teams a better understanding of where to make improvements to ensure infrastructure is constructed safely, efficiently and sustainably.

By leveraging digital tools, agencies can also share data with experts who are not in the same organizations or locations, facilitating project insights and more accurate monitoring of progress. This level of transparency strengthens stakeholder confidence while helping agencies track operations to meet the climate-focused goals of BIL and the restored federal infrastructure regulations.

Streamline natural disaster recovery with data-driven tech

Along with the responsibility of building sustainable and quality infrastructure, transportation and construction agencies also have to factor in the impacts of extreme weather on buildings, roads, bridges, mass transit and electricity, among others.

2021 was the third costliest year for weather disasters, with a staggering $343 billion in damages. Specifically, the U.S. spent approximately $145 billion on 20 different extreme weather events last year. In fact, the United States has more weather-related disasters per year than any other country, making it imperative that the nation efficiently develops safe, modernized infrastructure to withstand extreme weather and minimize the impacts of natural disasters.

With technology like drones and inspection platforms, responders can expedite disaster recovery by efficiently surveying the damage, geotagging areas that need support and prioritizing infrastructure impacted by extreme weather, all of which enable accurate repair costs and timeline estimates.

This data collection process also plays a vital role in the building and maintaining of infrastructure. Through this process, construction and transportation agencies can closely monitor structures and schedule routine maintenance, strengthening the infrastructure’s longevity and making it more likely to withstand extreme weather.

Transportation agencies and maintenance crews can also leverage digital twins that can create exact replicas of projects during the construction phase and continue to be updated with new information. As a result, crews can efficiently track damages and make the necessary repairs, ensuring every structure is safe, sustainable, and resilient for the future.

The time for sustainable infrastructure is now

Sustainable and climate-resilient infrastructure is not a problem for the future—it’s an issue that needs to be addressed now. The New Climate Economy estimates the world will have to invest $90 trillion in sustainable infrastructure by 2030 to truly combat climate change and minimize the impacts of extreme weather.

Through modern, data-driven technology, construction and transportation agencies can confront the industry’s material waste problem, ensuring projects maintain ecofriendly, efficient operations throughout all construction phases, while also supporting data transparency that reassures stakeholders and organizations project funds are being effectively allocated. And, as natural disasters become more frequent, advanced digital technology can minimize extreme weather’s impact through orderly repairs and routine maintenance, all of which support a bright future for sustainable and resilient infrastructure in the United States and worldwide.

by George White
George White’s career has been focused on working with stakeholders in the infrastructure and construction industries to bring technology to the forefront in their operations. During his tenure at HeadLight, he has managed diverse teams and overseen numerous technology projects for customers ranging from Fortune 500 organizations to the federal government. George is recognized as an innovator in the transportation construction industry and provides more than 10 years of management experience and more than 15 years of industry knowledge and connections to the company. George currently serves on an industry-leading technical steering committee alongside members of state and federal government, private sector and academia.

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