In a bid to cut costs and emissions, a multi-billion pound infrastructure project pilots artificial intelligence tech

Workers at an HS2 building site in Euston, London on May 6, 2020.


The HS2 rail scheme is trialing artificial intelligence (AI) technology in a bid to help the multi-billion pound infrastructure project lower carbon emissions and costs.

The technology has been deployed at sites run by the Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture, with the AI being harnessed to automate processes used in building information modeling, otherwise known as BIM.

In a statement Monday, HS2 – a high speed rail project that plans to cut travel times between London and cities such as Birmingham and Manchester – explained this would enable a range of design options to be “simulated using different types and quantities of construction materials.”

“This means carbon emissions and environmental impacts of construction can be visualised, measured and compared, resulting in the design of a more environmentally-friendly solution,” HS2 added.

Skanska, a major construction firm, is working on the tech, with funding coming from Innovate U.K. Other firms and organizations involved in the scheme include Mott MacDonald, HS2, Nomitech, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Manufacturing Technology Centre.

Critics of HS2, such as the Stop HS2 pressure group, argue the project will cause considerable environmental damage. For its part, HS2 says it will “deliver a railway that respects the natural environment by conserving, replacing or enhancing wildlife habitats with a new green corridor along the route.”

As technology develops and construction projects attempt to become more efficient and sustainable, the use of technological innovations looks set to become increasingly important.

It’s against this backdrop that tools such as BIM – described by Arup as a “virtual prototype” that enables “any aspect of a design’s performance to be simulated and assessed before it is built” – will be useful.

Around the world, there are a host of initiatives attempting to develop frameworks and platforms focused on using technology to improve the efficiency and sustainability of construction projects.

This focus on digital tech is taking place at the same time as sustainable materials and zero-emission pieces of kit are being developed for use on construction projects.

Examples of this include the deployment of hydrogen fuel cells to provide heat and power to off-grid sites. When it comes to the materials used to actually build structures, these include LafargeHolcim’s ECOPact, a concrete that comes in a number of iterations. Depending on which one is used, the company claims the product can have “30% to 100% less carbon emissions compared to standard (CEM I) concrete.”

In addition, low and zero-emission pieces of machinery are also being developed by firms such as JCB, which has produced an excavator that is powered by hydrogen as well as an electric mini excavator.

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