With the opening of its City Intelligence Lab (CIL), the Center for Energy, the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) is setting a new milestone in its research infrastructure.

“The City Intelligence Lab at the Center for Energy is bringing about a paradigm shift by using digital technologies to include user perspectives, making the lab an international model when it comes to urban planning processes of the future,” says Wolfgang Hribernik, Head of the Center for Energy, at the opening. Functioning as an interactive platform, the City Intelligence Lab combines innovative processes with the latest digital planning tools using big data and artificial intelligence (AI). It is therefore able to realistically simulate and run through scenarios such as the climate situation in different parts of the city.

City Intelligence Lab – an international model laboratory

The laboratory is an interactive platform designed to allow tomorrow’s urban planning professionals to investigate new methodologies and technologies and takes a co-creative development approach, enabling the joint creation of new knowledge. “In establishing this laboratory we have produced a platform and a space for experimentation, what you could call a sort of medical laboratory for digital technologies,” says Nikolas Neubert, Head of the Competence Unit for Digital Resilient Cities at the Center for Energy.

The laboratory applies key technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence in order to develop complex simulations and parametric designs. “The innovative achievement of tomorrow’s urban planning will be to apply digital technologies in order to create diverse planning scenarios which offer a broad portfolio of solutions for cities and their inhabitants. We have created the infrastructure necessary to do this,” Nikolas Neubert goes on to explain. The laboratory is equipped with interactive projection screens and models which together provide an improved collaborative planning environment, as well as an AI-based urban planning model which combines real-time simulation prediction and generative design, enabling the experts to explore unprecedented situations.

By working closely with other research institutions such as the Future Cities Lab at the ETH Zurich, and through close links with the private sector, the CIL is designed to become an international hub which facilitates the development of new research approaches.

Climate change and digitalisation in cities demand new ideas for planning and implementation

Urbanisation is a modern phenomenon. It requires cities to intelligently manage their growth and find answers to the challenges of climate change.
“Again, this year, we experienced an extreme heatwave. The growth and increased densification of cities only enhances the problem of overheating during the summer months,” explains Nikolas Neubert. Overheating is understood as the growing number of very hot days which reach a maximum temperature of over 30°C, and tropical nights in which the nighttime temperature never falls below 20°C. This development poses a health burden for the population.

“In order to make cities more resilient to this situation, we can use machine learning in the City Intelligence Lab to simulate microclimates for summer days and heatwaves, both with and without adaptation measures, to run through different climate models, and to present the results in visual form. This allows us to immediately identify the measures which would be effective in helping to cool particular areas of the city,” Nikolas Neubert says.

Digital technologies shift the focus of urban planning to the needs of residents

The innovative achievement of urban planning will be to use digital technologies in order to create diverse planning scenarios which offer a broad spectrum of solutions for cities and their inhabitants. In the LiLa4Green project, for example, a research team led by the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology is working together with city residents in two districts of Vienna to develop ideas and solutions to counteract urban overheating in parts of the city. The Living Lab approach combines innovative social science methodology with cutting-edge digital technologies in order to involve citizens in Wien Favoriten and Matznerviertel (Wien Hietzing) as early on in the planning process as possible. The aim is to ensure that the measures have a significant social impact and are widely accepted. In September 2019 LiLa4Green was selected as a candidate for IBA_Vienna 2022. LiLa4Green is being funded by the Climate and Energy Fund – Smart Cities Demo.

Innovations for cities and the built environment 

In its Digital Resilient Cities research field, the Center for Energy at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology blends urban planning expertise with state-of-the-art city management and planning solutions. The researchers combine innovative processes with cutting-edge digital planning tools using big data and artificial intelligence (AI). Although the research projects are based in Austria, a large proportion (60%) of them are international. Know-how “Made in Austria” is in demand everywhere, whether in Germany, Argentina or Uzbekistan.

AIT Center for Energy

At the AIT Center for Energy over 200 experts are developing sustainable solutions for our future energy system under the leadership of Wolfgang Hribernik. The Center combines longstanding experience and scientific excellence with high quality laboratory infrastructure and a global network to offer companies innovative applied research services, providing them with a competitive edge in this promising market. A total of 370 research projects were carried out in 2018, with European projects accounting for 41 percent. The thematic portfolio of the Center for Energy focuses on three key systems: sustainable energy infrastructure, decarbonisation of industrial processes and facilities, and innovative technologies and solutions for cities and the built environment. More information about the Center can be founc on this link

CEMEX Ventures has celebrated its Pitch Day, an event at which the 10 winners of the Construction Startup Competition 2019 presented their solutions to a jury of experts in construction, innovation, and entrepreneurship. This global challenge, which doubled its participation compared to the 2018 competition, seeks new business models that work in the six priority opportunity areas defined by CEMEX Ventures.

Launched in February, the competition challenged the most promising startups to become leaders of the construction revolution. 10 solutions focused on the Contech space are one step closer to CEMEX Ventures’ offering and its challenge launched this year: to leave its mark on the industry. After an exhaustive analysis, those that stood out for their innovative and technological merit were named winners for providing solutions in one of the six areas of focus of CEMEX Ventures, or for improving the value offer of CEMEX in the countries in which it already operates or can open new markets.

The entrepreneurs who were invited for this three day event in Monterrey, Mexico, came from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Norway, the US, and the UK. The winners constituted the central axis of the event where, in addition to presenting their project, they engaged with multidisciplinary teams from CEMEX to explore possible opportunities for collaboration. They also conducted workshops with Google to optimise their search for customers and to understand how digital media helps generate value for attracting customers.

Winning startups offered solutions in the following areas:

  • 360 Smart Connect: Intelligent traceability to increase efficiency in construction processes (France).
  • Arqlite: Production of artificial gravel entirely from recycled plastics, which is three times lighter and 10 times more insulating that conventional gravel (Argentina).
  • BuildStream: Real-time management of heavy equipment and logistics in complex construction projects and their supply chains (US).
  • BldBox: Predictive analytics platform that takes advantage of historical project data and produces accurate estimates for new construction and development projects (US).
  • Matrak: Tracking network of construction materials that digitalises the supply chain (Australia).
  • Morta: Coding and automation for compliance and building regulations (UK).
  • PlanRadar: SaaS solution for documentation and communication in construction and real-estate projects (Austria).
  • Rebartek: Automation of the prefabrication of reinforcement cages by industrial robots (Norway).
  • Thunderbolt pipeline: Intelligent end-to-end platform that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to reduce risks and allow preconstruction teams to make more competitive offers (US).
  • Vero Solutions: Modular design builder that applies a disruptive and patentable technology for steel and cement (Canada).

The Pitch Day event was chaired by an integrated, multidisciplinary jury, with high functional and experience levels in the industry. It managed to combine leaders from the construction industry, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship on an international scale, including companies such as Google, 500Startups, TEKFEN Ventures, WND Ventures, and Dalus Capital.


Source: Cement World



Apple’s new Vancouver office looks absolutely spectacular, whether it’s taking space in iconic buildings or creating one of Earth’s most valuable offices, Apple sure has an eye for architecture.

Occupying two floors in a spectacular, still-under-construction development in Vancouver, BC. The 400 West Georgia building is set to open in 2020.

Apple didn’t have a role in the design, which is carried out by Merrick Architecture. However, it totally looks like something Apple would have created. The 24-story building will be 367,000 square feet in total. This is divided into a series of “reflective yet transparent” stacked boxes.

It kind of looks like a collection of modular G4 Power Mac Cubes stacked on top of each other at strange angles. Each box contains four floors and has a width roughly equivalent to its height. Merrick Architecture notes that:

“The stacked boxes create natural compartments within a continuous floorplate, allowing offices to be variously partitioned while also staying close to the façade. The floors and ceilings of the cantilevering portions are glazed to visually link the garden, the offices, and the street below. The resulting diversity of spaces is complimented by the diversity of views, whose orientation is not only horizontal, but also vertical.”

As noted, this is far from the first time Apple has picked out an impressive location for its new offices. In London, for example, it is currently refurbishing space in the iconic Battersea Power Station.

It’s not clear from the Bloomberg report exactly what work will be carried out in the new Vancouver office. (And, given Apple’s secrecy, we’ll probably never know.) One thing we can say, though, is that we’re certainly envious of anyone who gets to work in this amazing space!


Source: Cult of Mac



London’s construction market appears to be losing patience with Brexit uncertainty, as output growth gains speed and workload expectations gather pace for the year ahead.

According to a quarterly industry survey by RICS, 14 per cent more respondents reported an increase in construction workloads across London in the second three months of 2019. This is up from a minus two per cent net balance in the first quarter of the year.

Workloads in the London infrastructure sector also improved in the second quarter, as did those in private housing, social housing, commercial non-housing and public non-housing.

Meanwhile, workloads for the year ahead are projected to be resilient in housing, with 23 per cent of public sector and 27 per cent of private sector surveyors anticipating a rise in activity.

RICS’ market confidence indicator – a composite measure of workload, employment and profit margin expectations over the coming 12 months – rebounded to 21 per cent from 13 per cent in the first quarter.

RICS Senior Economist Jeffrey Matsu said: “Three years on and the long, unrelenting shadow of Brexit uncertainty is testing the mettle of the construction industry.

“After a prolonged period of delays and underinvestment, businesses now appear to be fed up and are proceeding cautiously with new hiring and intentions to invest.

“While much of this is likely to be backfilling or maintaining existing capacity, the requirements of larger projects such as Hinkley Point C and HS2 are constraining growth opportunities elsewhere.

“With the range of possible outcomes related to Brexit as wide as ever, we expect to see continued volatility in the construction output data but in the meanwhile foresee workload activity stabilising.”


Source: City A.M.


More than 100 more tower blocks must be urgently stripped of combustible cladding panels in a significant widening of the fire safety crisis since the Grenfell Tower disaster.

High-pressure laminate (HPL) panels, often made from compressed wood and paper and used to produce colourful patterns on new buildings, should be removed “as soon as possible” from housing taller than 18 metres, the government’s expert panel on fire safety demanded on Thursday.

The order (pdf) could affect thousands of tenants and leaseholders who previously believed their homes were safe. Industry experts believe at least 100 residential tower blocks will be affected.


Delays to safety reforms ‘risk a repeat of Grenfell disaster’

It is not the first time concerns have been raised over HPL cladding. Essex University is removing the panels from a student accommodation block in Southend after it was found to be in breach of building regulations despite being signed off by a building inspector.

The announcement is likely to mean fresh rows over who should pick up the bill, with the cost of stripping and replacing cladding often exceeding £20,000 for each household. There is no sign that the government is planning a bailout.

Experts, led by Roy Wilsher, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said that following fire tests it had become clear that many HPL panels were “very unlikely to adequately resist the spread of fire”.

“Building owners with these systems should immediately take action,” the fire safety panel said. “Action to remediate unsafe HPL should be carried out as soon as possible.”

HPL is widely used but the government has only recently tested it, having focused on cladding similar to the aluminium composite material (ACM) that helped spread the fire that claimed 72 lives at Grenfell.

The order applies to most forms of HPL cladding, which is categorised by fire resistance. Those below class B fire resistance should not be used, while class B, if used with combustible insulation, should also be removed. Class B, used with non-combustible insulation, had passed a fire test, the government said, and class A was considered safe.

Labour said it was a disgrace that ministers “waited until two years after Grenfell to confirm to people that they have been living in potential death traps”.

Sarah Jones, the shadow housing minister, said: “The government must immediately require building owners to check for this cladding, as they did with ACM, so we know the scale of this problem. Ministers must set a hard deadline to replace all dangerous cladding and toughen sanctions against block owners that won’t do the work.”

Work to remove ACM panels have been slow, with only a quarter of the 433 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings identified as needing remediation having been fixed, leaving tens of thousands of people living in potentially dangerous buildings.

Householders have mounted night patrols to look out for fires. Many have described serious mental health problems and even suicidal thoughts as a result of the stress that comes from potential bills in the tens of thousands of pounds and homes plunging in value.

“We have seen the distress caused to tenants and leaseholders and that will now increase,” said Stephen Mackenzie, an independent fire safety consultant. “This could affect thousands of people. The government needs to get a grip of this.”

The government said it had always insisted it was the obligation of building owners to ensure that homes met building regulations and that materials used have undergone fire testing.

James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, said on Thursday that all buildings with ACM cladding must be fixed by June 2020 or their owners would face “enforcement action”, although he did not specify what that would be.

The new order for HPL to be removed is likely to fuel fears that further fire safety problems could yet emerge. This week Neil O’Connor, the director of the Ministry of Housing’s building safety programme, wrote to all local authority chief executives requesting that they identify the external wall materials and insulation used on every high-rise residential building over 18 metres tall in council or private ownership in their areas.

He did the same with social housing landlords and said the government “continues to consider safety risks to high-rise buildings”.

A housing ministry spokesperson said: “There should be no buildings in this country with this combination of cladding and insulation. Building owners are legally responsible for ensuring the safety of their buildings and need to make sure this is the case. They should be well aware of their responsibilities as we issued clear-cut advice in December 2017, reinforced last December, telling them to check that only safe cladding and insulation combinations had been used on their buildings.”


Source: The Guardian

A McKinsey & Co. study gives construction industry low ranking for AI adoption.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has pervaded almost every industry; however, the construction industry is failing to take advantage of this technology, according to a 2018 report by the New York-based consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

When discussing AI in the construction industry, the report’s authors cite lack of resources as the impetus holding contractors back from embracing this technology. “Despite proven high return on investment (ROI) and widespread management interest in AI solutions, few [construction] firms or owners currently have the capabilities—including the personnel, processes and tools—to implement them,” the article states.

This may begin to change, as industries adjacent to construction, such as transportation and manufacturing, continue to advance AI. Because tools and solutions used in adjacent industries can be applied to construction, the industry may be forced to evolve and begin using AI, as well. “Stakeholders across the project lifecycle—including contractors, operators, owners and service providers—can no longer afford to conceive of AI as technology that’s pertinent only to other industries,” the article states.

Current state of AI in construction

Construction is falling behind in integrating AI into the industry. In a study conducted by McKinsey, researchers found that out of 12 industries, nine ranked higher than construction in the percent of firms integrating AI into their businesses. High tech and telecommunications led the industries with almost 32 percent AI adoption, while travel and tourism ranked last with about 11 percent AI adoption. Construction’s AI adoption rate was approximately 16 percent.

AI transferred from other industries

Because AI encompasses an array of possibilities, such as natural language processing and robotics, technology that has been formulated for other industries can be applicable to construction.

Authors of the McKinsey article explain that transportation route optimization algorithms can be transferrable for construction project planning optimization. Existing technology allows transportation companies to optimize routes and improve traffic navigation, the McKinsey article states, and once reinforcement learning—learning which allows algorithms to learn based on trial and error—is applied, more efficient methods of transportation may be created. “Such technology could be directly applicable to [construction] project planning and scheduling, as it has the potential to assess endless combinations and alternatives based on similar projects, optimizing the best path and correcting themselves over time,” the article states.

Retail supply chain has utilized AI to reduce manufacturing downtime, reduce oversupply and increase predictability of shipments, the article says. In the construction industry, this technology can be applied to inventory management of off-site materials.

Robotics is an element of AI that is already being applied in construction today; however, the article explains that there are opportunities for its uses to be maximized: “For example, robotics industry researchers have successfully trained robotic arms to move by learning from simulations. In [construction], this application might someday be applied to prefabrication techniques and maintenance operations for oil and gas as well as other industrial industries.”

Machine learning algorithms

Machine learning, both supervised and unsupervised, is an element of AI. The McKinsey study looked at various business applications where machine learning may be used.

One example the article cites is that owners and contractors can use supervised learning methods to aid them in decision making. “These applications can recommend to engineers and architects the use of a specific design, such as … architectural finishes (for example, curtain walls vs. window walls) based on various criteria (for example, total cost of ownership, timeline to complete execution, likelihood of defective construction mistakes during execution). The end result is that owners and contractors have more information with which to make an informed decision,” the article says.

How leaders can take advantage of AI

Stakeholders in the construction industry may want to consider implementing AI in their companies. Because of limited resources that construction companies currently have, AI should be used in the areas where it can have the most impact and where it can be most effective. The article also suggests that construction companies dedicate a portion of their research and development funding towards improving their digital capabilities. Without sustainable digitization, AI cannot flourish. McKinsey’s research found that companies with strong digitization efforts are 50 percent more likely to generate profit from using AI. Along with this, companies should be knowledgeable about what other industries are using AI for and consider if those applications can be translated to the construction industry.

Looking forward

Although the construction industry has not yet fully embraced AI, in the future, the industry may benefit from AI’s applications. Whether it be transferring existing applications from other industries or discovering applications unique to construction, AI can help optimize opportunities and increase revenues.


Source: Construction and Demolition Recycling

The Mayor of West Midlands Andy Street, was recently taken on a guided tour of a West Midlands based modular housing company Totally Modular, which is hoping to contribute to the region’s ambitions to increase housing output.

Managing director of Totally Modular, John Connolly, and operations director, Mick Pettitt, guided the West Midlands Mayor around the company’s Cradley Heath HQ, where he was able to see a range of house types suitable for single occupants or families and met some of the skilled staff who design, construct and install them on sites around the country.

The company’s volumetric building method allows 97% of its homes to be completed offsite, before being transported to their permanent locations. It can then take as little as 48 hours from arriving on site, being put in place, and connected to utilities before welcoming its new residents.

Andy Street said: “It was great to visit Totally Modular and see first-hand their innovative house-building methods. The West Midlands Combined Authority is committed to tackling homelessness and increasing the number of homes being built in the region and it has been really helpful to talk with Totally Modular about new ways we can do this.”

The Mayor was accompanied on the visit by David Warburton, head of land and development at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), who said: “It was of great interest to see how the company can create much-needed quality housing, suitable for a range of people, in such a short time. I think modular homes could really speed up the entire process, and should be seriously considered by all housing providers.

“The WMCA is committed to embracing the benefits of modular construction leading to an enhanced delivery in terms of speed, quality and cost with a view to making the West Midlands the epicentre of the UK’s offsite construction sector.”

Totally Modular is looking to expand its operations throughout the West Midlands, and hopes to create up to 450 jobs in each of its regional facilities, through direct employment and with local supply chain partners.

Mick Pettitt, operations director, said: “It was good to see exactly how interested and impressed our guests were. They are so obviously determined to take practical measures to address homelessness and the housing shortage, and I believe Totally Modular is in an ideal position to help.

“Because our units are built under controlled conditions, workmanship is of the highest standard, minimising the need for site inspection and virtually making redundant the dreaded ‘snagging lists’ synonymous with new housing. The speed at which we can create these homes will allow for an increase in productivity when it comes to housebuilding in the West Midlands and across the UK.

“Our link with Dudley College and local Universities is also a great way of attracting young people into the industry and helping to bridge the skills gap. By teaching them advanced modular building techniques, we can provide the foundations for a multi-skilled career within the industry at a time when this is hugely lacking. ”