Some of the brightest minds in the construction industry came together recently as part of a challenge to develop a technology-based solution to improve efficiency in construction.
The Construction News (CN) Summit was the stage for the challenge, called Tech Sprint, where participants were split into four teams of eight to compete against each other to create the best solution. Following Brexit, October’s CN Summit focused on looking to the future to determine how the potential economic implications will impact on the investment plans of construction businesses.
We decided to run with the theme that construction businesses might be more cautious with their spending next year and we wanted our idea to involve reducing costs for companies. However, according to ‘Constructing Excellence’, the organisation charged with driving the change agenda in construction, roughly half of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the construction industry, so the industry is becoming increasingly conscious of its impact on the environment. We wanted our idea to reduce that impact as well. We were split into teams at random (I was elected to represent Interserve) and we had to work for 24 hours without sleep, ready to present our idea to a panel of judges.
With Building Information Modelling (BIM), prefabrication and digital lifecycle management, the construction industry is already using technology to help the UK government with its commitment to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
We wanted to further develop these technology-based solutions to reduce time, cost and carbon emissions, while maintaining quality. The idea also had to be one that could be implemented in the next six months – so it was key to come up with a realistic project.
The ‘Uber for concrete’
With all of this in mind, my team, named ‘Re-Source’, came up with an app that the judges dubbed ‘The Uber for concrete’. It tackles the problem of waste in concrete delivery and allows builders to bid for part of a truck load of concrete.
If Builder 1 orders a load of concrete but doesn’t use it all, they have to pay a fee of £300 to return it to the supplier. Builder 2 also needs concrete, but only a part load. Our app allows Builder 1 to sell on his unused concrete to Builder 2, saving both builders money. It also benefits the concrete supplier by freeing up the truck that would have been delivering a part load to Builder 2 so it can supply another site instead.
Builder 2 could even order a shared load with another builder right from the start via the app, saving the hassle and risk of selling on material. ‘Everybody wins’ is the phrase we sold to the panel of judges. It reduces concrete waste, helps builders financially and it benefits the environment, with fewer truck movements resulting in lower CO2.
Targeting the city construction market
We had a team of app developers who took our proposal and created a real working app which could be used on Apple and Android phones. We based our idea on concrete because it is the single most widely used material across the globe. The idea is also scalable, with proposals to use it for other building materials aside from concrete.
We felt that the construction market in central London and other major cities would particularly benefit from the app because there are many construction sites in close proximity. It would also be a good way for cities to cut down on emissions and lorry movements.
As the team members were so diverse in background, we were able to pool together a wealth of knowledge in a short time. Our team won, with judges saying: “This presentation showed the biggest potential return for the lowest amount of risk” and “it was the best demonstration of a practical use of technology.”
The ‘Tech Sprint’ allowed us to work collaboratively, share knowledge and develop a technological solution that could bring further efficiency to the construction industry.
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