Blockchains: enabling a sustainable future?

pexels-photo-119562Mid way through last year I raised the concept of blockchain in relation to transparency and responsibility aiding and disrupting material supply chains (within the context of the Grenfell Tower tragedy).

Arup Foresight have just published a useful guide to Blockchain within the context of BIM that really should be essential reading for anyone working in or interested in BIM and Digital construction.  

The Built Environment delivery, operation and service provision sectors are the last bastion of old analogue methods and traditions. The sector is characterised by fragmentation, low margins and unpredictable performance. Over the last five years interventions by a number of Governments led by the UK have seen the first tentative steps in digitisation through the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) technologies.

BIM has shown us that it is possible to create useful structured data which describes brief, design, manufacturing and operational scenarios. However, the sector is limited by the existing data processing and exchange methods which remain characterised by analogue methods that support old adversarial behaviours.

What is the solution to complex data transactions where openness, transparency, honesty and immutability are the basic foundations?

Enter Distributed Ledger and blockchain, with the promise of permanent, secure and valuable transaction methodologies.

However, from my perspective, one of moving forward towards a built environment that is regenerative (BIM 6D?),  it is the application of blockchain to create immutable records that is of note. The Arup publication provides a snippet of what will be possible, given the speed of digital implementation, within a very short timeframe:

Immutable Data for enabling Circular Economy
Data captured from a building could be used to accurately predict the remaining lifespan of a (device, element, product, building) and its suitability for re-use in other buildings or applications, reducing the likelihood of waste and over-supply, therefore cutting down material use and carbon emissions, and underpinning the principles of the Circular Economy.

Material passports via blockchain enable recovery and re-use of materials, thereby helping realise a truly Circular Economy.

Immutable Life Cycle Energy Usage and Efficiency Record

The accumulated data that could be gathered by the blockchain can allow anyone to view an immutable and complete record of the energy used by a building over its life. The data could be used to compare how effciency a building has used energy relative to similar modern buildings, and those built in the past.

Immutable Life Cycle Performance Efficiency Record
The performance efficiency of individual components can be recorded, meaning a total gure for an entire building can be calculated. As with energy efficiency, this could be compared to the performance of previous buildings, to measure progress over time.

Immutable Life Cycle Carbon Footprint Record
The carbon footprint of individual devices and even materials could be calculated, giving an overall total. This data would be extremely valuable for helping to identify if a building is meeting carbon emissions targets.

Immutable Recyclable Material and Component Record
The quantity of materials such as plasterboard and steel, as well as IoT devices, that are able to be recycled to some degree, or even reused, could be easily recorded on the blockchain.

Immutable Recyclable Material and Component Location Record
Tying in with the previous use case, this one would help to quickly identity where recyclable components are located exactly, in turn reducing the time to remove them from a building.

P2P Surplus Energy Transfer
In the future, buildings could become net producers of energy. Any surplus energy generated could have its ownership transferred in a peer-to-peer manner to other buildings that require it, enabling buildings to generate their own profit.

Blockchain Explainer:

blochain explainer

The Arup Report: Blockchain Technology, How the Inventions Behind Bitcoin are Enabling a Network of Trust for the Built Environment can be downloaded from Arup Foresight page here.

1 thought on “Blockchains: enabling a sustainable future?

  1. thoughtsfromaz

    I’m interested in the idea of using a blockchain system to help business move towards a circular economy and how the decentralization of databases and preservation of information will help bring transparency to business.



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