Building & digital twins: ecology is more than a facade

What if we stopped turning our cities into superficial amusement parks? Yes, some facades have allure. But the vast majority of French buildings are above all thermal sieves. Faced with the disastrous environmental cost they generate, it is urgent to rethink our vision of construction to move towards a more virtuous offer. To do this, we must first deconstruct our codes and criteria in this area. Digital models, digital twins, and BIM technologies will play a key role…

If you have built your castles in the clouds, your work is not lost, because that is where they should be. Install them now on foundations”, affirmed, in the 19th century, the naturalist thinker Henry Thoreau. But to lay solid foundations, it is still necessary to be aware of the stakes of the building and its ecological impact. Because, despite numerous denials from players in the construction world, the results are catastrophic: the sector represents 43% of annual energy consumption and generates 23% of greenhouse gas emissions in France, according to the Ministry of Ecology.

Faced with this observation, the energy transition law for green growth aims for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050 for the world of construction.

These ambitious objectives call on us to quickly rethink the models in terms of energy performance. And this, from the first stages of design. So that the virtuous constructions of tomorrow do not remain simple castles in the sky devoid of foundations.

Look behind the facade

The construction industry has long suffered from a disastrous architectural orientation based on the apparent preservation of form: facadeism. Clearly, in order to favor the aesthetics of the building, the architects had the annoying habit of giving priority to the facade rather than concentrating on the interior quality of life and energy performance. If this approach makes it possible a priori to reconcile the old with modern technological developments, it favors above all the aesthetics of the buildings, to the detriment of ecological performance. (and habitability)

In the case of large multi-unit housing developments, one of the biggest construction issues is the ubiquity of concrete-cement. The production of this material, responsible for bonding together the pebbles and sand of the concrete, alone represents 7% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to the World Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA)).

A real threat to biodiversity, polluting and non-recyclable, concrete is nevertheless found today in most modern constructions. It is therefore urgent that all players in the sector make the effort to reduce their use of concrete, because this material is used as a priority in more than 96% of buildings.

A revolution without facade

To achieve this goal, among other things, there is a small technological revolution: the digital twin, or BIM, for Building Information Modeling. Far from the traditional 3D model, which is limited to observation and representation, it makes it possible to grasp seven times more information thanks to its data reference which covers the entire life cycle of the element represented: its design, manufacture, construction, operation, maintenance, use and reuse.

More concretely, when the software displays a wall, it is in fact much more than that. The modeling embeds the materials used, the dimensions and many other data which allow to have a global vision of each part of a building. Thanks to this data, it is possible to think about eco-design upstreamby placing the walls according to their exposure to the sun to heat without resorting to heating, for example.

Information is thus processed more quickly and with fewer errors, and the ecological impact is felt. A major step forward, which fuels the hope of seeing zero-carbon constructions become widespread.

Beyond the facelift

others digital tools precious can allow us to go further in the projection and control of environmental issues. This is the case of Artificial Intelligence, which optimizes the design through energy simulation. No more energy losses, the building can predict heat islands and adapt to annual sunshine. Simple sensors make it possible to assess the temperature to avoid using the air conditioning, as for the switches, they are controlled intelligently to avoid overconsumption.

Some advances go even further, and look as surreal as Thoreau’s castles in the sky. We think in particular of virtual reality glasses for site managers which can project the models produced by the digital twin, directly on the construction site. This technique makes it possible to see and immediately prevent errors, which makes it possible to take decisions more quickly, while limiting the costs of repairs which are very often a burden on construction sites today. The key is saving precious time combined with better quality.

More than a facade commitment

Saving the building from its ecological abyss presupposes taking strong decisions in favor of eco-design. It is in this direction that the new frontiers of urbanization as well as those of architecture are being traced today. It is necessary as much as possible to banish concrete from individual housing to turn to a greater diversity of materials. Wood of course, but also straw to insulate, raw earth or even brick… Give priority to taking living things into account, such as exposure to the sun and thermal innovations, rather than persisting in wanting to standardize buildings. Responsible options, capable of proposing robust alternatives exist, it is now necessary to ensure that they become systematic.

Above all, you have to convince those involved in the construction industry of one thing: beauty is not the enemy of good. On the contrary, it is its materialization. They must hear it. Thus, individual and collective habitats will be able to meet the environmental challenges that await us.

By Matthew PiatSmart Territory Leader at Software

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Building & digital twins: ecology is more than a facade

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