How digital tools can contribute to more sustainable construction projects

Spacemaker Team
Spacemaker Team August 1, 2022 5 min read

Talk at Make some space event

In order to plan and build sustainable cities that meet demand, we will need to rethink both how we plan and build. However, we also need to create more efficient processes to make this possible. To see how we can meet all the challenges we face, Spacemaker brought together people from the industry in Stockholm to discuss the issues and listen to inspiring keynotes during Make Some Space – a full day on how digital tools can contribute to more sustainable construction projects and better processes. The venue was, fittingly, the new Space building in Stockholm.

The problem with building for the future is we don’t know what it looks like. For instance, no one predicted the pandemic and its effects. We need to both manage the ongoing climate crisis and find solutions for the consequences it brings.

Panel at Make some space event

For these difficulties to be transformed into challenges that then become opportunities, dialogue is needed. For example, on days like Make Some Space, where representatives from the architectural profession, the construction industry and property owners came together to discuss, exchange ideas and stimulate new initiatives. During seminars, presentations and panel discussions, issues of sustainability, social sustainability, mobility and economy were raised for discussion by the panel members. Big issues that are often discussed but where the transformation may not be as fast as we would like.

Perhaps it was best summed up by Cecilia Holmström, CEO of ÅWL Architects, who during the panel discussion Sustainability – How does the Good Example become our New Standard, said “If the changes don’t come now – when we are facing a climate threat, have suffered a pandemic and when, on top of that, a war makes it harder to get materials – where does humanity stand? Now is our chance to do something for real.”

Holmström was joined by fellow panelists Joanna Berg, Regional Manager Stockholm Mälardalen at NREP and Saga Jernberg, Sustainability Manager at Atrium Ljungberg, who said that “there needs to be fewer pilot projects and more real projects.”

The importance of increased knowledge

The transition to more sustainable and circular construction must be driven by a number of things – the panelists agreed.

Firstly, knowledge, both among clients, developers and architects: “As a consultancy and knowledge company, we can only sell what people want to buy. If no one wants to buy a sustainable solution, it’s hard to sell it. I would say that we get too few questions about this. But things are getting better,” said Cecilia Holmberg from ÅWL. “We have the theory, but not practical examples. If you say it’s a ‘good deal’ but base it on old ideals of what a ‘good deal’ is, then it’s not sustainable profitability.”

Collaboration is key

Secondly, the industry needs to collaborate and share its knowledge with others. Keeping your cards close to your chest does nothing to make sustainable construction more common – quite the opposite.

“What we took away from COP26 was that this is a huge challenge. It is crystal clear to us that we need to change things, not tomorrow but now. But things are moving so incredibly slowly! The only way to do it is to be clear and to do it together with everyone in the sector. We must continue to share our experience and knowledge. This is important for the industry to make great strides forward,” said Joanna Berg from NREP.

Producers have a responsibility

Thirdly, renewed processes are needed. Joanna Berg recounted how they built a house out of mostly recycled materials, and how NREP was able, by chance, to source windows from a housing association that was going to do a window renovation. It goes without saying that the industry cannot rely on coincidence when it comes to sourcing building materials, she said, and Saga Jernberg agreed: “Producers should be required to take back their own materials. This would lead to better quality control and more accuracy when sending out new material. This is necessary for reuse and circular construction to become more widespread.”

An inspiring program

Other program items during Make Some Space included talks such as The City as a Platform for New Economies, where representatives from mobility company Bolt and property owners discussed how we can best build cities for a future that – probably – looks nothing like today.

In the session How can Social Sustainability be more than just Symbolic Architecture? participants from the real estate industry and architects debated various proposals on how to make the so-called ‘soft values’ a tangible reality and not just words in various sustainability reports.

In a panel discussion entitled A Digitized Planning Process, representatives from Dark, Sweco and Norrköping Municipality discussed how digital tools can contribute to a more efficient and democratic process. The discussion was particularly topical, as Spacemaker recently conducted a survey among Swedish municipalities on how they use digital tools in their planning processes.

In addition, Make Some Space received a visit from Hong Kong-born Kevin Lau, senior lecturer at Luleå University of Technology. He talked about his research on microclimates and how we need to rethink how we plan cities in a warming climate.

Kevin Lau, senior lecturer at Luleå University of Technology

Alongside all the activities, a design competition was held between the architectural firms Dark and Warm in the Winter, where they both used Spacemaker to come up with proposals for how they would like to build on an underused part of southern Stockholm. All visitors to Make Some Space could follow how they solved the task using Spacemaker’s tools.

The winner was Dark Architects from Oslo.

“This was great!” said Ragnhild Pedersen Foss, who was part of the winning team together with her colleague Tom Juul-Gam. What was the secret behind their winning entry? “Maybe because we had a better presentation, because both teams had very similar ideas. Maybe we were a bit clearer about what we had in mind for the green areas – that was probably the biggest difference.”

Jerker Hägglund from Spacemaker summed up the day: “We organized this event because we want to have a dialogue about sustainability for the planet, people and the economy and how digitalization can support that. After listening to everyone here, it feels like there is a plan for the future. And that makes me hopeful.”


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