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Digital Technologies: Towards More Sustainable Buildings

For the past few decades, the construction sector has been reinventing itself through technological innovation. These advancements, reshaping practices, pave the way for a more efficient, productive, and notably sustainable construction.

I. Innovative digital technologies serving sustainable construction

Defined as a set of electronic tools or automated systems designed to store and process data, digital technology has revolutionized numerous sectors, including construction. Particularly, the recent digital advancements have proven to be invaluable tools for the design and operation of sustainable buildings. Thanks to innovative solutions such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) or energy management systems, professionals in the sector can now conceive, construct, and manage buildings in a more efficient and environmentally-friendly manner. Their range of applications is vast, and here are some examples:

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

BIM enables the creation of a 3D digital model of a building, or digital twin, incorporating precise data about its design, construction, and operation. BIM fosters a collaborative approach, facilitating communication among all project stakeholders, from architects to contractors, engineers, and owners. With an enhanced visualization of the project, BIM allows the identification and resolution of potential issues early on, which can significantly reduce construction and operating costs and result in a substantial improvement in the final building. By enabling better coordination and informed decision-making, BIM leads to optimized resources, cost reduction, and improved quality of the final building. Through this holistic approach, BIM facilitates the integration of sustainable solutions from the design phase, offering a precise analysis of a building's characteristics and performance.

Building performance simulation software

Used mainly during the design phase, these software tools model and analyze various building performances in advance, such as energy and thermal aspects (for more information, see our articles on energy modeling and heat transfer calculation: link). This type of software optimizes building energy efficiency by identifying consumption areas and proposing corrective measures. They provide intelligent energy control by adapting energy efficiency strategies to specific building conditions. Additionally, they help estimate future consumption and operating costs, which is valuable for financial project planning.

Smart grids and home automation (domotics)

Used primarily during the operation phase, these two technological innovations enable intelligent energy management within buildings. Smart grids, or intelligent electrical networks, adjust electricity flows in real-time between suppliers and consumers, facilitating more efficient energy management by adapting to demand and supply fluctuations. On the other hand, home automation encompasses all techniques for automating household appliances and electrical devices, contributing to better energy management. When these technologies are combined, they allow for sustainable building management: smart grids ensure optimal energy distribution based on demand, while home automation enables control and optimization of energy consumption at the building level. This synergy not only leads to energy savings but also reduces the building's carbon footprint. For example, the installation of a smart meter like Linky can reduce energy consumption by up to 10%, according to ADEME.

II. Impacts and benefits of digital technologies for sustainable construction

The integration of these different technologies at various stages of a building's lifecycle can have positive effects on its sustainability.

  • Ecological transition and resilience: Integrated digital technologies during the project's development and operation allow for a controlled and intelligent management of the building's CO2 emissions and energy efficiency. Considering the environment and its evolution during design enables the construction/renovation of buildings that can adapt to it and thus be more durable and resilient over time. For example, the use of BIM, which creates a digital twin of the structure, enables anticipating its behavior throughout its lifecycle and optimizing every aspect accordingly.

  • Optimization and an