Consortium to develop carbon analytics AI system
A consortium comprising Winvic, University of the West of England, Edgetrix and Costain will receive £800,000 in funding to develop the first embodied carbon analytics AI system of its kind in the next two years.
The project entitled ‘AI System for Predicting Embodied Carbon in Construction’ (ASPEC) will predict the carbon output on building and infrastructure projects based on BIM designs, materials carbon data and lessons learnt on past projects. Its aim is in line with article eight – Carbon Capture – on the government’s 10 Point Plan for a green industrial revolution, which was launched last week.
While construction organisations continue to make advances in how they address both embodied and operational carbon emissions, current calculation methods for the former are onerous; with no design support calculation solution, there is no efficient way for design teams to proactively drive down the embodied carbon and carbon footprint of projects.
The revolutionary technology will therefore be crucial in propelling constructors and material manufacturing firms to meet the UK government target removing 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030. Furthermore, a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions has been set through the Construction 2025 strategy and the target for 2050 is to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero.
In the UK alone, building stocks are responsible for 40 per cent of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions.
Buildings and construction together account for 36 per cent of global final energy use and 39 per cent of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (UNEP, 2018)
The proposed ASPEC therefore has three components, to meet the tangible needs of the industry:
- AI-based Embodied Carbon Calculator (ECC) - This system will predict the embodied carbon cost of any project from a scheme’s BIM model. It will use historic embodied carbon data from previous construction projects and accurate ‘carbon factors’ to develop machine learning models. The creation of the ECC will lead to a dramatic reduction in the time it takes to calculate embodied carbon, bringing the process down from potentially days and weeks of data collection and calculation to a matter of a few hours.
- Embodied Carbon Analytics and Simulation Platform (ECAS) - This cloud-platform will undertake what-if analyses of the embodied carbon of schemes during the design phase. The tool will use advanced big data analytics to identify alternative design specifications that would reduce the embodied carbon of a project. A user of ECAS will be able to simply change the selection of a building material and obtain an instantaneous embodied carbon figure.
- BIM-based Design Support Tool for Embodied Carbon Analytics (B-DST) - This solution will also support design teams during the design stages of construction projects. It will integrate with existing BIM development software via an Application Programming Interface (API).
Tim Reeve, Winvic’s Technical Director and project lead, said ollowing the announcement of government targets paired with BREEAM sustainability requirements, construction organisations and clients have worked hard to reduce emissions, but the task isn’t simple.
"That’s why we believe that utilising the most up-to-date AI and advanced big data analytics techniques in a way that has never been done before will be transformational for Winvic’s green agenda and pave the way for significant changes across the whole industry," he said.
"Having the ability to optimise schemes and see embodied carbon costs as real-time design and material changes are applied will naturally lead to quantifiable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and having technology that automatically estimates the embodied carbon cost of any digitally designed project will make the delivery of many project tasks much faster.
"It’s very exciting to be working on ASPEC – our third Innovate UK funded initiative – with Costain, UWE and Edgetrix and together we aim to deliver these two primary benefits of the project to the industry as early as Autumn 2022.”
Dr Lukman Akanbi, Associate Professor at UWE Bristol - which is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030 - said it hopes to contribute technical know-how and expertise in Big Data Analytics and AI to help move the UK one-step closer towards the realisation of her clean growth strategy and 2050 net-zero carbon target.
Muktar Tijani at Edgetrix, said the ASPEC project provides a simpler, more accurate and innovative approach to predicting embodied carbon in construction projects. "Edgetrix is delighted to be part of this project and are committed to helping organisations commence their Net-Zero journey through our expertise in carbon-cutting and modern tech-solutions."
Winvic and its project partners will develop a Common Data Environment (CDE) to eradicate the challenges that arise from having multiple, siloed datasets.
The huge amounts of data that are generated from different phases of construction projects will be documented and stored in one system; it is this data nucleus that will facilitate the machine learning technologies, providing industry professionals with the insights to make more eco-friendly decisions on materials used.
SafeAI attracts $21m funding as SmartMix AI tool launches
SafeAI is driving the transformation of the mining and construction industries through connected, autonomous sites. With chronic labour shortages, unsafe working conditions and frequent project delays, these industries are in a unique position to benefit from autonomy.
Unlike on-road applications of the technology, autonomous heavy equipment operates in controlled environments, which means companies can create smarter, safer, more productive project sites today that create meaningful, near-term impact.
“We are at a tipping point for autonomous heavy equipment,” said Bibhrajit Halder, founder and CEO at SafeAI. “We’ve proven that autonomy makes work sites significantly safer and more productive; now, we are on the cusp of mass adoption. Together with our valued partners, customers and investors, we’re poised to deploy autonomy in off-road industries like construction and mining, at scale, to rethink the way heavy industry operates.”
Heavy industry is a large, growing global market, ripe for disruption. The construction equipment market alone is valued at $140 billion, and expected to increase to $175 billion by 2025; construction-related spending accounts for a staggering 13% of global GDP, or $11.5 trillion.
But there remains significant room for growth; in construction alone, higher productivity could create an estimated $1.6 trillion in additional value. With just 25% of the infrastructure needed by 2050 in existence today, autonomy can bridge this productivity gap with greater efficiency and 24/7 operations. SafeAI is at the forefront of this transformation.
“There’s a tremendous amount of excitement in the autonomy space today; but it’s clear the biggest opportunity for this technology is off-road,” said Mark Blackwell, General Partner at Builders VC. “With its industry-leading autonomous software, scalable retrofit approach and partner ecosystem, SafeAI is uniquely poised to capitalize on this opportunity. We’re proud to support the company in its next chapter of growth as demand for autonomous heavy equipment continues to skyrocket.”
New investors LTC, DG Ventures, MACA and Vimson Group, and existing investors Autotech Ventures, Brick and Mortar Ventures, Embark Ventures, Monta Vista Capital and Obayashi Corporation, also participated in the round. The funding comes on the heels of a year of rapid growth for SafeAI, including new partnerships with Obayashi, Goodyear and Macnica, and expansion into Australia’s booming mining market.
A pilot program with Obayashi Corporation last November saw a Caterpillar 725 articulated dump truck autonomously complete a vital on-site function and carry out load-haul-dump cycles.
Giatec debuts SmartMix AI tool
Giatec has debuted what it claims is the world's first concrete AI tool for producers, SmartMix. The web-based AI tool allows producers to optimise concrete ingredient proportions, reduce cement usage, and predict the performance of their mixes while still meeting project specifications.
Giatec believes this tool will lower Greenhouse Gas emissions resulting from concrete production by 400 million tons annually, the equivalent of taking 110 million cars off the road.
SmartMix builds on Giatec's first AI software program Roxi, which has collected millions of data points from the company's SmartRock wireless concrete sensors across 8,000 projects and 80 countries.
Giatec's head of research and development, Andrew Fahim, said the new technologies are going to pave the path forward for the industry to meet increasing infrastructure demands.