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COINS Announces Construction Industry Grand Challenge for Innovators and Entrepreneurs



Construction Industry Solutions has announced the inaugural COINS Construction Industry Grand Challenge (CCIGC), a prestigious global competition to find innovators and entrepreneurs who believe they have a big idea that can positively impact the lives of millions of people.

The competition offers two challenges, each with a unique prize. Each Challenge will have 6 finalists, who will present and discuss their ideas with leaders in the fields of construction technology, engineering and academia who will judge and select the winners from each category.

The first challenge – “New and Emerging Technologies” – relates to uncovering a big but viable technology-based idea that will significantly reduce energy consumption at any or all stages in the lifecycle of built assets. This could relate to any stage or process in the construction lifecycle, from component design and manufacture, through build and on-going usage, or with an impact throughout the whole construction lifecycle. The prize for the winning entry for this competition is a place on Singularity University’s 7 day Executive Program.

The second challenge – “Leadership 35” – is for people under 35 who have the vision and personal qualities to bring a new approach to sustainability leadership within the construction industry. The prize for the winning entry will be a place on the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business or Value Chains at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

In addition to the above, Bouygues UK is offering each of the Winners a 3-month paid internship in its In-House Sustainability Department. This will give the winners the opportunity to participate and understand how innovation is brought to life inside a large commercially focused organisation.

Bouygues UK is also offering a special discretionary award for the Applicant with the most promising idea. Selected by Bouygues UK, this Special Prize could be won by one of the top 24 Applicants, who will be offered the opportunity for their idea to be taken forward as part of Bouygues UK Corporate R&D programme.

According to Larry Sullivan, Chairman and co-founder of COINS and Founder of the COINS Foundation:  “The Construction Industry Grand Challenge is part of an on-going COINS strategy to help stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship and their potential impact on the built environment for the benefit of society and the global construction industry.

“The two Challenges fully support the objectives of the COINS Foundation, which uses enterprise to address issues of social justice. Its aim is to use the power of business to create a better and more sustainable future.  We encourage free thinkers to come forward with viable ideas in areas where there is clear potential to put their idea into practice to help the construction industry and society as a whole. I look forward to judging the Grand Finalists’ ideas as the Challenge reaches its conclusion in early December.”

The Challenge is sponsored by COINS, in support of the COINS Foundation and in partnership with some of the world’s leading construction companies along with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and Singularity University at NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley, California.

The Judging Panel is formed of leaders in the fields of construction technology, engineering and academia: Larry Sullivan, Derek Leaver and Robert Brown of COINS, Dr Deborah Morecroft (NanoFab Tools), Aleksandra (Sasha) Njagulj (Bouygues UK), Mike Halsall (Singularity University), Catherine Tilley and Kayla Friedman (University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership), Ian Heasman (Taylor Wimpey), Tomas Lau ( Laing O’Rourke), Christopher Dyson (Carillion), and Ben Haldin (Fulcro Engineering).

Mike Halsall, Singularity University’s Ambassador commented: “We are delighted to have co-developed this global grand challenge initiative with COINS, and we look forward to supporting construction industry people worldwide who have the ambition and determination to help solve humanity’s hardest problems”

Visit the competition website for more information.

Members of the judging panel were asked: “Sustainability is a hot topic with the outcome heralded as being to create a viable future for our planet, what sustainability initiative/s leaps to your mind as an exemplary?”

Ian Heasman, Taylor Wimpey, replied: “Rather than being ‘hot’ I would like to make environmental sustainability in particular as dull as possible as quickly as possible and put it on exactly the same footing as accountancy! At the moment much of the value of nature is invisible to markets and hence is often destroyed. Through counting, evaluating and recording nature, impacts on it can be taken into account. This is the objective of the Natural Capital Protocol which will be launched next year.”

Thomas Lau, Laing O’Rourke, said: “A product/concept – Enocean energy harvesting wireless switches in buildings. This technology has allowed us to place sensors in buildings easily to monitor and control light levels, heating/cooling, and general environmental conditions reducing energy wastage. As they are wireless there is a very significant saving in copper and other materials used in light switches and other sensors, and easily allows retrofit for change use of buildings without wastage.

“The technology is exemplar because it is also energy harvesting i.e. this means there are no batteries, now wires, and the sensors are powered by touch (kinetic), heat (thermal) or light (solar). The impact on construction and retrofit is very significant to sustainability in terms of materials and building performance and energy.

Aleksandra (Sasha) NJAGULJ, Bouygues UK, responded: “I am a big fan of biomimetic design. On the face of it, this is a relatively new movement, but actually mankind has always found inspiration in nature – including in the built environment. Perhaps the best-known biomimetic designer was Leonardo Da Vinci, back in the 15 century, who studied bats for his design of flying machine.

“The word ‘biomimetic’ or ‘biomimicry’ comes from ‘bios’ and ‘mimesis’ in Greek, meaning literally mimicking (natural) life. And if you think about it, the natural systems are near-perfect miracles of efficiency, functionality, elegance, circularity and sustainability; polished and refined through millennia of evolution. Look, for example, at shark skin. It’s not smooth as you would expect, but formed out of tiny teeth-like scales, which reduce water drag. A new generation of professional swimming suits uses the same design to improve performance in competitions where split seconds matter.”

“We are challenged to reduce, reuse and recycle at home but in the construction industry over the past decade, what is the project or discovery that has had the longest lasting impact in reducing and conserving energy consumption?”

Ian Heasman, Taylor Wimpey, added: “The boring answer to this question is building fabric; thermally efficient roofs, walls and windows – they last as long as the building, are low maintenance, don’t go wrong and have no complex controls.

“A second (and more difficult) answer to this question is the growing recognition is that energy efficiency is a ‘systems’ problem; everyone from clients, designers, materials providers, procurers, developers, technicians, contractors, landlords and occupiers need to be energy literate for energy reduction to be truly successful. Battery storage, PV and smart controls combined have come a long way in the last decade but will really make their mark in the next decade.”

Thomas Lau, Laing O’Rourke, again: “Widespread deployment of lighting control and at the same time LED lower power lighting. Lighting has always been one of the largest consumers of energy in a building, and a large cost of maintenance and replacement.

“Lighting unoccupied areas, full power lights on during daylight hours, and light switches everywhere used to be commonplace. Now PIR control, daylight dimming, DALI and zone lighting are almost a given. The rate of efficiency of LED lighting has also improved several hundredfold even in the last decade. Put together this has made a step change in energy consumption across our new and existing buildings.”

Aleksandra (Sasha) NJAGULJ, Bouygues UK, added: “It’s not a project or a discovery per se, but introducing the energy performance standards in Building Regulations as a direct consequence of the Carbon Act (2008), based on computer building energy modelling/simulation, has had a most decisive and enduring impact on the overall quality of our built environment and capability of the entire construction industry to deliver better products.

“Nothing else comes even close to the breadth and extent of this impact. I was very sorry to see the Zero Carbon homes legislation scrapped earlier this year. Let there be no doubt, regardless of any problems and mistakes, regulation in our industry works.”

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