The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, is rapidly shaping our present and future. While the first, second and third such revolutions brought economic benefits, increased productivity and advanced welfare, it is often argued that wealth distribution was not equitable and benefits came at the cost of climate change and environmental sustainability.
Rapid advances that are characterising Industry 4.0 will also provide benefits and opportunities in present contexts; however, it is predicted that these will happen much faster. Unpredictable issues due to rapid changes would therefore require fast remedies in policies, regulations and action. Our educational systems and curricula will succeed depending on its capabilities of anticipation, prevention and preparedness for Industry 4.0 and on its capacities of enabling infrastructure that supports our societies.
Similarly, strategies in construction methodologies should be more aligned with the more digitally developed industries. This process is revolutionising not only the way physical structures are designed and constructed but also the way buildings are maintained and used.
It is often argued that the latter factors are commonly undermined, and in most buildings, ignored. Factors determining new ways and methods of building design have to be shifted from the conventional approach. The mindset of the design, function, geometry, structure and aesthetics of buildings where we live and work needs to be seen also from the perspectives of building climate, building technology, building energy and environmental consciousness.
Almost 50 per cent of EU’s energy consumption is used for heating and cooling, of which 80 per cent is used in buildings. So the achievement of the Union’s energy and climate goals is closely linked to efforts to renovate its building stock by giving priority to energy efficiency, and making use of the ‘energy efficiency first’ principle, as well as the deployment of renewables.
The achievement of the EU’s energy and climate goals is closely linked to efforts to renovate its building stock
The EU’s revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2018/844, which entered into force last July, demands that EU countries have to transpose the new elements of the directive into national law by 2020. The new directive has huge potential for efficiency gains in the EU building sector, the largest single energy consumer in Europe. It includes measures that will accelerate the rate of building renovation towards more energy-efficient systems and strengthen the energy performance of new buildings, making them smarter.
Besides political and legislative provisions, which react through strengthening efficiency and renewable source management measures, cultural and business demands are starting to focus on environment-protecting construction issues. As a result, the building industry will change decisively, requiring high-performance architecture in buildings and settlements.
The interdisciplinary planning approach invites, or rather necessitates collaborative working in the aspects of architecture, building services systems, building power, urbanism, settlement planning and environmental engineering. Building information modelling, building physics, building energy, mathematics, climatology, aerodynamics, fine arts and lighting engineering are shaping new ways in building supply chain.
Our societies are without doubt experiencing rapid transformations in all aspects and forms of life brought about by Industry 4.0. Autonomous robots, simulation, system integration, Internet of Things, cybersecurity, cloud computing, additive manufacturing, augmented reality and big data are characterising this fourth industrial revolution, and hence the way we shape our built environment within the realm of sustainable environment and sustainable societies – all this underpinned by research and innovation.
If our societies need to reap the benefits of Industry 4.0, business and communities will not only need to ensure that the workforce have the right expertise and culture but also a clear ambition and vision for what success looks like.
Dr Joseph Falzon, PhD, LEED AP (US), is an architect and programme coordinator of the Mcast MSc in High Performance Buildings, and a senior lecturer at the college’s Research and Innovation Centre.
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