30. July 2015 – Janna Breitfeld

Interview with project coordinator NOBATEK

“The main objective is to help reducing the well-known “energy performance gap”

Germain Adell, Head of European R&D Programmes at Nobatek, gives answers

What does Built2Spec stand for and what is it about?

Built2Spec stands for “Built to Specifications: tools for the 21st century working site” and indeed it’s all about innovative, ground-breaking tools and quality checks for the construction site and also for the commissioning and operation phases of the production of the built environment. The main objective is to help reducing the well-known “energy performance gap” in early addressing misconceptions, errors and failures from the design phase to construction via improved quality checks and innovative self-inspection techniques and tools.

Another objective is to dramatically improve project management from the very start of the process by challenging the business-as-usual practices to introduce both integrated design and delivery solutions (IDDS) and a cloud-based, BIM enabled virtual construction management platform, accessible from smartphones, tablets and computers alike to every stakeholder related to the process. The innovative tools we are bringing include Thermal Imaging devices and software accessible from smartphone IR cameras, a new low pressure, non-intrusive Airtightness Test Tool able to work without disruption to the users, an advanced portable Indoor Air Quality measurement device, an improved and smaller, portable sound emission tool for on-site Acoustic Tests, Smart Building Components with embedded sensors in precast components, Energy Efficiency Quality Checks protocols, Building Information Modelling (BIM) and 3D and Imagery Tools including on the fly 3D scanning from smartphones and drones…

Where did the idea of the Built2Spec project come from?

We answered to what was, in my opinion, the most challenging topic from the Energy Efficient Buildings PPP call for 2014. It asked for new self-inspection techniques and quality checks to improve energy efficiency in buildings. It was clear from the info day and other workshops in Brussels that this kind of technology leapfrogs from business-as-usual practices would be difficult to find.

In fact we started building a set of tools from IR thermal imaging works that some of our French university partners were working on, then we added other innovative tools from our well established network, where Research to Market Solution (R2M) proved to be very helpful. It must be said that this is a somewhat “paradigmatic” RDI project in the sense that most of the tools are brought along by University research (others by R&D performing SMEs). Then the RTOs like Nobatek, Eurecat or TNO will help applying these technological advances to a concrete field and prefiguring industrial scale-up and exploitation strategies (alongside dedicated R&D performing, tech transfer SMEs like R2M or PHI). We pass them to the industrial sector and finish putting the tools in the hands of end-users, mostly construction companies of different sizes and in different countries, who will thoroughly field-test the tools in the long term in their current operations.

Which benefits will Built2Spec bring to the European society?

Everything that helps reducing the “energy performance gap” which can represent up to 50% more energy consumed than expected, is extremely important for everyone, considering the climate fight context and more specifically EU engagements for Factor 4 reduction of greenhouse gases for 2020, 2030 and 2050… and that building energy consumption represents 40% of the total final energy consumed in Europe. Apart from this, we are set to dramatically improve and update construction practices in Europe. Considering all the innovations and improved tools and processes we’re bringing along in this project, we could say we aim to define and disseminate, from basic research up to market uptake (where you definitely impact the whole society), the “construction worksite 2.0”. This means less errors, less waste, less time consumed and at the end of the day a more cost-effective construction process to obtain the best possible results. This is good for the economy, for employment, for competitiveness and for the environment.

Who will benefit from the project?

Firstly the whole construction sector who is in need of cutting costs and at the same time improve quality: difficult to do without innovating both in processes and tools. Built2Spec will provide both, bringing innovative quality checks and self-inspection tools and techniques to the building site and putting them in the hands of construction technicians, not specialists. This is very important, in a way we will democratise access to powerful testing and quality check tools that nowadays are exclusively in the hands of very high skilled specialists.

We will also make such devices more portable and convenient to use, and we will connect all the data coming from these tools to the Virtual Construction Management Platform. This means instant access to data and evidence checks for everyone, with dedicated interfaces and access rights following the type of stakeholder and engagement. The whole value chain in the construction sector will benefit from this streamlined and error-free process, from the building owner to the end user, including designers, builders, workers and managers…

What will be the biggest challenge of this project?

First challenge: to finish the separate development of the new technologies and refine quality check protocols. Then the second challenge will be the seamless integration all of these innovations in one streamlined process supported by the virtual management platform.

But the biggest challenge, in the sense that it will alone justify the whole project, will be to do everything it will take for our technologies to effectively hit the market and, in a near future, replace outdated processes and tools still common nowadays. That’s the impact we are looking for. Apart from what our grant agreement with the European Commission says, for us the project will effectively end when anyone will be able to use our technologies, buying or hiring them from the internet or the local construction retailer.

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