The implications for the future of the infrastructure and urban development (IU) industry: scenario 3

Global focus on sustainability transforms IU industry; emphasis on recycling, innovative materials, and tech for eco-friendly construction and maintenance.

A green reboot

In this scenario, the planet has been devastated due to diminishing natural resources and decades of turning a blind eye to climate change. Rather than letting the situation continue on a steep decline, various powerful countries formed a group with one sole intention: to promote sustainability and revitalise the environment. To achieve this goal, the group launched a global fund that finances sustainability education and research. They also impose strict environmental regulations worldwide – including taxes on waste, high CO2 emissions, and other harmful by-products.

For the IU industry, this green reboot results in new construction production methods and innovations in materials used. Society also adapts to a more eco-friendly approach, with people and businesses adhering to recycling regulations and reusing as much as possible. The economy turns into a sharing one to diminish consumption. With online platforms, housing, vehicles, and workspaces are among the necessities that can be easily shared.

While reducing consumption and going green is great for the planet’s health, it comes at a cost: a stagnating economy.

Sustainability is the focus

The construction of new buildings and infrastructure takes a backseat in a green world. Due to the sharing philosophy, lowered industrial activity, and reduced consumption, there’s a large reduction in demand for industrial, office, and commercial buildings. It reaches the point that any new constructions are seen as a last resort, mainly due to the prohibitively expensive nature of finding space for new builds. As a result, the IU industry focuses on upgrading and refurbishing existing assets.

IU players are not helped by strict environmental-based restrictions imposed by governments worldwide. These restrictions include stringent limits on material and energy consumption and waste production. There are also strict requirements for the IU industry to meet regarding asset production. If these assets are not resilient and up to the job of withstanding extreme weather conditions, for example, they will not receive approval.

On top of this, private and public investors primarily emphasise environmental impact when evaluating new asset proposals. They also focus on reusability and flexibility, which ensures the asset’s lifespan is maximised.

New innovations = low environmental impacts

Due to the need for sustainable assets and because of tough environmental regulations, the IU sector takes an innovative approach to meet demands. Along with adopting pioneering technology, new materials are also developed thanks to substantial investment in research.

To craft new assets that deliver low environmental impacts, complex simulations are run by design and engineering organisations. While these assets are created with the primary intention of avoiding hefty fines for missing environmental impact targets, there’s also another benefit of going through all this trouble to meet or exceed government-imposed goals: tax incentives.

An important task in producing new assets is selecting appropriate materials. Materials are taxed due to various factors, including their origin and recycling share. To limit taxes, asset designers focus on materials that are recycled and locally sourced (when possible). For instance, this could be a traditional renewable material like wood. It might also be state-of-the-art bioengineered materials produced with fast-growing organisms like bacteria.

New, sustainable-focused technologies are also utilised on construction sites. Augmented-reality glasses allow workers to view real-time instructions that detail the most efficient method to complete tasks in an environmentally friendly manner. Virtual reality and collaboration apps refine the need to travel and move equipment/materials. 3D printing robots can print out new materials for building elements, which limits construction waste.

Sensors also have a prominent role to play in the green reboot. Once an asset has been built, sensors provide real-time data about its environmental impact. When construction has commenced, sensors allow O&M companies to monitor various asset elements – and ensure they’re sticking to environmental impact limits.

Sustainability knowledge is king

In a green future where environmental impact is an asset’s primary buying condition, IU businesses with extensive expertise in sustainable materials and practices will thrive.

This is especially the case for material suppliers. If they know how to develop and produce innovative materials that meet sustainable requirements, they’ll be rewarded with high-profit margins. After all, the materials mainly used determine the overall environmental impact produced by an asset. Yet long-standing material suppliers face competition from newcomers like biotechnology companies, who have experience with self-healing materials.

Asset operators profit from a more prominent sharing economy that cultivates requests for relevant services. Yet this does come at a cost for another sector: maintenance. Due to using sensor data for optimised schedules and self-healing materials, there’s a significant drop in requirements for servicing.

Recycling, environmental services, and new business opportunities

With a green initiative, the door is open for several service-oriented companies to gain prominence. These include those focusing on environmental planning, decommissioning planning, equipment-sharing platforms, and ecological impact auditing. Sharing platforms for construction equipment, for instance, gain a foothold in the market because there’s a push to reduce the footprint left by construction equipment.

There are also large business opportunities for those who focus on building materials. There’s a strong demand for recycled materials that adhere to government guidelines, so high-quality, sustainable products will always be in demand within the IU industry.

Why technology is the present for sustainability

While sustainability will be more prevalent in several decades, it still plays an essential role today. In an effort to combat climate change before it’s too late, governments and agencies across the world are taking a solid stance on recycling and pushing companies to go green.

As a result, it makes sense to get ahead of the curve and benefit from a sustainable approach to your business. With our bespoke software solutions, we can help you incorporate systems that significantly reduce your environmental impact. Plus, if you ever feel like you’re falling behind the competition, our development on-demand services are ready to keep you on top with cutting-edge technology.

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