IT and sustainable construction

On 16 October, I am speaking at the EMCBE Expo 2007 Construction Conference at Rockingham in Northamptonshire, on the theme of Sustainability: the IT contribution.

This regional event includes a presentation regarding the UK government’s “Draft Strategy for Sustainable Construction”, and in prepararing my contribution, I had a look through the document to see what it said about the IT. Sadly, there is just one mention of ICT (a note listing the areas covered by BERR’s Technology Strategy Board), although the draft does at least refer to other industry initiatives which have made more explicit statements – for example, “Accelerating Change” and the 2012 Construction Commitments (see July 2006 post).

IT plays an increasingly important part in supporting construction project processes and its impact on sustainability cannot be ignored. The manufacture of IT hardware, for example, places high demands on natural resources; during use, this hardware also requires large amounts of power to support processing, cooling, etc; and disposal of hardware at the end of its (often far too short) useful life can be highly polluting. And when you take into account the significant overheads involved in keeping that hardware running, we are also talking about lots of people occupying offices which need to kept air-conditioned and well-lit, and to which people generally need to commute.

The IT industry is well aware of these issues; some online publications even devote entire sections to ‘Green IT’ (see ZDNet’s Green IT toolkit, for instance) and numerous vendors are recognising that their corporate social responsibilities must extend to mitigating the carbon footprints of their products and activities.

Looking among the UK-based construction collaboration technology vendors, for instance, Cadweb has long made claims about how using its extranet product will reduce use of paper, transport and meeting travel (read about its latest “Carbon calculator”), BIW [my employer] has also published statistics about paper savings arising from using its platform, Union Square’s Will Yandell has written to construction publications on the same theme, and ePin says it “is a CarbonNeutral® company committed to reducing its carbon emissions and those of its clients”.

I am still researching the issue and developing my presentation for 16 October, and – if time permits – I propose to write a paper on the IT contribution to sustainable construction (anyone care to contribute?).

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