The concept of “smart cities” is quite recent: it dates back to the mid-2000s. Combining economy, ecology and technology in  architectural and urban planning represents a colossal challenge that is still in its infancy.

smart city“The concept is still largely theoretical and subject to debate as to its definition,” confirms Maximilien Ast, Managing Director of the engineering consultancy Drees & Sommer Luxembourg. “What we do know is that we are looking for smart buildings and cities to meet the future needs of end users. This involves all areas that affect life in an urban area, with the aim of making large cities more efficient, cleaner, more sustainable and more livable.” This concept should also make it possible to offer more resilient cities capable of mitigating the effects of climate change and optimising the use of natural resources as well as their development in situ.

Technologies are obviously at the heart of this concept: controlling the lighting and air conditioning of buildings, managing vehicle flows, energy supply, waste/resources, public lighting, and so on. Is it only theory? Maybe. “But increasingly, smart city elements are being requested or considered in new projects, either individual buildings or larger projects,” Mr Ast notes. The future is here.

A gain in value

The well-being of citizens is clearly the objective of smart cities (cleaner air, more efficient traffic management, better access to health services, travel, education, etc.). The theme was addressed in late 2019 in a dedicated workshop organised by Luxinnovation, where Drees & Sommer participated. “We are confident that there will be many more opportunities for exchanges on innovative topics will help advance the topics ‘digitalisation’ and ‘circular economy’,” Mr Ast assures.

Charles-Albert Florentin, manager of the Luxembourg CleanTech Cluster at Luxinnovation, confirms that the topic will soon be on the agenda again. “This will in particular be done through inter-company projects implemented as part of the Fit 4 Circularity programme and the identification and promotion, carried out together with the Chamber of Skilled Crafts and the Fédération des Artisans, of circular technologies used by construction companies.”

While waiting for the large-scale deployment of such concepts, the actions undertaken on the circularity of buildings already make it possible to envisage real progress in environmental matters. The launch of the Product Circularity Datasheet Luxembourg (PCSD) by the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy in 2019 will make reliable data on the circular properties of products available.

“When assessing the circularity potential of a building, we check all materials on the basis of homogeneous data: recycled content, composition, end-of-life/use scenario,” Mr Ast explains. “In this way, buildings become true raw material repositories that retain their material value. The capital invested in building materials is not lost, but is released again. According to our calculations, this ‘Cradle to Cradle’ approach can increase the value of buildings by up to ten percent compared to conventional buildings. For investors, project developers, manufacturers and builders, this design principle represents a clear opportunity for innovation.”

BIM and BMS, the winning duet

Tools such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), with which all the information and data specific to a building are modeled, allow a concrete and meticulous approach. This information is then documented in the “Material Passport” through the Building Material Scout (BMS). “Each building-specific object is linked to specific information provided by the manufacturer. We then calculate the weight of each product and material, and evaluate each group based on various criteria: source, recovery, separability, demountability, embodied carbon and material health. The information stored in the Material Passport, derived from the BMS, allows us to create a transparent and accessible process that highlights the key factors and criteria for evaluating the circularity of a building.”

The development of BMS has changed everything in terms of data management, when you consider that more than 5,000 different specific products can be found in the same building, coming from various countries and continents.

BIM and BMS tools are not yet widely deployed in Luxembourg, as the market is still searching for digitalisation and circularity. “There is still a lot to do in the field of economy, but also regarding mentalities. But I can see that a change is taking place in this area. The first steps are being taken in the right direction,” says Mr Ast.

Moreover, builders are increasingly recognising the advantages of BIM. The construction sites of the Centre Hospitalier Emile Mayrisch (CHEM) and the CHL, as well as the automobile incubator in Bissen, are using this tool – with success.

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