By Wojciech Stec, sustainability director at Cundall Warsaw



Wojciech Stec, sustainability director at Cundall Warsaw, talks to the BPCC’s Michael Dembinski about the role that technology is playing in decarbonising the construction sector.

Let’s start with a harsh truth about our built environment – the construction, use and demolition of buildings contributes around 38% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions. So there’s vast scope for decarbonisation. What’s being done to align the goals of building – time, cost and quality – with environmental, social and financial sustainability?

In my career spanning over 25 years, I’ve witnessed a growing momentum of actions and initiatives aimed at decarbonising the construction industry. While many positive endeavours related to methodologies, regulations and technologies have been developed, their cumulative impact on the built environment often falls short of optimal. This underscores the complexities in addressing the challenge of decarbonisation.

Nevertheless, I believe the most efficient pathway to reducing carbon emissions lies in accurately measuring the real impact of design, construction and maintenance of both embedded and operational carbon. For that reason, I find the methodologies such as the Australian NABERS system to be currently among the most effective means to minimise carbon emissions. Surprisingly it imposes minimal burdens during the planning stage as well.

Whilst manufacturing industry adopted CAD/CAM to optimise design and production decades ago, the everyday use of tech such as building information modelling (BIM) is still a rarity among contractors, subcontractors, developers, landlords and tenants. How do you see the further adoption of BIM; how is it spreading across the construction and real-estate sector?

In my view, this question ties closely to the previous one. The quest for superior design options often requires extensive use of analytical tools, which consumes significant effort and time, unless seamlessly integrated with the BIM process. For that reason, I see a natural progression in further adoption of BIM, driven by its capacity to streamline design process, facilitate environmental simulations and calculations and parametrising models, and ultimately generate ‘digital twin’ of the final product to optimise operational efficiency. We may still be a distance away from the end goal, but undeniable benefits it offers will force stakeholders to embrace BIM as standard tool.

How does Poland compare to the UK (which mandated the use of BIM for all government-procured buildings from 2016 on) when it comes to the use of BIM? Which countries are leading the race to implement BIM across their construction sectors?

I may not be best informed person in this matter, but my perception is that following 2016, UK has become a leader in BIM adoption. This was largely spurred by the mandate requiring the use of BIM for all government-procured buildings, coupled with development of comprehensive BIM regulations.

Nevertheless in recent years, other countries, including Poland, have made a substantial step towards integrating BIM into their daily operations. While the implementation strategy in Poland’s public procurement law is currently guide-based rather than mandatory, these guides are grounded in the ISO 19650 standard, similar to UK’s approach. Consequently, we observe a steady progression in the adoption of BIM tools, coordination practices, and other related aspects.

A building designed and built with BIM has its ‘digital twin’ which facilities managers can use in their daily maintenance routines, allowing them to ‘see’ cables, wires and pipes beyond ceilings, floors and walls. To what extent is this becoming commonplace?

I perceive the concept of a ‘digital twin’ as an aspirational endpoint. Similar to the journey towards sustainability, where many buildings were marketed as ‘sustainable’ without necessarily meeting the true criteria, achieving a fully realised ‘digital twin’ remains a complex endeavour. Creating a model dense enough with accurate geometry and comprehensive information to qualify as ‘digital twin’ is challenging. It requires the integration of all BIM dimensions – from the foundational 3D model to the advanced stages of 4D scheduling, 5D quantity and cost control, 6D analysis including embodied carbon assessment and finally 7D as-built geometry and information for facility management. Such a comprehensive approach demands planning and involvement of BIM-capable partners throughout the investment process.

Integrating 3D modelling with mixed reality, AR/VR, holds huge promise. How do you see the future? Do you think that goggle-based apps using mixed-reality platforms such as the newly released Apple Vision Pro or Microsoft’s HoloLens will gain traction in the use and maintenance of buildings?

I’m hesitant to say whether these technologies will truly revolutionise the industry. My perspective is that they serve for visualising building details that are typically presented in CAD/RVT models. As such, the level of information is the same, but these technologies may lower the barrier for less technically skilled professionals to review and interact with the model.

AI offers a great opportunity to decarbonise of buildings by optimising the regulation of building controls. Tech that learns as it goes along, reacting to patterns of use, changes in temperature, lighting and use of spaces should be able to help occupants of buildings make significant savings in energy use.

AI indeed presents significant opportunity to enhance the operational efficiency of buildings. However, in this context I would consider AI more as an evolution rather than a revolution. This is due to the fact that sensors and controls became more accessible over the last years and the significant progress in control algorithms has been achieved. Together, these developments have already unlocked significant potential for optimising energy consumption in buildings. AI will take this optimisation to the next level by enabling systems to learn from patterns of use, adapt to changes in temperature, lighting, space utilisation, and ultimately help occupants achieve significant energy savings.

Is there a sense that the construction sector should be building less, but better – smarter? The BPCC organised an event last autumn about the adaptive reuse of older buildings. Because demolition releases large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, there’s additional pressure on owners to adapt rather than demolish and build new.

This is indeed a crucial and timely consideration that is gaining traction worldwide. The notion to building less, but better and smarter, resonates with the growing awareness of sustainability challenges within the construction sector.

Once more, the BIM process seem to be very helpful in addressing this imperative. BIM workflows and information they carry extend beyond the design, construction and operational phases of a building. They cover the entire lifecycle, including the disassemble phase and its environmental impact. Consequently, the cost and impact of this phase can be foreseen and considered before commencing any construction works.

By leveraging the insights provided by BIM throughout the lifecycle of a building, owners and developers can make more informed decisions that prioritise sustainability and minimise environmental impact, aligning with the idea of building less but better and smarter.