Building 4.0 CRC – Towards a Safer, More Efficient and Sustainable Building Industry

Stagnant Productivity and Poor Sustainability

The global engineering & construction industry is worth USD $10 trillion per annum, however the sector has seen almost no productivity growth in 50 years [1]. While other industries have embraced the benefits of process and product innovations, the building industry has failed to modernise and productivity has stagnated as a result.

To put this timeline into perspective, 50 years ago the banking industry had not yet provided the first credit card or access to online banking. Fast forward to 2020, the global financial services sector is digitally connected and fully technology enabled, creating enormous efficiencies and offering customers unparalleled levels of service.

The building industry is the number one user of raw materials in our economy, with the construction and operation of buildings contributing 30% to 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. As Winston Churchill anticipated, “we shape our buildings and, afterwards, our buildings shape us”. The climate change impacts of the industry are often underrepresented and only in recent years have real estate leaders begun to acknowledge the flow through to society and the environment.

Impending Impact of Industry 4.0

Since 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has highlighted the impending arrival ‘Industry 4.0’ – the fourth industrial revolution where advanced technologies – cyber physical systems, internet-of-things and data-driven networks – will fundamentally disrupt and transform every industry.

For construction, WEF estimates that full-scale digitisation of the industry could deliver global cost savings of USD $1.0 – 1.7 trillion per annum [2] through increased efficiencies of 12-20%, along with improved sustainability and safety outcomes.

Unfortunately driving change in the industry is difficult due to its size, fragmentation and complexity, so new models will be required to allow meaningful collaboration between all players in the value chain.

Source: World Economic Forum, Boston Consulting Group

Building 4.0 CRC – Better Buildings, New Efficiencies Through Technology and Collaboration

In March 2020, Karen Andrews, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology announced an AUD $28 million grant for Building 4.0 CRC – a cooperative research centre (CRC) programme for industry-led research and development in the built environment. In addition, this program has commitments of over AUD $100 million in cash and in-kind contributions from industry and researchers, with major partners including Lendlease, Bluescope and Master Builders.

The CRC structure of Building 4.0 will see it bring together complementary expertise from a diverse group of partners working on medium to long-term industry-led collaborations. The program will focus on three core research streams:

1) Sectoral transformation – aims to develop new industry-wide culture, practices and standard protocols that will enable the transformation of the entire sector;

2) Digital transformation – leverage the latest technologies, data science and artificial intelligence in the development of new building processes and techniques; and

3) Building transformation – targets the improvement of building “hardware” and processes, and their interaction with the digital and sectoral programs.

Building 4.0 CRC demonstrates that industry and government can come together to solve the big issues facing the building industry today,” Monash University’s Professor Mathew Aitchison, CEO of Building 4.0 CRC, said in a statement.

“By leveraging this government funding and our deep collaboration with research and training partners, we are committed to putting the Australian industry at the forefront of global developments.”

The program has set ambitious targets for its work, including cutting project costs by 30% using digital technologies. In addition, their sustainability target is up to 50% reduction in carbon emissions and 80% reduction in construction waste and re-work through more efficient building projects.

Building 4.0 will also generate more job opportunities and high-skilled positions training up 7,000 new apprentices using new technologies and providing research opportunities to 36 PhDs and 1,000 masters students.

Bringing Venture to Research & Development

Taronga Ventures is pleased to support Building 4.0 CRC as a founding partner, along with our RealTechX program partner Lendlease and our construction technology portfolio company Ynomia.

Jonathan Hannam, Managing Partner, Taronga Ventures said:

“Taronga Ventures is very pleased to be a partner and supporter of the Building 4.0 CRC. We have found Australia to be a world leader in construction technology, with a sophisticated real estate sector supported by global institutional capital.”

Hannam continues; “Taronga Ventures’ participation in the Building 4.0 CRC will help us to identify and support emerging construction technology businesses, that will address site safety and efficiency, see greater use of technology and new materials as well as better methods of construction that will lead to better quality and accountability.”

Taronga Ventures will support Building 4.0 through advising on commercialisation approaches for taking the program’s research outputs into industry, as well as introducing portfolio companies that can help with the delivery of projects including:

  • Ynomia providing a low-energy, Bluetooth beacon used on construction sites and in the supply chain to track the location of machinery, manpower and materials;
  • Conqa enabling quality assurance data collection for construction sites allowing trades, subcontractors and general contractors to document the standard of work delivery;
  • OpenSpace offering a 360-degree image solution that captures construction site progress (through a 360-camera mounted on a helmet), shared on a visualisation platform; and
  • CityZenith providing a ‘digital twin’ platform that creates a digital model of real estate assets and building systems to monitor asset performance in real-time and over the asset lifecycle.

Industry-led research programs like Building 4.0 aim to translate project outputs into commercial and sector impacts. Taronga Ventures is pleased to support Building 4.0 and its program partners to transform the building sector for a safer, more productive and sustainable future.

 

[1] World Economic Forum; Shaping the Future of Construction
[2] World Economic Forum – https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/construction-industry-future-scenarios-labour-technology/