Making construction cleaner, greener, and climate-friendly with Smart Construction

With one global crisis after the other, ranging from wildfires to extinctions and health pandemics, if there’s one lesson we have learnt in the past decade, it is about the importance of sustainability. There is an urgent need for a cleaner and greener approach across all sectors and the construction industry is no exception to that. In fact, according to a 2020 report, the construction industry accounts for around 36% of worldwide energy usage, and 40% of CO2 emissions. This is where Smart Construction can step up and help fill the gaps. This involves leveraging digital technologies to improve sustainability and productivity, maximise user benefits, and minimise whole life costs.

This is an important conversation that key stakeholders need to have to help make the construction industry future-ready.

As such, Asian Development Bank’s ADB Ventures in partnership with e27, New Energy Nexus, Plug and Play, and Third Derivative, recently launched The Climatic Series. Sponsored by the Climate Technology Fund, this series is bringing together industry leaders, innovators, investors, corporate partners and entrepreneurs working towards a more resilient, greener and sustainable future.

The first topic of the series was Smart Construction where panels and talk shows witnessed industry leaders discussing the challenges, scope and future of the construction industry with sustainability at its core.

Challenges faced by the construction industry in APAC

Research suggests that achieving drastic cuts in all carbon emissions over the next decade is critical to keeping global temperature rise to 1.50C. Addressing upfront carbon is therefore crucial to fighting the climate crisis, as new construction is expected to double the world’s building stock by 2060 causing an increase in the carbon emissions occurring right now. This becomes even more pertinent in the APAC region where megacities with robust infrastructure are emerging every day. With bustling economies and business hubs, in APAC, construction is an inevitable companion to development. Furthermore, according to the World Economic Forum, 65% of construction in the coming decade will happen in emerging economies.

Fortunately, new technologies promise to change the way the entire industry works. Christian Sans, Founder and CEO of Skycatch, a company that uses drones and AI to make construction smarter, shared during the Climatic talk show that by leveraging AI and drone technology, they are helping construction become easier and more efficient, thus reducing the time taken for project completion, which directly reduces the CO2 emission.

Also read: AWS Activate power boosts startups through agile and efficient cloud infrastructure — and free credits

The Asian Development Bank recently worked with Skycatch on the construction of the Port of Nauru. Thomas Abell, Chief of Digital Technology at ADB shared, “Nauru is a remote pacific island that needed a new port. ADB invested in a new port project but during COVID, travel was restricted and this is where Skycatch helped fill the gap. ADB plans to leverage Skycatch’s tech solutions even after the pandemic because their data and analytics help make the process more productive and efficient. Skycatch can help reduce waste and CO2 emissions by helping reduce the number of days needed for a project.”

The complicated relationship between climate and construction, and making it ‘Smart’

The relationship between climate and construction is a complicated one. While construction inevitably contributes to pollution, climate risks like landslides, sea-level rise and flooding can cause obstacles in construction, especially with long-term projects such as the construction of roads and highways.

This is where the latest technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics can be used in planning as well as in the actual construction. These technologies can help in

  • Efficient use of materials
  • Locating issues quickly
  • Turning around projects quickly
  • Cutting down costs
  • Cutting down CO2 emissions and helping make construction cleaner and greener

Komatsu is one of the world’s largest evangelists for Smart construction technologies. Ricky Togashi, CTO at construction equipment giant Komatsu, believes that the industry is currently faced with two major issues: safety and labour shortage. Fatal and non-fatal accidents in the construction industry are alarmingly high. In the US alone, for example, 20 per cent of worker deaths are in construction, but construction workers make up only 6 per cent of the U.S. labour force. Another issue is labour shortage; With many companies being small and medium startups with hardly ten employees, most of the tasks are manual, especially surveys that can be tedious leading to inaccurate data. That is why Kotmasu has created visualisation and digitalisation to help fill these gaps.

Working along the same lines, EarthBrain aspires to digitise the industry. Nori Onodera, CEO of the smart construction solutions company EarthBrain shared that “For the transformation of the industry, our keen focus is on creating safe, productive, smart and green working environments for the future.”

Investors are starting to notice smart construction in APAC

According to a McKinsey report, the construction tech industry has continued to grow briskly with VC activity rising to several billion dollars at the end of 2019 from low levels a decade ago. VC investment in construction tech outpaced the overall VC industry 15-fold through 2019. The pandemic has further expedited this growth with the emergence of digitalisation amidst lockdowns and movement restrictions worldwide.

Also read: ASEAN’s first smart shopping cart technology is transforming the offline shopping experience

One of the investors of Skycatch, ADB Ventures is a new VC platform that was launched only last year after being inspired by the new wave of solutions emerging in this industry. Daniel Herrson from ADB Ventures shared, “We realised that these modern tech solutions backed by powerful entrepreneurs if applied at scale in a region like Asia could not only help expedite growth in the construction industry but would also help the environment.”

New York-based Hara Wang from Third derivative is yet another climate-focused investor who is taking a keen interest in the smart construction space, said “You cannot discuss decarbonisation opportunities without talking about Asia. The continent houses more than half of the world’s population. It’s going through a rapid phase of industrialisation, urbanisation, and rising consumer demand.” Wang believes that now is the right time to invest in decarbonisation opportunities. Plus, she adds, Asia also happens to be more exposed to climate issues, so it only makes sense to tap into the opportunities here with key areas being risk assessment and climate analysis.

A showdown of ‘Smart’ solutions: The Climatic Startup Showdown

The Climatic Startup Showdown was the next event covering the topic of Smart Construction. In this showdown, three emerging startups in this industry pitched and fought to convince five of the toughest venture capitalists from the region. The investors’ panel included:

  • Jojo Flores, co-founder of Plug and Play, a Silicon Valley accelerator that invested in PayPal, DropBox, and over 1200 other companies
  • Daniel Herson, Senior Fund Manager at ADB Ventures
  • Shannon Kalayanmitr Bangkok-based partner with Gobi Partners, CEO and Founder of 5G Catalyst Technologies and Judge on Shark Tank Thailand
  • Juan Nieto, Asia representative, CEMEX Ventures
  • Hara Wang, Investment Director, Third Derivative

The startups included Caidio, viAct and WaveScan. Caidio is an award-winning construction technology startup from Finland with direct development and sales operations in China. Caidio develops AI-powered products for improving quality, decreasing waste, and reducing CO2 in concrete production. viAct is a Hong Kong-based provider of an AI-powered computer vision solution that automates monitoring to increase productivity and safety and reduce delays on construction sites. WaveScan is a Singapore-based deep-tech startup specialising in see-through scanner technology and advanced AI algorithms for high-resolution structural inspections. WaveScan’s solution integrates into autonomous vehicles, such as drones, and provides end-to-end AI-enabled asset inspection, addressing the specific needs of the built environment sector.

After an exciting round of pitches and Q and As, the voting was done. Daniel shared his verdict first. He said, “These are three really exciting companies and I really like each of them. They are all trying to transform a very conservative industry and one that has a very significant climatic impact. But putting my investor hat on, I choose WaveScan because I feel they have a clearer idea of the direction they are taking.” Shannon also chose WaveScan.

Also read: AppWorks partners with e27 to help startups build investor network

Based on the founder’s perspective and industry understanding Juan chose viAct. Hara chose Caidio. JoJo placed his vote to WaveScan based on business scalability and scope. WaveScan emerged as a winner.

Construction tech startups can play a significant role in all phases of the construction process to the benefit of all players in the sector and Smart Construction is definitely set to emerge as one of the main game-changers for the industry. It would be interesting to explore how international and regional leaders in Asia are leveraging the brimming opportunities in this sector through The Climatic Series.

To find out more about Climatic, visit their official website.

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Photo by Mikael Blomkvist from Pexels

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This article is produced by the e27 team, sponsored by

We can share your story at e27, too. Engage the Southeast Asian tech ecosystem by bringing your story to the world. Visit us at e27.co/advertise to get started.

The post Making construction cleaner, greener, and climate-friendly with Smart Construction appeared first on e27.

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With one global crisis after the other, ranging from wildfires to extinctions and health pandemics, if there’s one lesson we have learnt in the past decade, it is about the importance of sustainability. There is an urgent need for a cleaner and greener approach across all sectors and the construction industry is no exception to that. In fact, according to a 2020 report, the construction industry accounts for around 36% of worldwide energy usage, and 40% of CO2 emissions. This is where Smart Construction can step up and help fill the gaps. This involves leveraging digital technologies to improve sustainability and productivity, maximise user benefits, and minimise whole life costs.

This is an important conversation that key stakeholders need to have to help make the construction industry future-ready.

As such, Asian Development Bank’s ADB Ventures in partnership with e27, New Energy Nexus, Plug and Play, and Third Derivative, recently launched The Climatic Series. Sponsored by the Climate Technology Fund, this series is bringing together industry leaders, innovators, investors, corporate partners and entrepreneurs working towards a more resilient, greener and sustainable future.

The first topic of the series was Smart Construction where panels and talk shows witnessed industry leaders discussing the challenges, scope and future of the construction industry with sustainability at its core.

Challenges faced by the construction industry in APAC

Research suggests that achieving drastic cuts in all carbon emissions over the next decade is critical to keeping global temperature rise to 1.50C. Addressing upfront carbon is therefore crucial to fighting the climate crisis, as new construction is expected to double the world’s building stock by 2060 causing an increase in the carbon emissions occurring right now. This becomes even more pertinent in the APAC region where megacities with robust infrastructure are emerging every day. With bustling economies and business hubs, in APAC, construction is an inevitable companion to development. Furthermore, according to the World Economic Forum, 65% of construction in the coming decade will happen in emerging economies.

Fortunately, new technologies promise to change the way the entire industry works. Christian Sans, Founder and CEO of Skycatch, a company that uses drones and AI to make construction smarter, shared during the Climatic talk show that by leveraging AI and drone technology, they are helping construction become easier and more efficient, thus reducing the time taken for project completion, which directly reduces the CO2 emission.

Also read: AWS Activate power boosts startups through agile and efficient cloud infrastructure — and free credits

The Asian Development Bank recently worked with Skycatch on the construction of the Port of Nauru. Thomas Abell, Chief of Digital Technology at ADB shared, “Nauru is a remote pacific island that needed a new port. ADB invested in a new port project but during COVID, travel was restricted and this is where Skycatch helped fill the gap. ADB plans to leverage Skycatch’s tech solutions even after the pandemic because their data and analytics help make the process more productive and efficient. Skycatch can help reduce waste and CO2 emissions by helping reduce the number of days needed for a project.”

The complicated relationship between climate and construction, and making it ‘Smart’

The relationship between climate and construction is a complicated one. While construction inevitably contributes to pollution, climate risks like landslides, sea-level rise and flooding can cause obstacles in construction, especially with long-term projects such as the construction of roads and highways.

This is where the latest technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics can be used in planning as well as in the actual construction. These technologies can help in

  • Efficient use of materials
  • Locating issues quickly
  • Turning around projects quickly
  • Cutting down costs
  • Cutting down CO2 emissions and helping make construction cleaner and greener

Komatsu is one of the world’s largest evangelists for Smart construction technologies. Ricky Togashi, CTO at construction equipment giant Komatsu, believes that the industry is currently faced with two major issues: safety and labour shortage. Fatal and non-fatal accidents in the construction industry are alarmingly high. In the US alone, for example, 20 per cent of worker deaths are in construction, but construction workers make up only 6 per cent of the U.S. labour force. Another issue is labour shortage; With many companies being small and medium startups with hardly ten employees, most of the tasks are manual, especially surveys that can be tedious leading to inaccurate data. That is why Kotmasu has created visualisation and digitalisation to help fill these gaps.

Working along the same lines, EarthBrain aspires to digitise the industry. Nori Onodera, CEO of the smart construction solutions company EarthBrain shared that “For the transformation of the industry, our keen focus is on creating safe, productive, smart and green working environments for the future.”

Investors are starting to notice smart construction in APAC

According to a McKinsey report, the construction tech industry has continued to grow briskly with VC activity rising to several billion dollars at the end of 2019 from low levels a decade ago. VC investment in construction tech outpaced the overall VC industry 15-fold through 2019. The pandemic has further expedited this growth with the emergence of digitalisation amidst lockdowns and movement restrictions worldwide.

Also read: ASEAN’s first smart shopping cart technology is transforming the offline shopping experience

One of the investors of Skycatch, ADB Ventures is a new VC platform that was launched only last year after being inspired by the new wave of solutions emerging in this industry. Daniel Herrson from ADB Ventures shared, “We realised that these modern tech solutions backed by powerful entrepreneurs if applied at scale in a region like Asia could not only help expedite growth in the construction industry but would also help the environment.”

New York-based Hara Wang from Third derivative is yet another climate-focused investor who is taking a keen interest in the smart construction space, said “You cannot discuss decarbonisation opportunities without talking about Asia. The continent houses more than half of the world’s population. It’s going through a rapid phase of industrialisation, urbanisation, and rising consumer demand.” Wang believes that now is the right time to invest in decarbonisation opportunities. Plus, she adds, Asia also happens to be more exposed to climate issues, so it only makes sense to tap into the opportunities here with key areas being risk assessment and climate analysis.

A showdown of ‘Smart’ solutions: The Climatic Startup Showdown

The Climatic Startup Showdown was the next event covering the topic of Smart Construction. In this showdown, three emerging startups in this industry pitched and fought to convince five of the toughest venture capitalists from the region. The investors’ panel included:

  • Jojo Flores, co-founder of Plug and Play, a Silicon Valley accelerator that invested in PayPal, DropBox, and over 1200 other companies
  • Daniel Herson, Senior Fund Manager at ADB Ventures
  • Shannon Kalayanmitr Bangkok-based partner with Gobi Partners, CEO and Founder of 5G Catalyst Technologies and Judge on Shark Tank Thailand
  • Juan Nieto, Asia representative, CEMEX Ventures
  • Hara Wang, Investment Director, Third Derivative

The startups included Caidio, viAct and WaveScan. Caidio is an award-winning construction technology startup from Finland with direct development and sales operations in China. Caidio develops AI-powered products for improving quality, decreasing waste, and reducing CO2 in concrete production. viAct is a Hong Kong-based provider of an AI-powered computer vision solution that automates monitoring to increase productivity and safety and reduce delays on construction sites. WaveScan is a Singapore-based deep-tech startup specialising in see-through scanner technology and advanced AI algorithms for high-resolution structural inspections. WaveScan’s solution integrates into autonomous vehicles, such as drones, and provides end-to-end AI-enabled asset inspection, addressing the specific needs of the built environment sector.

After an exciting round of pitches and Q and As, the voting was done. Daniel shared his verdict first. He said, “These are three really exciting companies and I really like each of them. They are all trying to transform a very conservative industry and one that has a very significant climatic impact. But putting my investor hat on, I choose WaveScan because I feel they have a clearer idea of the direction they are taking.” Shannon also chose WaveScan.

Also read: AppWorks partners with e27 to help startups build investor network

Based on the founder’s perspective and industry understanding Juan chose viAct. Hara chose Caidio. JoJo placed his vote to WaveScan based on business scalability and scope. WaveScan emerged as a winner.

Construction tech startups can play a significant role in all phases of the construction process to the benefit of all players in the sector and Smart Construction is definitely set to emerge as one of the main game-changers for the industry. It would be interesting to explore how international and regional leaders in Asia are leveraging the brimming opportunities in this sector through The Climatic Series.

To find out more about Climatic, visit their official website.

– –

Photo by Mikael Blomkvist from Pexels

– –

This article is produced by the e27 team, sponsored by

We can share your story at e27, too. Engage the Southeast Asian tech ecosystem by bringing your story to the world. Visit us at e27.co/advertise to get started.

The post Making construction cleaner, greener, and climate-friendly with Smart Construction appeared first on e27.

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